Damien F. Mackey
‘Now I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar
king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations
will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes;
then many nations and great kings will subjugate him’.
Daniel 5 provides us with a straightforward sequence of kings for the Chaldean to early Medo-Persian eras. These are: 1. Nebuchednezzar, 2. his son Belshazzar, and 3. Darius the Mede.
Thus the prophet Daniel proclaims to Belshazzar (5:18): ‘O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour …’. And later we read (vv. 30-31): “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old”.
That King Nebuchednezzar ‘the Great’ indeed had a son named Belshazzar is further attested by Baruch 1:12: ‘The Lord will give us strength, and light to our eyes; we shall live under the protection of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and under the protection of his son Belshazzar, and we shall serve them many days and find favor in their sight’.
Nebuchednezzar and his evil son Belshazzar (Daniel 5) find a parallel in my revision with: Nabonidus and his (known) son Belshazzar.
According to this revision, Nebuchednezzar = Nabonidus, and Evil-merodach (known son and successor of Nebuchednezzar) = Belshazzar (of Baruch, of Daniel, and son of Nabonidus).
And so we have this clear sequence:
- Nebuchednezzar (= Nabonidus), his son
- Belshazzar (= Evil-merodach),
- Darius the Mede.
The enigmatic Darius the Mede I also consider to have been both Cyrus ‘the Great’ and the ‘King Ahasuerus’ of the Book of Esther.
But now a seeming complication arises. The prophet Jeremiah adds to Nebuchednezzar’s lineage a ‘grandson’: “All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson …”.
Was Darius (= Cyrus = ‘Ahasuerus’) actually a ‘grandson’ (בֶּן-בְּנוֹ) of Nebuchednezzar’s?
In a sense, yes he was, if Jewish tradition is right here. For the (presumably young) wife of the 60+ year old king ‘Ahasuerus’ is alleged to have been the daughter of Belshazzar.
“Vashti was born to Babylonian royalty. Her grandfather was Nebuchadnezzar, who had destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and driven the Jews into exile. Her father was Belshazzar, the last in a line of great Babylonian kings whose dramatic death is described in the Book of Daniel”.
This we read in an article by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, entitled “The Villainy of Vashti” (2003): https://www.aish.com/h/pur/t/dt/48951881.html
As the story of Purim in the Book of Esther begins, King Achashverosh [Ahasuerus] of Persia is holding a banquet.
On the seventh day of the festivities, the king summons Queen Vashti so that the ministers and guests can admire her beauty. He commands that she come wearing only the royal crown. Queen Vashti refuses and is executed.
The job vacancy brings Esther to the palace where she is in position to save the Jewish people when chief minister Haman hatches his plot for their total annihilation.
Vashti, whose refusal to obey the king sets the action in motion, is an interesting character in this drama. In fact, in the first analysis she seems like a heroine — a woman who had too much dignity to be paraded naked before a drunken horde. There is only one problem. Heroism is not determined from the outside in, but rather from the inside out. From that perspective, Vashti, as we shall see, was a villain.
Judaism defines heroism as an act of overcoming an obstacle that stands in the way of a spiritual objective. Such obstacles are placed before all of us by God, but the level of sacrifice demanded to overcome each such obstacle can vary widely. In the case of one person, genuine heroism may go as far as sacrificing one’s life for the sake of another. For another person, genuine heroism may mean sacrificing ego or pride.
Therefore, our question when assessing Vashti’s heroism or villainy is: what was she reaching towards and what stood in the way of her achieving that goal?
In order for us to draw conclusions, let us expand our picture of her.
WHO WAS VASHTI?
Vashti was born to Babylonian royalty. Her grandfather was Nebuchadnezzar, who had destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and driven the Jews into exile. Her father was Belshazzar, the last in a line of great Babylonian kings whose dramatic death is described in the Book of Daniel.
Belshazzar threw a party and commanded that revelers drink from the holy vessels of the Temple and then praise “the gods of gold and silver…”
At that moment, a large unattached finger appeared and started to write on the wall: “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end … your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” That very night invading [hordes] of Persians and Medes attacked; Vashti was the only survivor. But the spirit of conquest that had doomed her father lived on intact within her.
We learn more about her from the Talmud (in Megillah 12). It tells us Vashti would have Jewish women brought before her, force them to undress and coerce them into working for her on Shabbat. The Talmud then asks why did she refuse to come before Achashverosh (not being known as a modest woman)? The Talmud gives two answers: 1) because tzaraat (a skin ailment resembling leprosy) erupted on her body; or 2) because she had grown a tail.
If an aggadic statement in the Talmud doesn’t make sense literally, the approach that we are meant to take, according to the Maharal, is to try to grasp the underlying meaning of the allegory. With this in mind we shall proceed, separating the literal from the allegorical and analyzing the latter further.
It is almost certain given the social environment of ancient Persia, and the underlying hatred of Jews that came to the surface soon after this episode, that the first part of the statement is literal. Yes, she did have Jewish women abducted. Yes, she did want to humiliate them. Yes, she was clever enough to figure out the most efficient way to bring this about.
The second segment is not literal. No, she did not sacrifice her life by disobeying a despot because of bad skin. She did not have a terrible case of acne or anything resembling a simple skin disease. No, she did not reverse evolution and grow a tail. The second part is an allegory that demands interpretation.
A THREAT TO VASHTI
Jewish women represented a threat to Vashti because they were, in the most profound sense of the word, unconquerable. By observing Shabbat, they demonstrated that there is a ruler who is beyond the reach of any monarch. By maintaining their basic modesty they proved that they define themselves internally rather than superficially. They were untouchable.
It was for that reason that Vashti felt an almost compulsive desire to break them. By doing so she sealed her own fate. In order to understand how, we can follow the allegory that the Talmud presents.
The body-soul link is stronger than many of us realize. While we all know that excitement can raise blood pressure, and some of us can describe the process with great precision, there is far more involved that we have as yet to explore. In earlier times, God Himself would allow physical manifestations of an individual’s spiritual state to show. The best known of this phenomenon is tzaraat. It affected the skin, the most external part of the body.
(The skin hides and protects the inner organs. The word for skin in Hebrew is or. It is written identically to the word iver, which means blind. The common denominator of the two words is that they both convey the concept of not being able to see things as they really are.)
Tzaraat was an eruption similar to leprosy in that the skin became tough and insensitive. The difference is that while in leprosy the entire effected area is insensate; in the case of tzaraat there always remained at least a patch of living skin in the midst of the dead skin. What this symbolized was that there was always a possibility of redefining oneself.
The Talmud tells that tzaraat came about because of sins involving slander. Slander always has one motivation — arrogance.
There is no cheaper high for self-importance addicts (like Vashti) than trivializing and belittling others. It gives such people the feeling of superiority without any need to actually be superior. Blindness helps to silence the conscience, because then the victim can’t be seen as a fellow human. Therefore, to slander freely without guilt, it helps to have thick skin and to be spiritually blind.
Vashti had long ago stopped seeing beyond the surface. Her punishment was that she had to face the fact that she too was not flawless.
In the process of disparaging others, she lost something very precious — her own humanity. What she saw when she looked in the mirror was a parody of a human being — the tail. She saw a heartless egomaniac.
WHY VASHTI REFUSED THE KING
We can now return to our original question. Why didn’t she come when Achashverosh called?
The Talmud (in Midrash Rabba) provides us with the final piece of information that lets us put the puzzle pieces together. It reveals to us the words that she used when she refused him. “You were my father’s stable boy. You had harlots parade in front of you. Are you going back to where you came from?”
Her intent was not to build herself up or to preserve her integrity. She was aware of what she had become, but had neither the will nor the courage to change. She had followed a pattern that had typified her life from the beginning. Her intent was to cut him down. There was no heroism here. There was only arrogance.
It is easy for us to fool ourselves. Heroism and egotism come unlabeled. The only key that we have is truth. Purim is the holiday in which every thing was turned about. The inside, the core of truth was revealed. Falsehood was shaken off. May we be worthy of using this day to discover the part of ourselves that is genuinely heroic.
[End of quote]
Jewish legends can prove to be very helpful here and there, as I found, for example, in my search for the identity of the elusive Aman (Haman) of the Book of Esther:
‘Taking aim on’ king Amon – such a wicked king of Judah
Aman (Haman), a king of Judah no less, King Amon!
That was most unexpected.
And now, in the case of Jeremiah 27:7, we can say that (thanks again to Jewish tradition) the Medo-Persian king who followed Belshazzar could indeed be described as a ‘grandson’ of Nebuchednezzar, a ‘grandson’ through marriage – he apparently having married Nebuchednezzar’s grand-daughter.
Part Two: Queen Vashti as a type of Eve
“A feast is something happy, joyous, and pleasurable. The feast that King Ahasuerus made was also happy, peaceful, joyous, and pleasurable. However, there is one person who ruined the whole atmosphere of the feast and should not be there, and that was Queen Vashti”.
At: http://www.goodnews.or.kr/en/goodnews/0908/iron.htm we read this entirely unfavourable assessment of Queen Vashti as a killjoy, in line with Eve in the Garden of Eden:
There was someone who should not be at the feast, and that was Queen Vashti. She ruined all of the happiness and joy of the feast. She completely stopped it. This story about Vashti talks about the heart that trusts oneself. If anything like Vashti’s heart is within our hearts, our hearts cannot flow together with happiness and joy from the feast.
ONE WHO IS ALREADY DEAD
The Bible states that through one man, Adam, sin entered into the world and death through sin. Although God said to Adam, “Do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. On the day you eat of it, you shall surely die,” Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and as they became disconnected with God, they became connected with Satan. The Bible is telling us that this condition of being connected with Satan is “You shall surely die,” meaning death.
When a hornet lays its eggs, it first stings a poisonous spider, and as soon as the spider becomes unconscious, it puts its eggs into the spider. A few days later, the eggs inside the poisonous spider hatch and eat the spider’s body, and they fly away. When the poisonous spider has the hornet’s eggs inside, it seems like it is alive but is already dead. When God looks at us at the moment we connect with Satan, He sees us as already dead. In the God’s eyes, when Adam ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the whole of mankind is dead. The Bible precisely says that a person called, “I” is already dead if I am connected with Satan.
Because people don’t know that they are already dead, they continue to make determinations and resolutions, thinking, “I should not rob. I should not commit adultery. I should quit smoking. I should stop drinking.” At first, it seems like it is working, but a few days later, they see that they are drinking and smoking again. Although they say to themselves, “I shouldn’t be doing this,” they are led and defeated by temptation. Nevertheless, people again believe themselves and live their lives always making new determinations.
There is one thing that people do not know clearly. They are being deceived by themselves. It is as if they are deceived by a swindler. They are deceived by themselves by such thoughts, “If I decide not to commit adultery, then I could. If I am determined not to rob, then I would not. I can quit smoking. I can stop drinking.” Since I am a swindler and am already connected with Satan, I am not someone who is worthy to be trusted. Just as swindlers deceive people however, human beings always deceive themselves. It is because they do not know that they are already dead.
VASHTI, WHO IS ABANDONED
In the book of Esther chapter 1, we can ascertain a heartbreaking fact. King Ahasuerus made a feast: The first 180 days were for all his princes and servants, and the next 7 days were for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel. A feast is something happy, joyous, and pleasurable. The feast that King Ahasuerus made was also happy, peaceful, joyous, and pleasurable. However, there is one person who ruined the whole atmosphere of the feast and should not be there, and that was Queen Vashti. She ruined all of the happiness and joy of the feast. She has completely ended it. The story of Vashti talks about the heart that trusts oneself. If anything like Vashti’s heart is within our hearts, our hearts cannot flow together with happiness and joy when there is happiness through a feast.
King Ahasuerus had sent several eunuchs to invite Queen Vashti to his feast, but she refused to come. At that time, the king asked the wise men, who understood the law and judgment, and they, who had access of his presence, told him that she should be dethroned. We can see through the Bible that Vashti is a queen who has already been seen to be inadequate in the eyes of the wise men.
Additionally, Vashti had also been making a feast for the women, but not one of them tries to save her from being abandoned. Looking at this, we can easily discern what kind of life Vashti lived daily.
Because Vashti believed in herself, she despised others. She could not understand others’ hearts, and she did not have eyes to see others being hurt. Believing herself is what made Vashti lose happiness, joy, pleasure, and freedom. In Proverbs chapter 28, verse 26, it says, He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: . . . In Jeremiah chapter 17, it says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: . . . Trusting oneself is so foolish, and because of that trust in oneself, happiness and dreams all vanish.
WHEN THE HEART TO TRUST IN ONESELF IS IMPLANTED
As the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15 lived in his father’s house, he did one or two things well due to his father’s shadow. Satan has used that as bait to implant in his heart trust in himself. When this heart of trusting himself has taken root, this heart made the younger son to walk the prodigal path. Satan is still working until now to do the same thing in our hearts.
A professional gambler has a way to get money from the people from the countryside. They first approach farmers to gamble, and they lose to them on purpose. Then, the heart “I can gamble well,” forms in the farmers’ hearts, and as the gamblers lose a couple more times, they think, “I guess I am pretty good.” When the gamblers lose to them a little more, then they think, “I can gamble at a gambling house. I can gamble with anyone and still earn some money!” The heart of completely trusting themselves is established in their hearts. This is when the professional gamblers start to earn money from them, and because the farmers cannot forsake the heart that they are good, they will gamble until they lose all of their possessions. As a result, the happiness of their family comes to an end, and the misery of their wives and children in the streets comes to reality.
Just like the professional gamblers, if Satan implants the heart into people, “You are gentle,” then they think that they are gentle. If Satan implants in them the thought that they are doing well, then they think that they are the people who can do well. It is not hard at all for Satan to implant the heart to trust themselves. When Satan had given that heart to the prodigal son, he thought, “I guess I am really good.” Everything was due to the grace of the father while he lived under the father’s shadow, but because there were some things he had done well, he felt sure that he was a good person. That was why he was able to request his portion.
“Father, give me my portion of goods! I want to earn as much as you have now!”
The prodigal son had confidently left his father. As the heart of trusting himself had formed due to some things he had done well, he gave pain and sorrow to the people around him.
“You are decent. You are good.” Once such hearts that Satan gives come into someone’s hearts, he lives his life without feeling the pain although many people are hurt and feel painful because of him. It is because the heart that he is doing well and is decent grasps him. He lives being held with the heart that Satan gave him. This is a truly scary thing.
PUTTING DOWN THE HEART TO TRUST IN MYSELF
Vashti in the book of Esther is the shadow of a person who trusts in himself. Trusting in myself gives everybody pain and suffering. When the prodigal son returned home and the first son was angry for the feast made for the younger son, the father entreats him saying, “Let’s go home. Let’s eat and be merry for your younger brother has returned alive.” Nevertheless, the first son did not want to go in. The wedding feast of the king in Matthew chapter 22 is very beautiful, but anyone who trusts in himself could not partake in the feast. He could not be together with the happiness and joy that flowed in the feast. People had refused to come to the wedding feast, although the king had invited them. It would be joyous and happy to be at the feast, but everyone had refused. Why is that? It was because they were all great. They trusted themselves. Whosoever departs from the heart of trusting himself can be happy and joyful as they participate at the feast and enjoy all the happiness there.
But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. (Esther 1:12)
If anyone has the heart to trust in himself as Vashti, then he cannot be loved by anyone. He cannot obtain favor in anyone’s sight. However, when he departs from trusting himself, then this person can receive the grace of God. When the heart of being for myself, which devours happiness and dreams, and the heart of trusting myself is put down, when he has Jesus in his heart and is guided by that heart, then the blessing of God will be upon this man, and he will glorify God. ….
[End of quote]
Matthew 22:1-14 The Wedding Banquet
1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ 5 But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. ….