A Wife of Noble Character

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The story of Esther gives us an example of what it means to be a wife of noble character, but it also shows us the importance of gender roles in the family.
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A Wife of Noble Character

by Lex Meyer

"Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life." Proverbs 31:10-12

The story of Esther gives us an example of what it means to be a wife of noble character, but it also shows us the importance of gender roles in the family. We have a tale of two wives, and as we look at their story, we will see why the first was removed from her position as queen, and why the second was more worthy than the first.

What do the actions of these two women teach us about marriage and gender roles? Are these simply archaic formalities that no longer apply, or do they provide us with principles that can translate into our current time and culture?

Why was Vashti rejected by her King?

The book of Esther begins by telling us about a royal celebration, during which King Ahasuerus requested that Queen Vashti come to join his celebration. The King was surrounded by many people, which made the Queen's response that much worse.

“But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him… Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes… Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath…” Esther 1:12-18

Not only did Vashti show disrespect to her husband and embarrass him in front of other people, she also set a bad example for all the other women in the Kingdom. It is even possible that her actions toward her husband could have caused other women to begin showing disrespect to their own husbands.

In today's society, it is very common to see this type of dishonor. I have personally witnessed women who publicly treat their husbands with disrespect. They seem to have no problem with embarrassing their husbands, putting them down, arguing with them, and usurping their authority in front of others. We also see this type of behavior on tv shows and movies regularly. Husbands and fathers are treated with disrespect by their own wife and children. This behavior is disgraceful and should be treated as unacceptable, yet it has become quite commonplace in our society.

Some people will argue that Vashti had the right to do what she did, and that the King was the one who reacted poorly. Others might simply wonder why her behavior was looked down upon. I know that in the western world, women have come to think of this type of behavior as normal and acceptable. However, just because a certain thing is accepted by the world does not make it acceptable to God.

So, why were the actions of Vashti so bad?

The Bible teaches that the man is to be the head of the household, and as such, he should be treated with love, kindness, honor, and respect, and a woman who dishonors her husband dishonors her own head.

“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man… every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.” 1 Corinthians 11:3-6

I don't want to get into the physical application of head coverings in this teaching, but I do want to talk about the spiritual application of it. Paul mentioned head coverings, and people often look only at the physical application and miss the spiritual. However, Paul is making a very important statement with deep spiritual implications.

When a woman covers her head, she is treating her head with honor, and protecting it from others. This is what happens when she treats her husband with honor and respect, it is like covering her own head. However, when she publicly embarrasses and humiliates him, she is uncovering her head, bringing dishonor and shame upon her own head. According to Paul, this woman might as well shave her head, because she is not giving it the proper honor it deserves.

A woman should honor her husband like she would her own head.

Vashti usurped God's created order in the family. The Bible tells us that man is to be the head, and woman is to be the helper. Being a helper means the woman helps the man be the head. When a woman undermines the man's authority, she is dethroning him and reversing the order that God has established.

It is interesting that the book of Esther implies that the actions of this one woman could potentially cause other women in the kingdom to do the same thing in their own homes, thus causing the societal norm to change concerning gender roles.

"For the queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes"

Was this fear warranted? How significant was this single act of defiance? What would have been the result if the king had done nothing about Vashti's behavior? I believe we can get a pretty good idea from looking at the state of our world today, because I think it has followed the pattern of Vashti.

Vashti removed the crown from her own head.

Vashti was stripped of the honor of being queen, because she dishonored her king and usurped his role as head of the household, and the result was that she could no longer be the queen. When a woman steps out of her role as a helper, and usurps the established order of creation, she is undermining her own function in the house. She is no longer fulfilling her role as the queen of her home. She is removing herself from the honor that was bestowed upon her by God.

As the Queen, Vashti should have submitted to her husband's request, but she dishonored her head. Paul wrote about this type of submission, but his words are often misunderstood. Some people think this type of submission is cultural, and no longer applies today, while others seem to think that Paul was a chauvinist. However, I believe his words are as significant today as they were in the first century.

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything… let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.Ephesians 5:22-33

The Bible often refers to us as the bride of Messiah. Should we treat Him with the type of dishonor, shame, and public humiliation that Vashti did to her king? God forbid! If we treat our King like that, He will do the same thing that Ahasuerus did to Vashti. God wants a bride who will honor His commands, and treat Him the way a King should be treated. When we disobey the commands of God, we are acting like Vashti. But when we honor the commandments of our King, we are acting like a noble Queen.

So, how was Esther different?

After Vashti was dismissed from her role as Queen, the king looked for a woman to replace her. The king called for all of the eligible young women in Persia to come and present themselves to the king, so that he might find one who is worthy to be his Queen. All of the women went through a year of beauty treatments, training, and various other preparations before they met the king. Then the women were allowed to take whatever they wanted from the women's quarters to the king's palace, but it seems that Esther was very wise with her choice. We do not know what she took, but we know that she sought advice from the King's eunuch.

“Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king's eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her… The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:15-17

Many people think the other women adorned themselves with lavish amounts of jewelry and clothing, while Esther chose something more conservative and modest. We cannot be certain, but it does make you wonder, since it seems that it might have been part of the reason why the king chose her over the others.

It was not merely the outward adornment and humility that caused Esther to stand out among the other women, but she also adorned herself inwardly with incorruptible beauty. This is what Peter wrote about concerning this type of humble and modest adornment, which is given by example from the noble women of God.

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-- rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.” 1 Peter 3:1-6

Women often object to being submissive to their husband, claiming that "he is not a believer", or that "he is not a good leader", or that "he is not worthy of respect". However, Peter explains that a woman who follows her assignment correctly has the potential to change the direction of her husband. The good conduct of a wife can cause her husband to become a better man, likewise, the bad conduct of a wife can cause her husband to become a lesser man. This is how a woman should adorn herself.

We can see that Esther was raised in a home that understood the created order in the family. The Bible tells us that she was brought up understanding that the man is the head of the house, and that she always obeyed Mordecai.

“for Esther obeyed the command of Mordecai as when she was brought up by him.” Esther 2:20

This is very significant, because this is the one quality that Esther had that stood in direct contrast with Vashti. They were both beautiful to the eyes, but Esther had qualities and inward beauty that put Vashti to shame. This triumphant inward beauty is described in Proverbs 31.

”Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: "Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all." Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:28-30

You have probably heard the expression, "Behind every great man is a great woman", which is used to imply that a wife or mother played an important role in the man's success. I love this quote, because it illustrates how important it is for a man to have a woman in his life who is fulfilling her function in the family. It is not only important for your husband that you fill your role as a woman, it is also important for your children. Men need wives and children need mothers, and this important task was assigned to women. Do not despise the calling and responsibility that God has placed on you as a woman. Your role in the family is invaluable.

Paul explains that God is the head of man, and man is the head of his wife. This structure shows a very interesting chain of trust. In the proper order, the man trusts God, which allows the wife to trust God working through her husband. However, when it is out of order the chain of trust is broken. When the woman steps out of order and tries to be the head, it ultimately shows a lack of trust in God. She is showing that she does not trust God’s order, nor does she trust God to work through her husband.

A noble and godly wife will give God the opportunity to lead her husband. She will pray for him to be a man who listens to God and follows His instructions. She understands that her husband is not perfect, and even though he makes mistakes, she trusts that God will lead him in the right direction.

What can we learn from Esther about being a noble Queen?

  • She covered her head. She did not undermine his authority. A noble wife never does anything that would cause her husband harm or shame. She helps him fulfill his role as the head, and her husband will trust her because of it.
  • She supported her head. When a plot to kill the king was discovered, she warned him about it. A noble wife is one who cares for the well being of her husband, and her husband will love her because of it.
  • She crowned her head. She honored the king with a banquet. A noble wife always makes sure that she treats her king as the honored guest, and her husband will honor and respect her in return.
  • She empowered her head. When Haman was trying to kill the Jewish people, Esther went to her king for protection. A noble wife allows her king to keep her safe, and her husband will rise to the occasion when she needs his help.
"Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life." Proverbs 31:10-12

When a wife loves her head (covers, supports, crowns, and empowers her husband), he knows that he can trust her, and he will treasure her all the days of his life. The Bible explains that this type of wife is hard to find, but is so precious and valuable when she is found. Her inward beauty will last even if her outward beauty fades away. A noble wife and mother is invaluable to her family.

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” Proverbs 12:4

A noble wife has the ability to transform a man into a king.

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