This week we are reading about Jezebel. Please read Chapter 8 of Liz Curtis Higgs’ book Bad Girls of the Bible: And What We Can Learn From Them. Jezebel is portrayed as the instigator in the contest between King Ahab of Israel and the prophet Elijah for the religious soul Israel which spans 1 Kings 16:28 – 2 Kings 10:31. Jezebel’s place in the narrative occurs primarily in 1 Kings 18-21 and 2 Kings 9.
To set the stage, David becomes king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah in approximately 1000 BC. David was succeeded by his son Solomon who was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. Upon Rehoboam’s accession to the throne, the ten northern tribes of Israel seceded and made Jeroboam their king. 1 Kings 12. This division left two kingdoms – the southern Kingdom of Judah ruled by the house of David and the northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel went through a series of different dynasties until falling to the Assyrians in 722 BC. Judah continued to be ruled by David’s descendants until Judah fell to the Babylonians in about 586 BC.
Ahab’s path to the monarchy shows the instability of the northern kingdom of Israel. In approximately 886 BC, Elah becomes king of Israel. 1 Kings 16:8. Within two years, Zimri, commander of the chariots, murders Elah, kills off all of Elah’s relatives, and declares himself to be king. 1 Kings 16:15-20. Within weeks, Omri, commander of the army, marches on Zimri’s troops, kills Zimri, and then declares himself king. Omri then puts down another rebellion against his rule. 1 Kings 16:16-28. Ahab is the son of Omri, and becomes king upon his father’s death in approximately 875 BC. Ahab will rule for 22 years. The Book of Kings tells us that all of these kings were evil. 1 Kings 16:29-30.
Ahab marries the daughter of the Phoenician king of Sidon. 1 Kings 16:29. Sidon is located on Israel’s northern border (present-day Lebanon). Therefore, this marriage is based more on power politics than romance. The princess’s name is Jezebel. (We learn later that Ahab has 70 sons, therefore, Jezebel was not Ahab’s only partner.)
During this time period, the royal court was full of hundreds of prophets. The role of these prophets was to channel the will of God and give advice to the king. (See, 1 Kings 22:6). The prophets in Ahab’s court were prophets of Israel’s God. Jezebel, not being an Israelite, worshiped her own gods, and particularly Baal and Asherah. Jezebel orders that the prophets of God be killed. Many are, but at least a hundred are hidden away. 1 Kings 18:13.
In response to these murders, the great prophet Elijah challenges Jezebel’s prophets to a public test on Mount Carmel to see whose god is real. Please read about the Mount Carmel challenge in 1 Kings 18:19-40. Elijah wins the challenge and the people in attendance slaughter the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah that Jezebel had installed in the royal court.
Jezebel then vows to seek revenge on Elijah. Elijah escapes to Mt. Horeb where God visits him in the still, small voice of sheer silence. God orders Elijah back to Israel. 1 Kings 19.
Later in the story, we encounter Naboth of Jezreel. 1 Kings 21. Ahab had his royal palace in Jezreel. He wanted to purchase Naboth’s vineyard, which was next to his palace. Naboth refuses to entertain any offer. Therefore, Jezebel engineers Naboth’s downfall. She forges Ahab’s signature and decrees there should be a fast and solemn assembly in Jezreel. At the assembly, Jezebel has two men falsely testify that Naboth blasphemed God. The townspeople stone Naboth and Ahab takes the vineyard.
Soon thereafter, Ahab dies in battle. 1 Kings 22:29-40. Ahab is succeeded by his son, Ahaziah. Ahaziah worships Baal like his mother Jezebel. 2 Kings 2:38, 51-52. Ahaziah dies and is succeeded by his brother Jehoram. 2 Kings 1. About this same time, Elijah is taken into heaven on a chariot of fire and is succeeded by his disciple, Elisha. 2 Kings 2:9-15.
While Jehoram, son of Ahab and Jezebel, is still king of Israel, Elisha directs another prophet to anoint Jehu as king of Israel. Jehu marches on Jezreel where Jehoram and Jezebel reside. 2 Kings 9:4. Jehoram attempts to flee and is struck down by Jehu outside of the city. 2 Kings 9:24.
Jezebel hears of the death of her son and the approach of Jehu. She paints her eyes and adorns her hair and stares out of the upstairs palace window to await her fate. Jehu arrives at the palace and inquires of Jezebel’s servants as to whose side they are on. The men then toss Jezebel out of the window and the dogs come and eat her body, leaving only her skull, feet, and palms. 2 Kings 9:30-37.
Jehu then proceeds to massacre all of the house of Ahab – his seventy sons, his advisors, his friends, and his priests. 2 Kings 10:11. Finally, Jehu calls together all of the priests of Baal and all of the worshipers of Baal telling them that he wishes to serve Baal. Once all are assembled in the temple of Baal, Jehu sends in his men and everyone is killed. Jehu then turns the temple of Baal into a latrine. 2 Kings 10:18-27.
Jezebel is a very complicated person. She is evil. She kills the prophets of God and she orchestrates the execution of an innocent man so that her husband can take his land. On the other hand, she is simply a strong-willed political operative of her time. She wants her own people to advise the king and she does not want her husband, the king, to look weak. And when death comes, she meets it defiantly and dressed to the nines. If you have time, read the full story of Ahab, Jezebel, Elijah, and Elisha in 1 Kings 16 – 2 Kings 10.
Mrs. Higgs’ post on Jezebel is HERE. Her discussion question this week is:
Jezebel has (i) a finely tuned mind, but used it to devise evil schemes, (ii) boldness and courage, but used those attributes to commit murder, (iii) strong leadership abilities, but used them to take over the throne, (iv) an assertive personality, but used it to draw people away from God, and (v) a royal lineage, but used it to manipulate her subjects. Now the question: how could those same attributes be used for God’s glory? If you share any of these strengths, how might you use them to honor and serve God? Is it time to step out of your comfort zone and really go for it, for God’s glory?
Dinner is at 6. The menu is tacos. Film at 6:45. Hope to see you here.
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.”Revelation 2:18-20.