390. Feasts for the Women

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Esther 1:9. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
The women in the East do not have their feasts in the same room with the men. This separation of the sexes is an ancient custom which was observed at this time at the court of Persia, though Jahn, speaking of the custom, says that “Babylon and Persia must, however, be looked upon as exceptions, where the ladies were not excluded from the festivals of the men (Dan. 5:2), and if we may believe the testimony of ancient authors, at Babylon they were not remarkable for their modesty on such occasions” (Archaeology, ยง 146).
As far as Babylon is concerned the remark is correct, and it serves to illustrate the relaxation of manners which showed itself among the dissolute Babylonians. It is not true, however, in reference to Persia, as is plainly seen by the indignation of Vashti when her drunken husband sent for her to come and display her beauty before the revelers. Her womanly spirit was aroused and she refused. See verse 12. This error as to the Persian custom probably rests on an oft-quoted story told by Herodotus, who says that seven Persian embassadors, being sent to Amyntas, a Grecian prince, were entertained by him at a feast, and told him when they began to drink that it was customary among their countrymen to introduce their concubines and young wives at their entertainments. Dr. Pusey says of this statement, “If historical, it was a shameless lie, to attain their end” (Lectures on Daniel, p. 461, note). Rawlinson represents the Oriental seclusion of women as carried to an excess among the ancient Persians. See Five Ancient Monarchies, vol. 3, p. 222.