Strong Women: Jezebel

For more than two thousand years, Jezebel has been saddled with a reputation as the bad girl of the Bible, the wickedest of women. This ancient queen has been denounced as a murderer, prostitute and enemy of God, and her name has been adopted for lingerie lines and World War II missiles alike. But what if this version of her story, handed down to us through the ages, is merely the one her enemies wanted us to believe? What if Jezebel, far from being a conniving harlot, was, in fact, framed?
Jezebel was a powerful Phoenician princess around 900 BCE.  She is the daughter to Ethbaal, King of Tyre in Phoenicia, and wife to Ahab, King of northern Israel. It is said by many archaeologists and scholars that Jezebel was power behind the throne, not her husband and king. She still honored her religion and did not covert to Judaism. She convinced her husband to worship her Phoenician God Baal, God of fertility, rain and the seasons. They had temples erected in his honor which was seen as sinful by the other Israelite's. They viewed Ahab not only sinning against his own God, but also against his people. His crimes: First by marrying a Phoenician princess who was viewed as a Pagan, then by worshiping the Phoenician God.
Baal: Storm God
Jezebel did not want to lose her cultural identity and her Gods and Goddesses from her home. She was a bold and fierce woman and some will say that her actions were brutal, but in that time, Pagans had been dealing with the constant threat of Judaism and Christianity, for some thousand years or so. Many followers of ancient religions were not as eager or willing to give that up so easily, like Jezebel. She started having prophets of the Israeli God killed off.  Although it is said many died, many also survived. Jezebel would stop at nothing to see this new religion gone. She was spoken badly about by worshipers of God and in biblical texts she is described as a wicked woman who dressed herself in makeup and sinful clothing; she was even portrayed as a prostitute, a harlot.
Women were viewed much differently in this new religion. The Jewish men did not take to women making themselves attractive with makeup or holding any power. Any woman who held power was seen as evil and ungodly. The key to Jezebel’s character is that she behaved like a Phoenician princess, not like an Israelite woman. She saw the monarch as having absolute power, and was contemptuous of the limitations that the old Hebrew Law put on her. Like other Middle Eastern monarchs of the time, she believed that the monarch made the law.
At some time during Ahab's reign there was a terrible drought throughout Israel and Judah. As food grew scarce, the old and the very young began to die, then the adults, until only the young, strong adults were left. This was the situation in Jezebel's kingdom at that time. As the drought worsened, so did the desperation of the people. Every plea was made to the gods - to any god who might listen. A contest developed between the people who worshipped Baal, and those who worshipped Yahweh. It was a contest that would end with the death of many people. According to the biblical text, the priests of Baal lost the contest in a spectacular way, with fire exploding from the sky. All four and hundred and fifty were slaughtered by the followers of Elijah. The text records the end of the severe drought that had gripped the land. When Jezebel heard that the priests of Baal had been murdered, she made a vow to avenge their deaths. Elijah knew that Jezebel would make a fearsome enemy, so he fled.
when Ahab dies in Samaria and his son, Ahaziah, dies within two years of ascending the throne. He is killed by Jehu, who emerges as another contender for the throne when the prophet Elisha declares him King. Here again Jezebel's influence becomes apparent. Though Jehu has killed the king, he has to kill Jezebel in order to assume power.
According to 2 Kings 9:30-34; Jezebel and Jehu meet soon after the death of her son Ahaziah. When she learns of his demise, she puts on make-up, does her hair, and looks out a palace window only to see Jehu enter the city. She taunts him by calling him Zimri, the name of the unscrupulous predecessor of Omri, Jezebel’s father-in-law. Zimri ruled Israel for only seven days after murdering the king (Elah) and usurping the throne. “Is all well, Zimri, murderer of your master?” Jezebel asks Jehu (2 Kings 9:31). Jezebel knows that all is not well, and her sarcastic, sharp-tongued insult of Jehu disproves any interpretation that she has dressed in her finest to seduce him. She has contempt for Jehu. He responds by asking her servants if they are on his side. "Who is on my side? Who?" he asks, "Thrown her down!" (2 Kings 9:32). Jezebel's eunuchs then betray her by throwing her out the window. She dies when she hits the street and is trampled by horses. After taking a break to eat and drink, Jehu commands that she be buried "for she was a king's daughter" (2 Kings 9:34), but by the time his men go to bury her dogs have eaten all but her skull, feet and hands.
Throughout the centuries, Jezebel has been attacked as a whore, and her name has been used to describe a woman of promiscuous behavior. But there is nothing in Jezebel’s story to suggest that she was ever unfaithful to Ahab. In fact, she seems to have been fiercely loyal to him and her sons, even in adversity. Jezebel was powerful, a woman and a foreigner. These qualities made her a target for the prophets of Yahweh. In the long run, she backed the wrong gods. She ruled with arbitrary power, which went against the Israelite ideal of kingship. But she was a woman of tremendous ability and intelligence, strong-willed, courageous and loyal.


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