According to Esther 1, Queen Vashti was the wife of King Xerxes and therefore queen of Persia in about 480BC. During a week-long feast in his palace in Susa (and while he was affected by alcohol), Xerxes commanded Vashti to come and “display her beauty” (Esther 1:11) before all of his guests “for she was lovely to look at”. When Vashti refused to cooperate, she was promptly demoted, and the Jewish girl Esther eventually became queen in her place.
The punishment King Ahasuerus gives to Queen Vashti is recorded in Est. 1:19:
…Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus.
In actual fact, Vashti might not have been exiled (i.e., forced to leave the city/country). Her punishment may have been banishment to the royal hareem, where she would live out the rest of her life.
There is no reference to Vashti outside the book of Esther. However, many Bible scholars have tried to identify her with Persian queens mentioned by the Greek historians. According to both Herodotus and Ctesias, Xerxes’ wife was named Amestris and she was known for her vengeance, cruelty and powerful influence. Some people have argued that that Amestris cannot be the same person as Vashti, as Amestris was in power during the reign of her son Artaxerxes I. However, it is possible that Artaxerxes restored some of her power after Xerxes died.
Based on the identity of Vashti with Amestris, historians have tried to work out a detailed chronology where the known events in Persian history are reconciled with the events in the book of Esther. See Shea (1976) and Yamauchi (1996, pp.230-232).
- Amestris in Wikipedia.
- Shea, W.H. (1976) Esther and history. Andrews University Seminary Studies.
- Yamauchi, E. (1996) Persia and the Bible. Baker Academic & Brazos Press.