Jezebel the Historical and Biblical Term Paper

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In other words she is seen in this light as a double threat to the country.

Consequently, she interferes in the issues and "frames" Naboth in a clever and callous plot. She succeeds in enlisting others in the community to support her actions against Naboth and he is accused of blaspheming against God and going against the King. She encourages the King to kill Naboth and to "...take him out and stone him to death." As a result Naboth is murdered and Jezebel is seen as being a cold and manipulative figure who will go to any lengths to achieve her ends.

However, from a more pragmatic historical perspective some scholars question the Biblical text. As one study states,

The fantastical tale of Naboth's death... stretches the reader's credulity. If Jezebel were as hateful as the Deuteronomist claims, surely at least one nobleman in Jezreel would have refused to assist in the nefarious scheme. Surely one individual would have had the courage to expose the detestable deed and become the Deuteronomist's hero by spoiling the plan."

In the Biblical text the God of Israel intervenes and sends Elijah to tell Ahab that he is to die. Instead Elijah predicts the death of Jezebel in a grotesque way. She is to die a terrible death as a result of her crimes and the murder of Naboth. "The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the field of Jezreel."

There then follow a series of events which further show Jezebel as an unredeemable and immoral character. This is evidenced in the order from God to destroy the entire house or Ahab and his lineage as a result of her crimes and lack of faith."... thus will I avenge on Jezebel the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of the other servants of the Lord."

In this process Jezebel is also termed as a witch and a whore. Her despicable character is once again emphasized in her final days when the attempts to seduce Jehu, the new King of Israel in an attempt to save her life. This seduction is however disputed by some scholars. Finally Jehu orders that Jezebel should be thrown from her window. This is done and the prophesy of Elijah comes true when her body falls to the ground and is eaten by the dogs. '(2 Kings 9:33-34).

In the book of revelations Jezebel is also mentioned, although scholars are divided as to whether this is a rather a reference to a type of person or to the actual figure of the Old Testament. Jezebel is mentioned in connection with the church of Thyatira (Revelation 2:20). This refers to a woman who was promoting immorality. As one commentator notes, "There are differences of opinion on whether this woman's name was actually Jezebel or if John may have used the name to symbolize the extant of the evil that the woman caused. " Nevertheless, her name is associated in the Book of Revelations with sin and immortality and continues the negative image that we have of her.

Differing interpretations and views.

As discussed above from a purely theological Old Testament point-of-view, Jezebel is an agent of evil and the enemy of the true religion. On the other hand, from a more objective and historical point-of-view it can also be argued that the marriage of Ahab and Jezebel can be seen in a more positive light. As Janet Howe Gaines states in, Music in the Old Bones: Jezebel through the Ages (1999), "Today their regional unification policies would surely win Ahab and Jezebel a respected, if not an honored, place in history. Yet they are depicted in the Bible as reprobates..."

This also relates to ambiguities in interpretations of this character from various Biblical and historical perspectives. For example, there have in recent years been efforts by scholars to "reclaim" various female figures in the Bible, such as Jezebel. In other words, scholarship has attempted to shed more light on this character by questioning certain Biblical interpretations. There is a general view however that Jezebel is one of the female characters in the Bible who portrayed in an almost unredeemable bad light.

She is not a heroic fighter like Deborah, a devoted sister like Miriam or a cherished wife like Ruth. Jezebel cannot even be compared with the Bible's other bad girls 'Potiphar's wife and Delilah'for no good comes from Jezebel's deeds. These other women may be bad, but Jezebel is the worst.

At the same time it is also felt by some scholars that there is more to this complex character than many common interpretations allow for. These scholars therefore interrogate the possible motives that the Biblical authors may have had to portray Jezebel in such a negative light. They assert that, "....her character might not be as dark as we are accustomed to thinking. Her evilness is not always as obvious, undisputed and unrivaled as the biblical writer wants it to appear."

In this regard it is perhaps interesting that the Biblical story does not refer to or comment on the prior feelings or aspirations that Jezebel may have had before the marriage. This leads some scholars to deduce that she is little more than a 'pawn' in the political game played between nations. This also leads to interpretations of the marriage between Jezebel and Ahab from her point-of-view, and to an alternative view of her possible intentions. This in turn brings forth assertions that Jezebel was in fact placed in an alien culture that was not only extremely ethnocentric and xenophobic but which was particularly patriarchal in nature. Many scholars therefore suggest that one could take a more lenient and generous view of her nature. She is seen by some, for example, as a figure who was concerned with promoting a more "open" society and greater religious tolerance of other beliefs and views. From this perspective it is suggested that she may also have seen herself " an ambassador who could help unite the two lands and bring about cultural pluralism, regional peace and economic prosperity."

These views obviously contrast radically with the extreme view of her character as portrayed in the Bible. There are also other aspects which scholars point out in the text that are questionable. For instance, the events that flow from the contest on Mount Carmel, where the actions of Elijah in slaughtering all the Baal priests seems to suggest that he is no better in terms of cruelty than Jezebel. (1 Kings 18:40). This seems to some to imply a double standard on the part of the Jewish God.

There are also many commentators and scholars who follow a more feminist theoretical line of thought and who see Jezebel as being maligned by a male-centered and patriarchal society, and by the male figures who wrote the Biblical texts. As one study notes, "Jezebel's name has become synonymous with wickedness and promiscuity, right down to the present day..."

However, this study also asserts that her reputation is largely undeserved. This refers to critics who see the Bible story of Jezebel as, "...the product of a smear by the ancient authors who told her story in the books of Kings" and who attempt to "...elevate her as a paragon of enlightenment and tolerance for the 21st century."

In conclusion, Jezebel as she is presented and conventionally interpreted in the Biblical texts is an unredeemable evil and immoral character. This view is sustained into the Book of Revelations where her name is associated with the defiance of God's laws and immorality. However, at the same time there are many modern scholars who question the veracity of these perceptions, using methods of interrogative historical analysis. In the final analysis, the true character of Jezebel will continue to be debated from these often conflicting points-of-view.


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Sources Used in Document:


Atkinson J. Jezebel. (Accessed 9 May 2008)

Kings 18:4. IBS. (Accessed 9 May 2008)

Biblos com. (Accessed 9 May 2008).

Courteau, Sarah L. "Was the Lady a Tramp?." The Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 2007, 92+. Database online. Available from Questia, 11 May 2008).

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