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The Bible and FeminismRemapping the Field$
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Yvonne Sherwood

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198722618

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198722618.001.0001

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Queen Vashti’s ‘No’ and What It Can Tell Us About Gender Tools In Biblical Narrative

Queen Vashti’s ‘No’ and What It Can Tell Us About Gender Tools In Biblical Narrative

(p.343) Chapter 19 Queen Vashti’s ‘No’ and What It Can Tell Us About Gender Tools In Biblical Narrative
The Bible and Feminism

Deborah F. Sawyer

Oxford University Press

The account of Vashti in the Book of Esther can be understood as one of two clear types of female resistance in the face of male absolute power. The first, performed by Vashti, is direct confrontation, and the second, performed by Esther, her successor, is pragmatic. Vashti’s non-appearance at the king’s banquet is explicitly interpreted in the text as a political act that could undermine national stability. Biblical narrative frequently testifies to the success of female strategy amidst mortal male moral frailty. Powerful men in worldly terms have character defects, usually lasciviousness and/or drunkenness that undermines their political and military potency. However the path of female ascendency is readily diverted towards divine omnipotence, and the biblical authors ensure that the power and the glory remain where they belong. Any celebration of nascent feminism has to be tempered by the reality of this unwavering theological agenda.

Keywords:   Vashti, Esther, Eve, autonomy, feminism, omnipotence, Irigaray

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