Vashti

🏷  Bible name Esther Persian Semitic pun · name   —   by Gerry · Jun 2019 · 704 words

Vashti is a Persian & Semitic pun with the word bz / meaning “exposed” & “disgraced”. The homonymity isn’t perfect, but the meaning fits Vashti’s story and the juxtaposition with Esther perfectly.

Vashti shielding her breasts & body

Vashti shielding her breasts & body
by Edwin Long

Vashti being exposed & disgraced

In the Biblical Book of Esther, the Persian king Ahasuerus gets drunk, and orders his queen Vashti to appear and show her royal crown to the people.

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,

ביום השביעי כטוב לב המלך ביין אמר למהומן בזתא חרבונא בגתא ואבגתא זתר וכרכס שבעת הסריסים המשרתים את פני המלך אחשורוש

Esther 1:10

To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.

להביא את ושתי המלכה לפני המלך בכתר מלכות להראות העמים והשרים את יפיה כי טובת מראה היא

Esther 1:11

Vashti refuses, though from the official text it’s not clear why. Many analysts suggest that the king’s order somehow implied she was to be exposed & disgraced. One frequent idea is that she was to wear only her crown.

I think it’s yet another pun, and the spooks aren’t allowed to admit that. One possibility is כתר ktr for “crown” punning with חטר ḥṭr for “humps”. So Vashti wasn’t supposed to show her royal “crown” to the people, but her royal “humps”. In Edwin Long’s painting, Vashti also seems to be shielding her breasts with her arms. The name Vashti itself puns with בז bz for “breasts” & “teats”. (It even works with English “busty”.)

It doesn’t matter though what the actual pun is. It’s clear from the context that she’s to be exposed & disgraced:

  1. The text states explicitly that the king is drunk when he has this idea, so it must be something lewd.
  2. The queen refuses even though it would be clear that this has negative consequences. In the story, she’s disposed as a queen.
  3. The text gives no reason at all why she refuses, so audiences were expected to understand.

We can therefore conclude that Vashti was to be exposed & disgraced.

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.

ותמאן המלכה ושתי לבוא בדבר המלך אשר ביד הסריסים ויקצף המלך מאד וחמתו בערה בו

Esther 1:12

Semitic bz for “exposed” & “disgraced”

Since Vashti is explained as somwhow to be “exposed” & “disgraced”, her most likely pun is with the Semitic root בז bz for “exposed” & “disgraced”.

The sound V can be written as either W as in Vashti or B as in bz, so it’s a B-V-W pun.

The Zayin is not very close to Šin, but בז bz seems related to בוש bwš, which is already very close to Vashti.

The T suffix marks the feminine of abstract nouns.

Hebrew, Aramaic bz, = expose, reveal, disgrace, humiliate, despise

בזי bzy : to tread upon; to despise, spurn, degrade; to be despised, humbled, exposed — Hebrew (Jastrow)

בזא bzˀ : despise, expose; to be despised, exposed — Hebrew (Jastrow)

בזה bzh : despise; despised, disdained, scorned; degraded, humiliated — Hebrew (Klein)

בזי bzy : to expose, to reveal; to disgrace; to scorn, to disgrace, to treat with contempt; to be disgraced; to disgrace oneself — Aramaic (CAL)

בוש bwš : confounded, abashed, ashamed; put to shame, be exposed, insulted; to be bashful — Hebrew (Jastrow)

בש : (flowery) to feel embarrassed, be ashamed — Hebrew (Wikt)

Persian baz for “open”, “naked”, “exposed”

Since Esther is a multi-language pun, Vashti may be another multi-language pun: In Persian, the similar word باز baz also stands for being “open”, “naked”, “exposed”.

Persian baz = open, bare, naked

باز bˀz baz : open; to open; to become open; to lay open, to expose — Persian (Sulayman)

باز bˀz bâz : open, wide — Persian (Wikt)

باز bāz : open; bare, naked; clear; bāz būdan: to be exposed — Persian (Steingass)

Both pronunciation & meaning are similar in Hebrew & Persian. This is further evidence that Vashti is a pun, just like Ester.

🏷  Bible name Esther Persian Semitic pun · name