Jezebel: Phoenician Princess of Ancient Sidon, Pagan Priestess, and Queen of Israel.
Jezebel – In the Old Testament
According to biblical texts, Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married Ahab, a foreign king, who presided over the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 9th century BCE. She helped him rule and she established pagan worship at Ahab’s court on a grand scale. He is depicted as a terrible ruler who is disloyal to the Israelite god by promoting the god Baal and the goddess Asherah. Jezebel is portrayed as an evil foreign woman who leads Ahab astray by encouraging his worship of other gods. At her table were no less than 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Baal’s consort Asherah (I Kings 16:31,21; 18:19). By her orders, the prophets of Yahweh were attacked and put to the sword (I Kings 18:13; II Kings 9:7). (1 & 2)
1 Kings 16:31 (BBE) “And as if copying the evil ways of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, was a small thing for him, he [Ahab] took as his wife Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Zidon, and became a servant and worshipper of Baal.”
Ahab’s wife Jezebel came from the Phoenician city of Tyre where her father had been a high priest and eventually king. Jezebel worshipped the god Baah and his consort Asherah. In order to please her, Abah built a temple and an alter for Baal (1 Kings 16:32), thus promoting idolatry and leading the entire nation into sin. (3) Tyrian purple — a dye produced from the glands of mollusks found along the rocky shores of Lebanon — would forever become associated with royalty; it also featured prominently in the Israelite High Priest’s vestments. Meanwhile, Jezebel’s grandniece, Princess Elishat (Elissa for Greeks; Dido for Romans) of Tyre, would go on to found Carthage, the torment of classical Rome, in today’s Tunisia. (4)
Ahab then became upset when he learned that the owner of a vineyard abutting his palace, a man named Naboth, was not willing to sell the property. Queen Jezebel arranged for Naboth to be arrested on a trumped-up blasphemy charge, and the vineyard owner was stoned to death (I Kings 21:7). His property thus fell to the crown. (1)
Shocked by this blatant crime, Yahweh’s prophet Elijah pronounced a curse on Ahab and his house. His prophecy was fulfilled: Ahab would be killed during another campaign against his old Syrian foe, while his son Ahaziah would die after a fall from his window. Ahab’s second son Jehoram was then ousted from the throne in a bloody coup by a commander named Jehu, reportedly with Elijah’s assistance, while Queen Jezebel was thrown out a window to her death and her blood spattered on the wall and horses. Jehu trampled her body under the horses’ hooves. (II Kings 9:6-10; 30-37) (1, 3 & 4)
After Jehu finished eating dinner that night, he sent some people outside to bury Jezebel, “Someone go and bury this cursed woman, for she is the daughter of a king.” However, when the servants got out there to bury Jezebel all they found was her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands, the rest had been eaten by dogs. This fulfilled Elijah’s curse that “dogs shall eat Jezebel. . .so that [her] carcass shall be as dung upon the face of the field in Jezreel.” (II Kings 9:33-34; 10:9). (1, 3 & 4)
Jezebel’s make-up stone boxes. “When Jezabel, the queen mother, heard that Jehu had come to Jezreel, she painted her eyelids and fixed her hair and sat at a window” (11 Kings 9:30 NLT). An Expedition sponsored by Harvard University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The British School of Archaeology, and Palestine Exploration Fund (1908-1910, 1931-), found, in Samaria, in the ruins of Ahab’s “ivory palace” (1 Kings 22:39), saucers, small stone boxes, in which Jezebel mixed her cosmetics. They had a number of small holes to contain the various colors: kohl for black; turquoise for green; ochre for red; and a central depression for mixing. There are still traces of red. (3 & 5)
Megiddo. In Megiddo, in the Archaeological stratum of Ahab and Jezebel’s time period, jars were found containing remains of children that had been sacrificed to Baal, illustrating the horrible nature of Baal worship.
Megiddo was the famous battlefield, Armageddon, which gives its name to the “Great Final Battle of the Ages” (Rev. 16:16). It was situated on the south side of the Plain of Esdraelon, 10 miles southwest of Nazareth, at the entrance to a pass across the Carmel Mountain range, on the main highway between Asia and Africa. It was a key position between the Euphrates and the Nile rivers, and a meeting place of armies from the East and the West. (5)
Jezebel – In the New Testament
In the Book of Revelation, it rails against “that woman Jezebel… [who] seduces my servants to commit fornication” (Rev. 2:20), further paving the way for her name to become synonymous with lewd promiscuity — her name Jezebel, ironically, meant “woman of god” (as in the god Baal) in her native Phoenician language. (3 & 4)
The name Jezebel is used for a woman once again in Revelation 2:18-29. Here, Jezebel is described as a prophetess, a false teacher, an immoral woman and idol worshipper. She attended a church at Thyatira. She encouraged those who attended the church to engage in sexual sin and to worship other gods. (6)
But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Rev. 2:20-21 (NASB)
She was like the Jezebel in the Old Testament. They share many of the same characteristics. God warned this Jezebel that He would punish her if she did not stop teaching evil and repent. God not only warned Jezebel the teacher, but He also warned her followers to stop sinning and to repent (Rev. 2:22-23). (6)
And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. Rev. 2:23 (NASB)
We do not know the true name of this woman who is nicknamed Jezebel in this verse. It is unlikely that her name was actually Jezebel. It wouldn’t be a name that parents would have wanted to bestow on a child at this time in history. Although I will point out here that in later centuries the Puritans used all the names from the Bible when naming their children. And as a genealogist, I have come across records listing women named Jezebel! Although not a super popular first name in more recent history, it is found in hundreds of records in the United States, and to a lesser degree in Europe, into the 20th and even the 21st century. (11)
The Majority Text indicates “Jezebel may have been the wife of the angel of the church.” (10 & 11) What is meant here by the word angel is the pastor of the church, this Jezebel found in Jesus’ letter to the church of Thyatira may have been the wife of the church’s pastor. Whatever her role in the church, she was a woman who was extremely influential.
The church at Thyatira had been allowing Jezebel to promote her scriptural teaching in their midst (Rev. 2:20), but not the slightest detail had escaped the eyes of the Master. Also appearing in Revelation 1:14, the eyes like a flame of fire indicate His [Christ’s] omniscience and omnipresence. He is well aware of what is happening within the church at Thyatira, especially those things he opposes (Rev. 2:20). (11)
Christ describes her as persuasive in the Church, using her self-appointed position to lead Church members into sin. This was like the Jezebel of the Old Testament who influenced the people of Israel to corrupt themselves. She was promoting destructive heresies and leading many into moral compromise. Christ also says of this Jezebel, “I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent” (Rev. 2:21). This is like the impudent Jezebel of old who remained defiant of God to her gruesome death. This Jezebel [of Thyatira] meets a violent end (Rev. 2:22-23) like the Old Testament Jezebel, a lesson for the Christian not to allow her seductive influence in the Church. (9 & 11)
Jesus does give a message to those that have not followed her [this Jezebel]. He tells them to “hold tightly to what you have until I come.” (Rev. 2:25)
The imagery of both eyes and feet found in these passages in Revelation is that of impending judgement upon Jezebel and her children (Rev. 2:22-23). The judgement will serve as a witness of His omniscience: “All the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev. 2:23).” (10 & 11)
So, what does it mean to call someone a Jezebel?
Merriam Webster defines a Jezebel/jezebel as an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman. (7) Although most often directed toward a female, “a Jezebel” can be a man or a woman. The Jezebel has been associated with being conniving, evil, or having a bad reputation. No one wants to be called a Jezebel.
Jezebel’s name has become synonymous not just with wicked women but also with promiscuity. However, by all accounts, Jezebel was a loyal wife. The queen’s sins seem to be directly connected to her being a foreign woman who was unafraid to wield her power [and using the power in a quite wicked way] and her unwillingness to leave her pagan religion. The writers claimed she was promiscuous, fully intending to show she was disloyal to her husband as well as the faith of Israel. The Bible also used the fact that she put on makeup as evidence of her desire to cheat and take power for herself. (9)
What is a Jezabel Spirit?
Although the term a Jezabel Spirit or someone having a Spirit of Jezebel is not directly mentioned in the Bible, it is derived directly from the Jezebel of the Bible.
It is a spirit that seeks to destroy churches, families, people and God’s prophets. The best way to define the Jezebel Spirit is to say it characterizes anyone who acts in the same manner as Jezebel did, engaging in immorality, idolatry, false teaching, and unrepentant sin.
Referring to the Bible character – Jezebel – after which the spirit is named, Jezebel took control of her husband, Ahab, getting him to abandon his God and serve her idols. She manipulated Naboth’s death just so her husband could get his plot of land. There was no limit to her wickedness and deception. (8)
“It is a wicked, cunning, manipulative spirit that is often associated with females, but actually can manifest in anyone. The spirit of Jezebel is wreaking havoc in the church, tearing down ministries and servants of God and destroying lives. . .anyone operating under it likes to be in control of people and are manipulative and will do anything to get what they want. They will lie, scheme, befriend and then turn on the person … without a shred of remorse.” – Rev. Marie Berbick of Touching Your World Ministries.
The Jezebel Spirit not only attacks the church and its members but is also present in some homes and workplaces. . .[the] things to look out for are very much the same … the agenda is always to disrupt and destroy. (8)
- How a pagan queen became a notorious villain in the Bible Thrown from a window because of her “wicked” ways, Queen Jezebel is one of the few female villains of the Bible, by Jean-Pierre Isbouts, Culture – People in the Bible, 15 March 2019. nationalgeographic.com
- Jezebel Isn’t Who You Think She Is by Nyasha Junior, 5 November 2019. DAME MAGAZINE – online.
- Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation, 2014, Wheaton, Il: Tyndale House Publishers.
- Defending the Harlot Queen, by Tibor Krausz, 1 October 2007, The Jerusalem Report. tiborkrausz.com
- Inductive Bible Study – Old Testament, II Kings Handbook. inductive.indubiblia.org
- Who was Jezebel? Who was Jezebel in the Bible? Never Thirsty, Like The Master Ministries. John Calahan. NeverThirsty.org
- Definition of a Jezebel/jezebel, Merriam Webster Dictionary online. merriam-webster.com
- Understanding the ‘Jezebel Spirit’ by Cecelia Campbell-Livingston – Sunday Gleaner Writer, 12 January 2020. The Gleaner Newspaper (online); Kingston, Jamaica. jamaica-gleaner.com
- THE TRUTH ABOUT QUEEN JEZEBEL IN THE BIBLE, by Emilia David, 5 August 2021, GRUNGE. grunge.com
- The Majority Text as represented by [Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad], The Greek New Testament According To The Majority Text (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1985).
- An Analysis of Revelation Chapters 2 through 5, by Anna Kasper, ACDP; 11 April 2021. anna-kasper.com on WordPress.
- Who Is Jezebel in Revelation 2 verse 20? Beyond Today – United Church of God [Website]. Accessed January 23, 2021. Who Is Jezebel in Revelation 2 verse 20? | United Church of God (ucg.org)
- How Bad Was Jezebel? by Janet Howe Gaines, 22 March 2022, Bible History Today, Bible Review, BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY SOCIETY. biblicalarchaeology.org
- Jezebel: Phoenician Princess of Ancient Sidon, Queen of Israel, by Dr. Joshua J. Mark, Professor of Philosophy, Marist College, 15 October 2019. brewminate.com
- Bible Story of Jezebel, by G. Connor Salter, 24 October 2021. biblestudytools.com
- Lessons We Can All Learn From the Story of Jezebel in the Bible, by Hannah Skentelbery, 14 March 2021. warrington-worldwide.co.uk
- Jezebel in the Bible – What We Can Learn from Her Story, by Blair Parke, 18 June 2020. crosswalk.com
- Jezebel Bible Study – 10 Key Points for Bible Study, Homewords Ministry, Small Group Bible Study Ministry. wordpress.com
- An Analysis of Revelation Chapters 2 through 5, by Anna Kasper, ACDP; 11 April 2021. anna-kasper.com on WordPress.
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