Jezebel (/ˈɛzəbəl, -bɛl/;[1][2][3] Hebrew: אִיזֶבֶל, Modern: ʾĪzével, Tiberian: ʾĪzeḇel) was the daughter of Ithobaal I of Tyre and the wife of Ahab, King of Israel, according to the Book of Kings of the Hebrew Bible (1 Kings 16:31).[4]

Queen consort of Israel
19th-century painting of Jezebel by John Liston Byam Shaw
Diedc. 852 BCE
Tel Jezreel
SpouseKing Ahab
FatherIthobaal I
ReligionCanaanite religion

According to the biblical narrative, Jezebel replaced Yahwism with Baal and Asherah worship and was responsible for Naboth’s death. This caused irreversible damage to the reputation of the Omride dynasty, who were already unpopular among the Israelites.[5][6][7][8] For these offences, Jezebel was defenestrated and devoured by dogs, under Jehu's orders, which Elijah prophesized (2 Kings 9:33–37).

Later, in the Book of Revelation, Jezebel is symbolically associated with false prophets.[9]

Meaning of name edit

Jezebel is the Anglicized transliteration of the Hebrew אִיזֶבֶלʾIzeḇel. The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible states that the name is "best understood as meaning 'Where is the Lord?'" (Hebrew: אֵיזֶה בַּעַל, romanizedʾēze baʿal), a ritual cry from worship ceremonies in honor of Baal during periods of the year when the god was considered to be in the underworld.[10] Alternatively, a feminine Punic name noted by the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, Phoenician: 𐤁𐤏𐤋𐤀𐤆𐤁𐤋, romanized: bʿlʾzbl,[11] may have been a cognate to the original form of the name, as the Israelites were known to often alter personal names which invoked the names of foreign gods (cf. instances for Baal, Mephibosheth and Ish-bosheth).

Biblical account edit

Jezabel and Ahab (c. 1863) by Frederic Leighton

Jezebel is introduced into the biblical narrative as a Phoenician princess, the daughter of Ithobaal I, king of Tyre (1 Kings 16:31 says she was "Sidonian", which is a biblical term for Phoenicians in general).[10] According to genealogies given in Josephus and other classical sources, she was the great-aunt of Dido, Queen of Carthage.[10] As the daughter of Ithobaal I, she was also the sister of Baal-Eser II. Jezebel eventually married King Ahab of Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel.

Near Eastern scholar Charles R. Krahmalkov proposed that Psalm 45 records the wedding ceremony of Ahab and Jezebel,[12] but other scholars cast doubt on this association.[13] This marriage was the culmination of the friendly relations existing between Israel and Phoenicia during Omri's reign, and possibly cemented important political designs of Ahab. Jezebel, like the foreign wives of Solomon, required facilities for carrying on her form of worship, so Ahab made a Baalist altar in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.[14] Geoffrey Bromiley points out that it was Phoenician practice to install a royal woman as a priestess of Astarte, thus she would have a more active role in temple and palace relations than was customary in the Hebrew monarchy.[15]

Elijah edit

Jezebel and Ahab meeting Elijah, print by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853–1928)

Her coronation as queen upset the balance of power between Yahwism and Baalism.[16][17] As queen, Jezebel institutionalized Baalism and killed Yahwist prophets, which most likely included the priests of Jeroboam's golden calf cult,[18] and desecrated their altars.[19][20] Obadiah, a pro-Yahwist figure in Ahab's royal court, secretly protected the survivors of these purges in a cave.[14][20] Some commentators observe that Jezebel's desecration of Yahwist altars would have normally been condoned since they were built outside of Jerusalem, which contravened the Deuteronomic Code. However, they were overlooked due to Elijah's piety or Jezebel's 'improper' motives. [21][22] Alternatively, scholars argue that the Deuteronomic Code promotes laicization and considers all of Israel to be Yahweh's "sacred space". Theologians likewise argue that the "sacred space" is any place where Yahweh "manifested" to humans, according to Exodus 20:24.[23][24]

As a result, Elijah invited Jezebel's prophets of Baal and Asherah to a challenge at Mount Carmel.[20][25] Adam Clarke believes these prophets were royal chaplains and that the Baalist prophets had more jurisdiction over Samaria during Jezebel's reign than the Asherah prophets, who were always indigenous to Samaria.[26] The challenge was to see which god, Yahweh or Baal, would burn a bull sacrifice on an altar. Jezebel's prophets failed to summon Baal in burning the bull sacrifice, despite their cries and cutting themselves. Elijah, however, succeeded when he summoned Yahweh, impressing the Israelites. He then ordered the people to seize and kill the prophets of Baal and Asherah at the Kishon River. In response, Jezebel vows to kill Elijah.[27][20][25] Elijah fled to Mount Horeb,[28] where he mourned the apostasy of Israel.[14][29]

Attempted kidnapping edit

After these events, Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram-Damascus, besieged Israel and threatened to capture Ahab's wives, including Jezebel. Ahab refused and defeated him in battle. However, he spared Ben-Hadad's life, an act that was denounced by an unnamed prophet. The prophet also declared that Israel would be ravaged by the Arameans as punishment. [30]

Naboth edit

In 855-856BC[31][page needed],[32] Jezebel resolved a failed business deal between Ahab and a civilian named Naboth, concerning a vineyard. To do this, she ordered the execution of Naboth and his sons,[33][34] under false charges of blasphemy against God and the king. Commentators observe that the execution was performed according to the Biblical guidelines so that suspicions of foul play could be minimized.[35] After Naboth's death, his corpse was licked by stray dogs. His execution was criticized by Elijah, who prophesized doom for Jezebel's family as punishment.

Death edit

The Death of Jezebel by Gustave Doré

Three years later, Ahab died in battle. Jezebel's son Ahaziah inherited the throne, but died as the result of an accident and was succeeded by his brother, Jehoram. Jehu later usurped the throne[10] and killed Jehoram, and his nephew Ahaziah, who was the son of Jehoram's possible sister Athaliah and her Judahite husband Jehoram. He later approached Jezebel at the royal palace in Jezreel.

Anticipating his arrival, Jezebel put on make-up and a formal wig with adornments and looked out of a window and taunted him. Bromiley says that it should be looked at less as an attempt at seduction and more as the public defiance of the queen mother, invested with the authority of the royal house and cult to confront a rebellious commander.[15] In his two-volume Guide to the Bible (1967 and 1969), Isaac Asimov describes Jezebel's last act: dressing in all her finery, make-up, and jewelry, as deliberately symbolic, indicating her dignity, royal status, and determination to go out of this life as a queen.[36]

Jehu, however, remained unfazed and ordered Jezebel's eunuch servants to throw her from the window. Her blood splattered on the wall and horses, and Jehu's horse trampled her corpse. He entered the palace where, after he ate and drank, he ordered Jezebel's body to be taken for burial. However, only her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands remained—her flesh had been eaten by stray dogs, just as the prophet Elijah had prophesied. [37][38] Edwin R. Thiele dates Jezebel's death c. 850 BCE.[39]

Historicity edit

Queen Jezebel Being Punished by Jehu, by Andrea Celesti

According to Israel Finkelstein, the marriage of King Ahab to the daughter of the ruler of the Phoenician empire was a sign of the power and prestige of Ahab and the northern Kingdom of Israel. He termed it a "brilliant stroke of international diplomacy".[40] He says that the inconsistencies and anachronisms in the biblical stories of Jezebel and Ahab mean that they must be considered "more of a historical novel than an accurate historical chronicle".[40] Among these inconsistencies, 1 Kings 20 states that "Ben-Hadad king of Aram" invaded Samaria during Ahab's reign, but this event did not take place until later in the history of Israel, and "Ben-Hadad" was the title of the ruler of Aram-Damascus.[41] Finkelstein also states that the biblical accounts are "obviously influenced by the theology of the seventh century BCE writers".[40] They were hostile to polytheism and viewed Samaria as a rival to Jerusalem.[40]

According to Dr J. Bimson, of Trinity College, Bristol 1 and 2 Kings are not "a straightforward history but a history which contains its own theological commentary". He points to verses like 1 Kings 14:19 that show the author of Kings was drawing on other earlier sources.[42] The book mixes the annals of history with legends, folktales, miracle stories and "fictional constructions",[43] and presentation of earlier sources is heavily edited to fit the Deuteronomist agenda.[44][45] Janet Howe Gaines likewise finds the narratives implausible, especially the narrative of Naboth being betrayed by an entire Israelite town. [46] But Christian Frevel argues that the biblical narrative subtly alludes to the Omrides' historical role in introducing Yahwism to Judah, which was obfuscated by anti-Omride Judeans. For example, Ahab gave his children theophoric names during his years of expansion in the northern territories and Judah.[47][48] Other scholars propose that the Baal worshipped by Ahab and Jezebel was the "YHWH of Samaria", which was opposed as Yahwist heresy by the Judean priests,[49] but some disagree based on archaeological evidence and extrabiblical records on Jezebel's upbringing.[50][51] Brian R. Doak believes the narratives are historically plausible because of the historicity of Omri and Ahab, evidence for widespread paganism among Israelites, international marriages for political purposes and competition between religious professionals during periods of "political unrest or social change". In addition, other contemporary sources, including sources written by Phoenicians, face similar issues in terms of being unverified by third-party sources.[52]

A seal from the 9th century BCE, discovered in 1964, has a partially damaged inscription of "YZBL" which could have once read, "belonging to Jezebel". However, there are some issues with this theory. Whereas on the seal it appears the inscription begins with the letter yodh, Jezebel's name starts with an aleph, which is lacking on the seal; furthermore, the possessive lamedh which would translate to the predicate "belonging to ..." is also missing from the seal. However, it is entirely possible these letters simply could have been located where the seal is now damaged. The seal includes motifs associated with both Egyptian and Israelite royalty, such as the Uraeus cobra which is commonly found on pharaonic artifacts, and symbols such as the winged sun and Ankh, which are found on numerous other Israelite royal seals from the 8th century BCE and onwards. Regardless, scholars do not agree on whether the seal is evidence for the historicity of the biblical character. Some scholars have said that the size and intricacy of the seal could mean it was used by royalty. If the seal truly represents Jezebel, then she most likely represented 'Anat as queen, who was the wife of the Ugaritic Baal. This aligns with Phoenician royal tradition. [50]

Cultural symbol edit

Jezabel by Léon Auguste Perrey

According to Geoffrey Bromiley, the depiction of Jezebel as "the incarnation of Canaanite cultic and political practices, detested by Israelite prophets and loyalists, has given her a literary life far beyond the existence of a ninth-century Tyrian princess."[15]

Through the centuries, the name Jezebel came to be associated with false prophets. By the early 20th century, it was also associated with fallen or abandoned women.[53] In Christian lore, a comparison to Jezebel suggested that a person was a pagan or an apostate masquerading as a servant of God. By manipulation and seduction, she misled the saints of God into sins of idolatry and sexual immorality.[54] In particular, Christians associated Jezebel with promiscuity. The cosmetics which Jezebel applied before her death also led some Christians to associate makeup with vice. In the Middle Ages, the chronicler Matthew Paris criticised Isabella of Angoulême, the queen consort of John, King of England, by writing that she was "more Jezebel than Isabel".[55] In modern usage, the name of Jezebel is sometimes used as a synonym for sexually promiscuous or controlling women.[56]

In feminist interpretations and Bible scholarship, Jezebel is re-examined and, for example, seen as unfairly framed[57] or her story altered,[58] or as a resource for womanist theology (Lomax). [59]

In popular culture edit

Bette Davis as Julie in the film Jezebel

In literature edit

  • Beach, Eleanor Ferris. The Jezebel Letters: religion and politics in ninth-century Israel. Fortress Press, 2005.
  • Bellis, Alice Ogden. Helpmates, harlots, and heroes: Women's stories in the Hebrew Bible. Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
  • Everhart, Janet S. "Jezebel: Framed by eunuchs?." The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 72, no. 4 (2010): 688-698.
  • Garrett, Ginger. "Reign: The Chronicles of Queen Jezebel", Book #3 in the Lost Loves of the Bible Series (2013), ISBN 143-4-7659-62
  • Hazleton, Lesley. "Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen" (2009)
  • Jackson, Melissa. "Reading Jezebel from the "other" side: Feminist critique, postcolonialism, and comedy." Review & Expositor 112, no. 2 (2015): 239-255.
  • Lomax, Tamura. Jezebel unhinged: Loosing the Black female body in religion and culture. Duke University Press, 2018.
  • Mokoena, Lerato. "Reclaiming Jezebel and Mrs Job: Challenging Sexist Cultural Stereotypes and the Curse of Invisibility" in Transgression and transformation: Feminist, postcolonial and queer Biblical interpretation as creative interventions (2021).
  • Quick, Catherine S. "Jezebel's last laugh: the rhetoric of wicked women." Women and Language 16, no. 1 (1993): 44-49.
  • Snyder, J.B., 2012. Jezebel and her Interpreters. Women's Bible Commentary: Twentieth–Anniversary Edition. Louisville, KY, pp. 180–183.
  • Wyatt, Stephanie. "Jezebel, Elijah, and the widow of Zarephath: A ménage à trois that estranges the holy and makes the holy the strange." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 36, no. 4 (2012): 435-458.
  • Barnard, Megan. "Jezebel." Penguin Random House, 2023.

References edit

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (Second ed.). 1989. "Jezebel" (US) and "Jezebel". Oxford Dictionaries UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 5 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Jezebel". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Jezebel". Dictionary. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  4. ^ Elizabeth Knowles, "Jezebel", The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, OUP 2006
  5. ^ "Micah 6:16".
  6. ^ "2 Chronicles 21:6".
  7. ^ "2 Kings 8:18".
  8. ^ ISHDA, T. (1975). "The House of Ahab". Israel Exploration Journal. 25 (2/3): 135–137. JSTOR 27925509.
  9. ^ B. Duff, Paul (2001). Who Rides the Beast?: Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse. doi:10.1093/019513835X.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-513835-1.
  10. ^ a b c d Hackett, Jo Ann (2004). Metzger, Bruce M; Coogan, Michael D (eds.). The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible. Oxford University Press. pp. 150–151. ISBN 978-0-19-517610-0.
  11. ^ Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum I. 1926. p. 209.
  12. ^ Krahmalkov, Charles R. (2000), A Phoenician-Punic Grammar, page 2
  13. ^ Rogerson, J W; McKay, John William (1977). Psalms 1-50. Cambridge University Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-521-29160-6.
  14. ^ a b c "JEZEBEL -".
  15. ^ a b c Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (28 August 1979). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-3782-0 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Eakin, Frank E. (1965). "Yahwism and Baalism before the Exile". Journal of Biblical Literature. 84 (4): 407–414. doi:10.2307/3264867. JSTOR 3264867.
  17. ^ Miller, J. M. (1967). "The Fall of the House of Ahab". Vetus Testamentum. 17 (3): 307–324. doi:10.1163/156853367X00042.
  18. ^ "1 Kings 18 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges". 2024. Archived from the original on 11 February 2024.
  19. ^ Mare, Leonard P. "" Twice as much of your Spirit": Elijah, Elisha, and the Spirit of God." Ekklesiastikos Pharos 91.1 (2009): 72-81.
  20. ^ a b c d Bayor, Conrad Kandelmwin. "The Alienation of Jezebel: Reading the Deuteronomic Historian's Portrait of Jezebel in the Contemporary Global Context." (2017).
  21. ^ "1 Kings 19:10 Benson Commentary". Biblehub. 2023.
  22. ^ Glatt-Gilad, David (21 February 2019). "Was Elijah Permitted to Make an Offering on Mount Carmel?". Archived from the original on 3 January 2024.
  23. ^ Alster, Baruch (2014). "Deuteronomy: Religious Centralization or Decentralization?". Archived from the original on 18 April 2024.
  24. ^ "Exodus 20:24 Gill's Exposition". 2024.
  25. ^ a b Merecz, Robert J. (n.d.). "Jezebel's Oath (1 Kgs 19,2)". Biblica. 90 (2): 257–259. ISSN 0006-0887. JSTOR 42614902.
  26. ^ "1 Kings 18 Clarke's Commentary". 2022. Archived from the original on 11 February 2024.
  27. ^ Micah 6:16
  28. ^ 1 Kings 19:8
  29. ^ Bromiley, Geoffrey William (2009). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3785-1.
  30. ^ 1 Kings 20:3–43
  31. ^ Thiele, Edwin R. (1965). The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  32. ^ 1 Kings 16:29
  33. ^ Hirsch, Emil G. and Seligsohn, M., "Naboth", Jewish Encyclopedia
  34. ^ "1 Kings 21: Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". 2022.
  35. ^ "1 Kings 21: Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary". Biblehub. 2023.
  36. ^ Asimov, Isaac (1988). Asimov's Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One, the Old and New Testaments (reprint ed.). Wings. ISBN 978-0-517-34582-5.
  37. ^ 2 Kings 9:35–36
  38. ^ See also
  39. ^ Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X
  40. ^ a b c d Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Simon and Schuster. pp. 169–195. ISBN 978-0-684-86912-4.
  41. ^ Israel Finkelstein; Neil Asher Silberman (6 March 2002). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts. Simon and Schuster. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-7432-2338-6.
  42. ^ IVP New Bible Commentary (21st Century Edition), p. 335
  43. ^ Richard D. Nelson (1987). Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: First and Second Kings. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-664-22084-6.
  44. ^ Fretheim, Terence E (1997). First and Second Kings. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-25565-7.
  45. ^ Van Seters, John (1997). In search of history: historiography in the ancient world and the origins of biblical history. Eisenbrauns. p. 307. ISBN 978-1-57506-013-2.
  46. ^ Gaines, Janet Howe (2023). "How Bad Was Jezebel?". Biblical Archaeology Society. Archived from the original on 11 February 2024.
  47. ^ Frevel, Christian (2021). "When and from Where did YHWH Emerge? Some Reflections on Early Yahwism in Israel and Judah". Entangled Religions. 12 (2). doi:10.46586/er.12.2021.8776. hdl:2263/84039 – via RUB.
  48. ^ Stahl, Michael J. (2023). "Yahweh or Baal- Who Was the God of Northern Israel?". Biblical Archaeology Review. Archived from the original on 18 April 2024.
  49. ^ Edward Lipiński "Studia z dziejów i kultury starożytnego Bliskiego Wschodu" Nomos Press, 2013, ISBN 978-83-7688-156-0
  50. ^ a b Korpel, Marjo C. A. (May 2008). "Fit for a Queen: Jezebel's Royal Seal". Biblical Archaeology Society. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  51. ^ Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977) 327.
  52. ^ Doak, Brian R. (2020). Ancient Israel's Neighbors. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190690632.
  53. ^ Cook, Stanley Arthur (1911). "Jezebel" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 411.
  54. ^ The New Testament, Book of Revelation., Ch. 2, vs. 20-23.
  55. ^ Nicholas Vincent 'John's Jezebel' 1999
  56. ^ "Meaning #2: "an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman"". Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  57. ^ Bellis, Alice Ogden (1994). "Introduction". Helpmates, harlots, and heroes: women's stories in the Hebrew Bible (PDF). Louisville, Ky: Westminster/John Knox Pr. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-664-25430-8.
  58. ^ Beach, Eleanor Ferris (2005). The Jezebel letters : religion and politics in ninth-century Israel. Internet Archive. Minneapolis : Fortress Press. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-0-8006-3754-5.
  59. ^ Lomax, Tamura A. (2018). Jezebel unhinged: loosing the black female body in religion and culture (PDF). Durham London: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-1-4780-0248-2.
  60. ^ Young, Alan (1997). Woke Me Up This Morning: Black Gospel Singers and the Gospel Life. University Press of Mississippi. p. 50. ISBN 0-87805-943-1.
  61. ^ Jezebel at AllMusic
  62. ^ Frankie Laine's hits in the years 1947-1952.Archived 6 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  63. ^ "Jezebel lyrics". Frankie Laine lyrics. Metro Lyrics. Archived from the original on 19 December 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  64. ^ "At The Imperial: 'Jezebel' Color Spectacle Stars Paulette Goddard In Title Role". The News and Eastern Townships Advocate. 14 January 1954. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  65. ^ "Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen, by Lesley Hazleton". Kirkus reviews. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  66. ^ Leahey, Andrew (9 April 2012). "Iron & Wine, 'Jezebel'". Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  67. ^ Cherrie, Chrysta. "The Jezabels". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  68. ^ Lam, Lana (20 May 2009). "The Jezabels". Central Coast Express Advocate. News Limited (News Corporation). p. 35. Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2012.

External links edit

  •   Media related to Jezebel at Wikimedia Commons