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Jezebel (Bible)

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Jezebel (Bible)

"Jezabel" redirects here. For the band, see The Jezabels. For the website, see Jezebel (website).
For other uses, see Jezebel (disambiguation).
Jezebel, Queen of Israel
Elijah, print by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)
Spouse(s) King Ahab
Children Ahaziah, Jehoram, and Athaliah
Parents Ithobaal I

Jezebel (/ˈdʒɛzəbəl/,[1] ) (fl. 9th century BCE) was a princess, identified in the Hebrew Book of Kings as the daughter of Ethbaal, King of Tyre (Phoenicia) and the wife of Ahab, king of north Israel.[2]

According to the biblical accounts, Jezebel incited her husband King Ahab to abandon the worship of Yahweh and encourage worship of the deities Baal and Asherah instead. Jezebel is said to have persecuted the prophets of Yahweh, and to have fabricated false evidence of blasphemy against an innocent landowner who refused to sell his property to King Ahab, causing the landowner to be put to death. For these transgressions against the God and people of Israel, the Bible relates, Jezebel met a gruesome death - thrown out of a window by members of her own court retinue, and the flesh of her corpse eaten by stray dogs.

Jezebel became associated with false prophets. In some interpretations, her dressing in finery and putting on makeup before her death [3] led to the association of use of cosmetics with "painted women" or prostitutes. According to Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, apart from the names of rulers and some of the buildings and battles mentioned, the Biblical stories of Jezebel and her family contain "very little verifiable historical material".[4]

Meaning of name

Jezebel is the Anglicized transliteration of the Hebrew אִיזָבֶל ('Izevel/'Izavel). The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible states that the name is "best understood as meaning 'Where is the Prince?'",[5] 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.

Scriptural account

Jezebel's story is told in 1st and 2nd Kings. She was a Phoenician princess, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre (1 Kings 16:31 says she was “Sidonian”, which is a biblical term for Phoenicians in general).[5] According to genealogies given in Josephus and other classical sources, she was the great-aunt of Dido, Queen of Carthage.[5] Jezebel married King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom (i.e. Israel during the time when ancient Israel was divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south). Ahab was the son of King Omri, who had brought the northern Kingdom of Israel to great power, established Samaria as his capital, and whose historical existence is confirmed by ancient inscriptions on the Mesha Stele and the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III.[4] According to the account in the Hebrew Bible, Ahab and Jezebel supported the worship of the deities Baal and Asherah, erecting shrines to them in Samaria, which was "evil in the sight of the Lord".[6] The Bible states that there was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to evil, incited by his wife.[7]

1 Kings 18 states that Jezebel had commanded that all the prophets of Yahweh in the kingdom of Israel be killed,[8] while entertaining "four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and four hundred prophets of Asherah" [9] at her royal table. Elijah, prophet of Yahweh, had escaped Jezebel's persecution, however, and confronted King Ahab, demanding that all the prophets of Baal and Asherah meet him at Mount Carmel for a competition.[9] The prophets of the pagan gods and Elijah met before "all the people",[10] and Elijah had two altars set up, one dedicated to Baal, one to Yahweh, and a bull sacrificed upon each altar. The supporters of Baal called upon their god to send fire to consume the sacrifice, but nothing happened. When Elijah called on Yahweh, fire came down from heaven immediately and consumed the offering, whereupon the crowd fell to the ground, crying "The Lord, he is the God." Elijah ordered the people to seize the prophets of Baal, and they were all slaughtered on his orders.[11] Jezebel swore to kill Elijah in revenge.[12]

1 Kings 21 contains the story of Naboth, who owned a vineyard near the royal palace of Ahab in the city of Jezreel. Wishing to acquire Naboth's vineyard so that he could expand his own gardens, Ahab offered to purchase Naboth's vineyard or to give him a better one in exchange, but Naboth refused to let Ahab have his family inheritance under any circumstances.[13] When Jezebel saw that her husband was upset and depressed by this obstacle to his plans, she concocted false evidence against Naboth and had the authorities in his town accuse him of blasphemy and stone him to death.[14] Ahab took possession of Naboth's vineyard,but he was confronted by Elijah, who prophesied to him that, owing to the way Ahab and Jezebel had plotted to have Naboth killed, Ahab would himself be killed, his royal line obliterated, and Jezebel would be eaten by dogs.[15]

Three years later, Ahab died in battle.[16] His son Ahaziah inherited the throne, but died as the result of an accident[17] and was succeeded by his brother Jehoram.[18]

2 Kings 9 states that the prophet Elisha, Elijah's successor, anointed Jehu, commander of Jehoram's army, as king, in order that he might destroy Ahab's descendants as a punishment for the way Jezebel had treated God's prophets and his people.[5][19] According to the biblical text, when Jehu confronted Jehoram in order to kill him, Jehu told him there could be no peace in Israel while his mother Jezebel's "whoredoms" (idolatry) and "witchcraft" continued.[20] Thereupon he shot Jehoram with an arrow, and ordered his body to be dumped on the plot of land that had belonged to Naboth which Ahab and Jezebel had stolen.[21]

Jehu then headed for the royal palace at Jezreel. Knowing that he was coming, Jezebel "painted her face and tired her head" (put on make-up and a wig or adornments in her hair) and looked out a window.[3] Jehu ordered her own servants to throw her from the window to her death, sprinkled her blood on the walls and on his horses, and trampled upon her corpse.[22] He then entered the palace where, after he ate and drank, he ordered Jezebel's body to be taken for burial, but his servants discovered only her skull, her feet and the palms of her hands - her flesh had been eaten by stray dogs, just as the prophet Elijah had prophesied.[23]

Jezebel is stated by the Bible to have been the mother of Athaliah, queen of Judah.[5]


The marriage of King Ahab to the daughter of the ruler of the Phoenician empire, disapproved of by the biblical writers, was actually a sign of the northern Kingdom of Israel's power and prestige and a "brilliant stroke of international diplomacy", according to Israel Finkelstein,[4] who also writes 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."[4] Among these inconsistencies, 1 Kings 20 states that "Ben-Hadad king of Aram" invaded Samaria during Ahab's reign, but this event did not happen until later in the history of Israel,[4] and 2 Kings 3:9 refers to a king of Edom at the time of Jehoram's reign, but there is no evidence of monarchy in Edom until a century after that.[4] The two books of Kings are part of the Deuteronomistic history, compiled more than two hundred years after the death of Jezebel, and are "obviously influenced by the theology of the seventh century BCE writers".[4] The compilers of the biblical accounts of Jezebel and her family were writing in the southern kingdom of Judah centuries after the events from a perspective of strict monotheism. The polytheism of the members of the Omride dynasty was sinful in the eyes of the biblical writers, and they were hostile to the northern kingdom and its history, with its rival center to Jerusalem, represented by Samaria.[4]

An ancient seal, discovered in 1964, may be inscribed with Jezebel's name.[24] [25][26]

Cultural symbol

The name Jezebel came to be associated with false prophets, and further associated by the early 20th century with fallen or abandoned women.[27] 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/or seduction, she misled the saints of God into sins of idolatry and sexual immorality.[28] In particular, Jezebel has come to be associated with promiscuity. In modern usage, the name of Jezebel is sometimes used as a synonym for sexually promiscuous and sometimes controlling women.[29][30] 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.

In popular culture


  • The novel Jezebel's Daughter (1880) by Wilkie Collins.
  • In his novel The Caves of Steel (1953, 1954), Isaac Asimov portrayed Jezebel as an ideal wife and woman who, in full compliance with the mores of the time, conscientiously promoted her own religion.[31]
  • In her novel, The Handmaid's Tale, first published in 1985, which is full of biblical allusions, Margaret Atwood names an underground brothel "Jezebel's." [32]
  • In the novel Skinny Legs and All (1990) by Tom Robbins, Jezebel makes a cameo appearance.
  • Lesley Hazleton wrote a revisionist historical non-fiction account, Jezebel, The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen (2004), that presents Jezebel as a sophisticated queen engaged in mortal combat with the fundamentalist prophet Elijah. Hazleton is also the author of several other non-fiction books about the Middle East.

Film and television

  • Paulette Goddard starred as Jezebel in the film Sins of Jezebel (1953).
  • Victoria Wicks starred as the voice of Jezebel in Season 1, Episode, "Elijah," of the TV Series "Testament: The Bible in Animation," which originally aired November 6, 1996.
  • The Season 2 episode of Criminal Minds entitled The Big Game, the serial killer Tobias Hankel kidnaps a girl for committing adultery and lets dogs kill her by tearing her apart, a reference to Jezebel's death.
  • In Season 4, Episode 15 of Little House on the Prairie (1978), which originally aired on January 16, 1978, Miss Rachel Peel, played by Anita Dangler, calls Mary Ingalls, played by Melissa Sue Anderson, a "Jezebel" for teaching the students how to read.
  • In the film Snake Eyes (1998), Brian De Palma called the tropical storm turned hurricane that hits Atlantic City "Jezebel," an allusion to the conspiracy, turmoil and evil deeds taking place behind the scenes in the film.
  • Bette Davis starred as an antebellum Southern Belle named Julie in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the film Jezebel (1938).
  • In the film Jacob's Ladder (1990), Elizabeth Peña starred as "Jezzie", stating ambiguous connections with the Biblical original character.


Other mentions

  • In the video game, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines (2004) the player encounters an non-player character named Jezebel Locke who turns out to be a seductress for a fictional doomsday cult in one of the side storylines.
  • The Gawker offshoot blog Jezebel (launched 2007) concerns mostly feminist issues and women's interest.
  • In the song "Doo Wop (That thing)", a song about sexually promiscuous women, Lauryn Hill makes a reference to Jezebel saying that was "the sin that did Jezebel in".
  • Mentioned in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'.
  • in 'Hannibal' by Thomas Harris, Mason Verger's dog eaten face is compaired to Jezebel in a letter to him from Hannibal Lecter.


The Novel 'Skinny Legs and All' by Tom Robbins

External links

  • Scholars Debate “Jezebel” Seal Biblical Archaeology Review, 2008

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