king ahab

JEZEBEL THE MOST DESPISED WOMAN IN RECORDED HISTORY

A special article written by Dr. Robert Grant aka The holy Land Guru

to keep his friends up to speed on all things Holy Land related.

10/10/13

Known as the Holy Land Guru as a result of his vaste experience over 46 years of conducting Holy Lnd Tours ever 125 times there

Dr Grant personally escorts groups of friends to the Holy Land annually

In the 1950s the most popular hit song of the day at one time was Jezebel sung by the late Frankie Laine.

See the UTube link for this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw9j2EN4TU4 (Preview)

If you are of an older generation you will now experience an immediate  burst of nostalgia.

 If you are in the 50 or younger crowd you will wonder what we ever saw in that song or in Frankie Laine for that matter.

Earlier in 1938, Betty Davis stared in a film called Jezebel about a scheming woman.

 In more contemporary history another popular song was written about Jezebel  with lyrics beginning with

“She’s on the prowl, She wants it all and she’ll stop for nothing everyone knows”

Skipping on it continues

 “The innocent look on her face is all fake. She’s worn out and worn down,  From all of the one night stands”

  And still  later

“What a waste of a beautiful face. Was it the way she was raised, Or just the terrible choices she’s chosen to make”

So clearly, Jezebel has left her mark on history

Just who was this woman  Jezebel who inspired such dislike and condemnation.

First of all it needs to be noted that she was a real flesh and blood person.

It was a story in the Biblical Archeology Journal called  How Bad Was Jezebel? that caused me to go to the Bible and learn what I could about this unforgettable character who lived and died about 2900+ years ago and who still stirs passions and inspires poetry and song  to this day.

I get great pleasure in trying to understand Biblical characters as they would be today while recognizing that people have not really changed all that much over the centuries. The only things that have changed are their gadgets and toys. Same base emotions and drives and sins and temptations and weaknesses. And so we can learn a great deal from them.

Who was Jezebel?

 Her father was a Phoenician (read Lebanon) King who lived about 850 BC or almost 3000 years ago..

 

The Mediterranean  city state in which Jezebel was raised was devoted to the worship of the pagan nature gods of Baal and Asherah / Astarte (from which we get the word Easter).

Jezebel, as a young woman, was probably a priestess in that cult and so may well have engaged in temple prostitution as part of her duties.

She also gave cosmetic makeup such a bad name that for a long time Christians were discouraged from wearing such by their Christian culture. Some Christian denominations still frown upon its use today and that all traces back to the influence of Jezebel.

Marriages then were often arranged for political reasons and served to  build strong political ties between otherwise competing/warring factions. Solomon carried that crazy strategy to an extreme with his hundreds of “wives”.

God had given the Israelites specific orders to not make such alliances with the pagan nations around them. So when Ahab, king of Israel arranged for Jezebel to come to his kingdom as his bride  it might have made great political sense to him but he was in direct rebellion against the express wishes of God.

(This article in the Biblical Archeology journal predictably wanders off into applying the speculative “documentary hypothesis” used for the past 100 years  by theological liberals to try to dissect the authorship of the early books of the Bible and assign their authorship to others than stated. Having observed this, from my perspective, flaw, there is still much to be appreciated from this scholarly treatise.)

So this apparently very attractive and willful young woman was put into an impossible position by the choices of the 2 most important men in her life: her father who arranged this marriage for his own strategic political reasons, and Ahab her husband who agreed to it in spite of the warnings of the God of Israel: “Do not do this”.

Jezebel was a stranger in a strange and to her very different land, now married to a man she did not know, and in a culture that denied her gods and tried to force her to worship another God. Even the climate was different from the Mediterranean sea shore warm climate of Southern Lebanon where she grew up, to the stark interior of Israel in the mountains of its capital Samaria to the north of Jerusalem where it can get quite cold in the winter,

Her father apparently had raised her to be very strong willed and to push for her way. And so once  armed with the title of Queen she was able to exert her will strongly, which she did.

By contrast her husband Ahab was not a man of strong character and he readily gave in to the competing demands of his new wife to the point of joining her in the worship of the fertility gods of Baal.

Jezebel  made her first aggressive move by building a conspicuous place of worship dedicated to the worship of Baal in the middle of the capital of Israel.  It was not long before her husband Ahab joined her in this abomination (1 Kings 16:31 f )

Emboldened by this achievement Jezebel took it to the next step and launched a public campaign to discredit the God of Israel with the famous contest on Mount Carmel where we go on our Holy Land tours. This definitive contest matched the prophet Elijah against the 450 prophets of Baal with the resounding defeat of Baal . (1 Kings 18:4)

The capital of Israel was samaria north of Jerusalem where Jezebel was queena

Jezebel was queen of Israel in Samaria

it is interesting to note that Jezebel was not present to personally witness this confrontation which was only viewed by males and so she had to rely on the reports that were brought back to her by her husband Ahab who must have  had an “OOOPs” moment. She may not have been convinced as to what had occurred.

 An interesting aside: Fresh from this amazing victory the prophet  Elijah immediately had a spiritual   collapse and a fear driven emotional breakdown that seems classic in its description as he fled from  the reach of an angry Jezebel (1 kings 19:3f)

(An interesting aside: serious religious apostasy often lasts for generations and is difficult to uproot  apart from a major religious revival. Flash  forward to the next generation after Ahab and Jezebel  and the king that ruled after Ahab died, Ahaziah. He apparently fell through the roof of his palace in Samaria and seriously injured himself. His immediate inclination was to send for the help of Baal despite the warnings to the contrary by Elijah the prophet of God who had recovered his courage by this time. 2 Kings 1)

Greed to acquire valuable  real estate by any means necessary  is not a modern development. It was alive and well in Jezebel’s time. Ahab wanted a neighboring piece of land that produced grapes. It was prime land and was located right next to the palace. Ahab, allowed Jezebel who was not sensitive to the God given laws of Israel, to intervene.

She conspired to misuse the modern American doctrine of eminent domain, plus a dose of foreign intrigue and perjury to seize the man’s property by conspiring to have him executed by stoning. Poor Naboth was doomed and lost his life and Ahab got the land he wanted. This experience caused Jezebel to view her husband as weak because where she came from the King would just seize whatever he wanted and that was that.

Interestingly that piece of land was probably located in the wide now lush valley of Jezreel. We also call that valley the valley of  Armageddon.

We travel though that wide and fertile valley on our Holy land Tours as we travel across it to Megiddo where, 300 years earlier, Solomon had built a fortress city to guard the important trade route, the via Maris (way of the Sea),  that passed through the valley near by.

So Ahab  may have felt some guilt about the matter but he got what he wanted and so Jezebel probably won his respect. But she was repelled by his vacillation which she interpreted as weakness while she,  Jezebel was behaving exactly as she was raised to behave  and just arranged to seize the land. So Ahab should have been under no illusions when he married her.

Not long ago the archeologists uncovered a remarkable ancient stone seal. The Biblical Archeology Journal reports as follows concerning the details found on the seal:

“Four paleo-Hebrew letter- two just below the winged sun disk at center, two at the bottom left and right-spell out the name YZBL or Jezebel, on the seal. The Phoenician design, the dating of the seal to the ninth century or early eighth century BCE and of course the name, have led scholars to speculate that the Biblical queen may have used this gray opal to seal her documents. In the Phoenician language Jezebel’s name may have meant ‘Where is the Prince?’ which was the cry of Baal’s subjects, But the spelling of the Phoenician name has been altered in the Hebrew Bible perhaps in order to read as ‘Where is the excrement (zebel, manure)?’- a reference to Elijah’s prediction that her carcass shall be like dung on the ground 2 Kings 9:36”

Jezebel did not end well.

She so alienated the population that they turned on her. Her son Joram assumed the throne after the death of Ahab. His loyal general Jehu killed him and then took upon himself the job of ridding Israel of this Phoenician queen who had so disrupted the nation. It was his declaration that labeled her a prostitute as he proclaimed:  “How can all be well when your mother Jezebel carries on her countless harlotries and sorceries” (2 Kings 9:22)

Reports the Biblical Archeology Journal :

“Jehu with the blood of Joram still on his hands, races his chariot into Jezreel to continue the insurrection by executing Jezebel……………realizing that Jehu is on his way to kill her, Jezebel does not disguise herself and flee the city as a more cowardly person might do. Instead she calmly prepares for his arrival by performing three acts: ’She painted her eyes with kohl and dressed her hair and she looked out the window”(2 Kings 9:30)

Was she plotting to seduce him as often is concluded? Or does she hope to become part of his harem? Not likely as she is no longer the seductive chick but an aging grandmother.

“Applying eye makeup (Kohol) and brushing one’s hair are often connected to flirting in Hebraic thinking. Isaiah 3:16, Jeremiah 4:30 Ezekiel 23:40 and Proverbs 6:24-26 provide examples of women who bat their painted eyes to lure innocent men into adulterous beds. Black Kohl is widely incorporated in Bible passages as a symbol of deception and trickery and its use to paint the area above or below the eyelids is generally considered part of a woman’s arsenal of artifice. In Jezebel’s case however the cosmetic is more than just an attempt to accentuate the eyes. Jezebel is donning the female version of armor as she prepares to do battle……………When she dies she wants to look her queenly best”

 

How did the story end?

Not well for Jezebel.

Her executioner had her– now dressed in her finest and with her makeup in place and her hair looking like a Loreal  tv commercial –thrown to her sudden death out of the upper story window of her palace.

Her own eunichs were ordered to throw her to her death.

Her executioner then went to have lunch and, after later giving orders to have her buried,  found to his surprise that in the intervening time, her body had been completely eaten by wild dogs and all  that was left was the skeleton.

Biblical Archeology Journal raises the question in conclusion: How Bad Was Jezebel?.
The author was impressed by the way that she died with dignity. At the end she still remained a child of her pagan Canaanite culture.

 At the time of her death Jezebel was no longer a sexy seductive chick but a heavily made up  aging grandmother who had ticked off almost everyone.

The author makes the following interesting somewhat sympathetic, perhaps feminist tainted, observations:

 “Jezebel is an outspoken woman in a time when females have little status and few rights; a foreigner in a xenophobic land, an idol worshiper in a place with a  Yahweh-based state sponsored religion, a murderer and meddler in political affairs in a nation of strong patriarchs, a traitor in a country where no ruler is above the law, and a whore in the territory where  the Ten Commandments originate”

Having personally traveled frequently through all of the places mentioned in this intriguing story, it is interesting for me to note just how very  close they all are to each other.

If you come with us on a future journey to the Holy Land we will pass by most of the area where this fascinating  story took place.

What a fascinating book the Bible is as it reports on the lives of these real people who, though they lived many years ago, are very much like us today. Human nature remains constant and the only thing that really changes is our toys.

Each year we invite friends to travel with us on personally escorted journeys to the Holy Land. Currently there are  two   2014 departures scheduled for February 10 and December 1, 2014.

Special arrangements are available for pastors who host a small groups of their family and friends and church members .

Be sure to check www.holylandguru.com and Facebook.com/HolyLandGuru

Also feel free to call me at 386 447 9473.

There are no dumb questions. Please  get in touch so that I can help make this experience real for you.