“In that day,
Yahweh will take away
The finery of the anklets,
The perfume boxes,
The signet rings,
The nose rings,
The festal robes,
The garments of gauze,
The linen garments,
And the veils.
Instead of perfume
There will be rottenness.
Instead of a girdle,
There will be a rope.
Instead of well-set hair,
There will be baldness.
Instead of a rich robe,
There will be a girding of sackcloth.
Instead of beauty,
There will be shame.”
One of the ways that Yahweh reacted to the proud Jerusalem women was to take away their beauty items. What is surprising to me is to see how many different items there were. Some are common, but some are also exotic. The list includes the following items: anklets, headbands, crescents, pendants, bracelets, scarves, headdresses, armlets, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, signet rings, nose rings, festal robes, mantles, cloaks, handbags, gauze, linens, turbans, and veils. There would be reversal of some things, like rottenness instead of perfume, rope instead of fine girdles, baldness instead of fine hair, sackcloth instead of rich robes, and shame instead of beauty. I do not know how these women reacted to this oracle.
“Let him kiss me
With the kisses of his mouth!
Your love is better than wine.
Your anointing oils are fragrant.
Your name is perfume poured out.
Therefore the maidens love you.
Draw me after you.
Let us make haste.
The king has brought me
Into his chambers.
We will exult in you.
We will rejoice in you.
We will extol your love
More than wine.
Rightly do they love you.”
The opening prologue to this poetic love song is uttered by the female lover. These few verses are assigned to a female writer. This woman longs for her male lover. She wants him to kiss her on the mouth. His love is greater than wine. His oils are fragrant, sweet smelling. His name is like a poured out perfume. Obviously then, many maidens love him. However, she wants him to hurry up and bring her to his royal chambers because he seems to be the king or at least a prince. Together they would exult and rejoice in him. Once again, his love was greater than wine. It was obvious why the young girls loved him. This romantic love tale has been interpreted as an allegorical love between Yahweh and Israel, or later by the Christians as Christ and his church. However, the basic story is what it is.
“Like a bird that strays from its nest,
Is one who strays from home.
Perfume makes the heart glad.
Incense makes the heart glad.
But the soul is torn by trouble.
Do not forsake your friend!
Do not forsake the friend of your parents!
Do not go to the house of your kindred
In the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is nearby
Than kindred who are far away.”
Good friends are important. You should not stray from home just as a bird does not leave its nest. Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but trouble tears apart the soul. Do not give up on your friends or the friends of your parents. If something goes wrong, do not go to your far away family relatives but to your nearby friends and neighbors.
Endures forever and ever.
Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity.
You love righteousness.
You hate wickedness.
Has anointed you
With the oil of gladness.
Thus you are beyond your companions.
Your robes are all fragrant
With myrrh, aloes, and cassia.
From ivory palaces
Stringed instruments make you glad.
Daughters of kings are
Among your ladies of honor.
At your right hand
Stands the queen in gold of Ophir.”
Is this throne the throne of God or the king that endures forever? Once again, the scribe psalmist treats the king like a mini-god. The royal crown helps insure equality. Then we have the famous saying about being anointed with the oil of gladness that had such a resonance with Christian prayers about anointing. This is a royal anointing of the new king. This new king was beyond his companions. His robes were fragrant or smelly. They were filled with myrrh, aloes, and cassia. Myrrh was an aromatic perfume from the Asian bushes. Aloes was a bitter tasting leaf that was used in perfumes. Cassia is an Asian evergreen tree with an aromatic bark that also was used in perfumes. Ivory and stringed instruments were also there. All this adds to the concept of wealth. Of course stringed instruments and beautiful ladies of honor were also added to the scene. Then there was queen in her gold from the mysterious unknown but often mentioned Ophir.
“After these things, the anger of King Artaxerxes abated. He remembered Queen Vashti. He remembered what she had done, and what had been decreed against her. Then the king’s servants said.
‘Let beautiful and virtuous girls be sought out for the king.
Let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom.
They shall select beautiful young virgins.
Let them be brought to the harem in Susa the capital.
Let them be entrusted to the king’s eunuch.
He is in charge of the women.
Let ointments be given them.
Let whatever else they need be given to them.
Let the woman who pleases the king
Let her be queen instead of Queen Vashti.’
This pleased the king. Thus he did so.”
Now we get to the practical problem. King Artaxerxes is no longer upset. He had condemned Queen Vashti, without saying what her punishment was. King Henry VIII of England started beheading his queens that he did not like. Nothing is mentioned here by way of punishment except that she will be dethroned. The king’s servants or advisors came up with an idea. Like Donald Trump, they would have a Miss Universe pageant. He appointed officers in all the provinces to select beautiful young women to send to the capital city of Susa. They would then be in the king’s harem, under the supervision of a eunuch, a castrated man. There they would be given perfume and whatever else they needed. Finally, the king would be a panel of one, like “The Bachelor” to decide who should take the place of Queen Vashti. The king as usual said that this was a good idea.