Art Maier: The real, evil Jezebel
More than two thousand years after she was thrown from a window, we still talk about “that wicked Jezebel.”
It’s not just unproven gossip. No doubt, Jezebel made history by making trouble. But after we look at her known life, there remains a question — why was she so horrid? From the Bible and a few other sources come possible answers.
Jezebel was from Sidon, a large city of the area called Phoenicia, in modern Lebanon. Trade had made the Phoenician territories wealthy.
Besides commercial prosperity, Phoenicians were famous for a writing system, and what we would call support of science. The Phoenician religion had a lot of variety. Several myth gods could be worshipped.
Many people of the area more or less followed the worship of Baal, a sort of land spirit. Baal religion included some savage practices, which surely influenced the character of the devotees.
History from a source outside the Bible indicates that after about 950 B.C., the Phoenicians went through a time of political instability. It took murder to bring change.
About 887 B.C., one of the Phoenician kings apparently seemed very incompetent. This king had a brother, named Ethbaal, who was a priest in one of the regional religions. Probably disgusted with the current government and wanting personal power, Ethbaal murdered his kingly bother and took the throne.
Whatever his character, Ethbaal was talented. The government became stable, again.
Jezebel was Ethbaal’s daughter, born about 905 B.C. While growing up, the bright princess may have sat in the throne room, and listened to her father discuss affairs of state with officials. Early on, she learned that power was a commodity that could be exploited for personal gain.
Either by her choice, or by her father’s arrangement, Jezebel married Ahab, king of neighboring Israel. The event is noted in the Bible, I Kings l6:31. Historically, this was about 874 B.C.
Though talented, Ahab was a rather weak character, easily misled. Assertive Jezebel misled easily.
Jezebel brought to Israel the Phoenician Baal worship. Of course, with her, there was no religious liberty. Prophets of God were ruthlessly executed. There was other social injustice.
About 852 B.C., Ahab was killed in battle. Government officials then gave the Israelite throne to a man who was a son of Ahab, and probably a son of Jezebel. Aging Jezebel apparently had no official status now, but remained prominent in Israelite society.
Ten years later, an army officer, at God’s command, led a revolt in Israel and seized power. One of the first commands from this victorious officer was a direct order to have Jezebel thrown to her death from an upper window.
Jezebel should have known better. Granted, perhaps she never heard much of the Lord when very young. But she came to live in Israel. Here were prophets and others who publicly testified to God. Jezebel obviously was intelligent, and should have been at least somewhat impressed with the teachings of God’s basic justice and excellent social morals. She rejected it all.
Still, it is only fair to say that convictions laid down in youth are sometimes difficult to change. Maybe history would have been different if the little princess learned of God in her old home.
Children can pick up religious faith when quite young. Christ himself welcomed children. The gospel message is for the young and old, as well. That message tells us that Christ took our sin penalty. All who believe in Christ will come to everlasting life in heaven.
Several people are mentioned in the Bible, who heard the message of salvation at home, and carried it for life. Secular history can add to the list. Their faith was an obvious source of character strength.
Let’s get the Bible message to our children, as soon as possible.
Art Maier is a semi-retired teacher, environmental science specialist and calligrapher. He is a regular columnist for the Boonville Daily News in Boonville, Mo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.