Born: 900 BC
Born In: Israel
Born: 900 BC
Born In: Israel
Jezebel was a Sidonian princess and the daughter of King Ithobaal I of Sidon, who married Ahab, King of Israel. She is usually described as a beautiful, strong-willed, cunning and power-hungry woman who had convinced her husband to give up the worship of Yahweh, the Hebrew God, in favor of the pagan deity Baal. She further committed atrocities against prophets of Yahweh and also participated in politics, as detailed in the episode with Naboth. Starting with 1 Kings 16:31 of the Hebrew Bible, she has been mentioned in brief passages throughout the Books of Kings, parts of the Deuteronomistic history, which primarily seeks to eradicate Israel of polytheism. As such, the foreign princess with pagan beliefs is considered as the worst among biblical sinful women and is labeled a dangerous apostate and a harlot. However, modern feminist scholars see her as a courageous and outspoken woman faithful to her ancestral deities, and have questioned inconsistencies in her biblical portrayal: she is condemned for persecuting Yahweh's prophets while Elijah was rewarded for killing in Yahweh's name, and no evidence is given against her image as a promiscuous woman.
Also Known As: Jezabel
Died At Age: 59
father: Ithobaal I
siblings: Baal-Eser II
children: Ahaziah of Israel, Athaliah, Jehoram of Israel
Born Country: Israel
Died on: November 30, 841 BC
place of death: Jezreel
Cause of Death: Assassination
Jezebel was a ninth century BCE princess born to King Ithobaal I of Tyre, or Sidon as mentioned in the Bible, as Tyre and Sidon were consolidated into one kingdom at that time. According to Oxford, the original Hebrew word from which 'Jezebel' is derived can be interpreted as 'Where is the Prince?', a ritualistic cry that was used in worship ceremonies in honor of Baal.
Her father was the priest of Astarte, the primary Phoenician and Canaanite goddess, based on the account of Phoenician author Menander of Ephesus, and it is possible that Jezebel was raised as a priestess herself. After Ahab was crowned the seventh King of Israel, his marriage to Jezebel was arranged as a means of strengthening the good relationship between Israel and Phoenicia achieved under his father Omri.
Much like foreign wives of King Solomon, Jezebel brought her pagan deities with her when she came to Israel and convinced her husband to build an alter to Baal in the capital city of Samaria. As the Queen, she is often depicted as a domineering person who exerted a significant amount of influence over her husband, and likely had greater roles in the temple and the palace following Phoenician traditions.
Jezebel bore three children to Ahab: their eldest son Ahaziah, second son Jehoram or Joram, and their only daughter, Athaliah. Both their sons were kings of Israel, while Athaliah was the queen consort of King Jehoram of Judah before becoming queen regnant, and was the mother of Ahaziah, the sixth king of Judah.
According to biblical references, Jezebel was not content to worship her ancestral gods, but converted her husband from Yahwism to Baalism and further worked towards diminishing worship of Yahweh in the northern kingdom of Israel. She established Baal as a national deity by building temples and alters to him, and sponsored 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, for which Yahweh inflicted a severe famine in Samaria.
She was mentioned for the second time in 1 Kings 18:4, where she was accused of persecuting and killing "the prophets of the Lord" until the last 100 survived. Recognizing the threat she posed, Elijah, the legendary prophet of the Hebrew God, decided to challenge the prophets of Baal and Asherah at Mount Carmel to determine which god was superior.
While Jezebel's prophets failed to complete the task of setting a sacrificial bull on fire despite raving and dancing all day long to appease their god Baal, Elijah's lone appeal to God was heard immediately. Ironically, the biblical account details how, after winning the tournament, Elijah slaughtered all the prophets of Baal and Asherah, committing the same crime Jezebel was accused of, and was even rewarded by God.
Jezebel, who was not present at the event, learned about the deaths of her prophets from Ahab and sent a venomous message to Elijah, vowing to kill him. Interestingly, Jezebel's words are recorded in 1 Kings 19:2, which sets her apart from most biblical women who are silent, and Elijah, truly afraid for his life, flees to Mt. Horeb (Sinai).
Jezebel is next mentioned in connection with the story of Naboth, a citizen of Jezreel, who owned a beautiful vineyard right next to the royal palace, where Ahab wanted to have a vegetable garden. Ahab visited Naboth in his residence and requested to purchase his vineyard, for which he offered generous financial compensation, including a better vineyard, but Naboth refused saying God forbids him from selling ancestral property.
Depressed at this rebuff, Ahab sulked and refused to eat, seeing which Jezebel, a Phoenician accustomed to seeing the king exercising ultimate authority, implored him to cheer up and promised to take the vineyard for him. She framed Naboth on false charges of blasphemy against God and the king and enlisted townsmen in Ahab's name without his knowledge, who stoned Naboth to death, leaving his corpse to be eaten by dogs.
Elijah, informed by Yahweh about destruction of Ahab's family, confronted him as the king attempted to take possession of Naboth's vineyard, and told him, "The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the field of Jezreel." Ashamed at the deed, Ahab humbled himself by donning sackcloth, fasting, and taking on an overall mourning appearance, while Jezebel is described as unrepentant.
Jezebel's name is again mentioned in 2 Kings 9:6–7, by which time Ahab had died in the battle against Syria and his blood was licked by dogs as was prophesied by Elijah. Ahaziah, his eldest son, who succeeded him as the eighth king of Israel, also died after falling from the roof-gallery of his palace, and having so son, was succeeded by his younger brother Joram.
Prophet Elisha, Elijah's successor, anointed Jehu, a commander in Joram's army, as the new king of Israel and instructed him to eradicate the House of Ahab. After the Aramean king Hazael revolted according to Elisha's plan, Joram joined forces with his nephew Ahaziah, King of Judah, but both were killed by Jehu, who then pursued Jezebel in the Jezreel royal palace.
Learning about her impending end, Jezebel, instead of fleeing for her life, put on makeup, dressed her hair, and calmly looked out of her palace window. Upon his arrival, Jehu ordered her eunuch attendants to throw her out of the window, and by the time her corpse was retrieved for burial, her flesh was eaten by stray dogs as prophesied.
Following the Deuteronomistic records, Jezebel has been vilified for thousands of years as a promiscuous woman and an apostate who manipulated Ahab in committing crimes against God. However, modern sympathetic interpretations see her as a strong woman and a devoted wife who committed murder to help her husband and who was labeled a witch for worshipping her ancestral gods.
Jezebel had one sibling, brother Baal-Eser II, who succeeded their father as the King of Tyre. His granddaughter was Dido, the legendary founder and queen of the Phoenician city-state of Carthage.
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