“Looking good is better than being good.” JEZEBEL
If you’ve belonged to a church long enough, you have no doubt heard someone refer to some women as “having a Jezebel spirit.” But what does that really mean?
Let’s learn a bit about who Jezebel actually was, first:
A Phoenician princess according to First and Second Kings, Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, King of the Sidonians (Tyre), 1 Kings 16:31-33:
“He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.”
Sidon was a rich coastal city-state, a sophisticated, cosmopolitan and cultured environment. She was and controlled large areas of the eastern Mediterranean. Jezebel’s beliefs about the power of a monarch differed from the Israelite ideal. Her father’s will was absolute. In keeping with pagan leaders of the time, Jezebel most likely believed that monarchs had the imperial right and absolute dominion over people and state to govern according to will or whim.
Known as the “Harlot Queen,” Jezebel’s name originally meant, ‘The Prince Baal Exists’ or ‘where is the prince?’ Baal was a weather god worshipped in the ancient world. When Baal was in the underworld or Land of the Dead, all vegetation on the earth’s surface died, a time we know as ‘winter’. During that barren season, Baal's followers would chant, ‘Where is the prince?’ as a prayer to encourage the onset of spring and the return of fruitful vegetation—their main food source.
When Jezebel was old enough, a marriage was arranged for her with Ahab, King of Israel, whose name in Hebrew means ‘brother of the father’. Jezebel’s parents were high priest and priestess in the worship of Baal. Jezebel herself was most likely a priestess of Baal as well. She was trained to lead and to command and believed it was her duty to guard the worship of Baal and Asherah, because these gods regulated the fertility of the country in which she lived and ruled.
The princesses’s marriage to Ahab was a political alliance, advantageous to the northern kingdom of Israel, (which at the time was divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south), because such an alliance with Phoenicia would give them access to the Mediterranean coast and thereby rich trade.
Jezebel converted her husband from worship of the Jewish God, to worship the god Baal and goddess Asherath--both allowing and encouraging construction of temples dedicated to their worship. Some say Ahab was a weak-willed man whom she dominated and was the true power behind the throne. In any case, she led him to do much evil. Wives and concubines in ancient Israel, were for the most part, powerless and without a voice in government and the affairs of state. However, Jezebel not only has a voice, but a sharp and clever tongue. She is more daring and independent than most women of her time, and perhaps more foolhardy.
Unwilling to accept the God of Israel, Yahweh she is vilified in private by the inhabitants of her new country because Jezebel refuses to flinch in her pagan beliefs. Jezebel is a polar opposite to Ruth, the foreign woman who is extolled for her conversion to the God of Israel and is so taken by her faith that she immerses her heart and life in the society of the Israelites.
The fact that Ahab and Jezebel worshipped Baal led to the whole of Israel falling into the sin of idolatry. As a result, the judgment of God caused drought and famine (1 Kings 17). And of course, this was embarrassing and humiliating for Jezebel since Baal was the god of weather!
In addition to her mere resistance to accepting or tolerating worship of the Israelite God, Jezebel went out of her way to have many Jewish prophets killed. So the prophet Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a competition, 1 Kings 18:20:
"So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him. But the people said nothing."
He exposed the pagan priests as powerless and then had the prophets of Baal slaughtered (I Kings 18:36-40):
"At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: 'LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.' Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, 'The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'
Then Elijah commanded them, 'Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!' They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there."
Jezebel seethed with fury at the news and put a price on Elijah’s head. The queen also practiced witchcraft 2 Kings 9:22. She also used the spirit of domination and seduction to get her way. (2 Kings 9:30). She had power and knew how to use it to get what she wanted. And even though Elijah, this powerful prophet of God had called down fire and raised the dead, he ran from her, fearful and later depressed.
Naboth, an Israelite, owned a vineyard. King Ahab, desired the property for a vegetable garden because of its convenient proximity to the palace, but Naboth refused to sell the king the family property. There was a long-standing Jewish tradition that inherited property should not be sold to anyone outside the family, if the property remained continuously occupied by the same family since the settlement of Canaan. Naboth held fiercely loyal to this tradition, even to the point of defying the king. In truth, he was probably shaking his head at the fact that the king would ask such a thing so contrary to the traditions of his own countrymen. Ahab was an Israelite, and he had to understand Naboth’s reasoning regarding this situation. He also understood that the Israelite kings did not have unlimited power, as kings in surrounding countries did. On the other hand, Jezebel, grew up in Sidon, where her royal parents had unlimited power. Because of this, she was scornful of the way Ahab let his own subjects get the better of him.
She wrote letters in the king's name commanding the elders of Naboth's city to accuse him of cursing both God and his King. The elders obliged and Naboth was convicted of treason, then stoned. Upon his death the property reverted to the king, so in the end Ahab got the vineyard he wanted. Jezebel intervened and had Naboth killed simply to meet Ahab's selfish needs.
This act however, did not go unnoticed by God, who sends Elijah to the king:
"Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!
I have found you,” he answered, 'because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD' He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’
And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’
Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.
There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.
When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: 'Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.'”
If Ahab had not humbled himself before the Lord upon hearing this proclamation from God, judgment would have been swift, but because of this, God’s judgment was delayed. Ahab and Jezebel, in spite of their evil, lived a long time before God's judgment caught up with them.
Elijah's prophesy at the end of the vineyard story comes true when Ahab dies in Samaria and his son, Ahaziah, dies within two years of ascending the throne. He is killed by Jehu, a military commander who emerges as another contender for the throne when the prophet Elisha declares him King. Here again Jezebel's influence becomes apparent. Though Jehu has killed the king, he has to kill Jezebel in order to assume power.
According to 2 Kings 9:30-34, Jezebel and Jehu meet soon after the death of her son Ahaziah. When Jezebel heard what has happened to her son, she knew immediately what her fate would be. And in regal manner, she prepared for her death. She dressed herself in the full regalia of a queen, with the ornate ritual make-up and headdress of a priestess of Baal and Asherah. The application of cosmetics denoted her royal rank and high position. Cosmetics were applied by those considered privileged, set apart from ordinary people.
Afterwards, she went out onto the balcony of the courtyard to face Jehu as he approached. She called him ‘Zimri’, the name of a murderer and usurper of a previous king. In an act of doomed bravado, she accused and taunted the man.
Jehu responds by asking her eunuchs if they are on his side. "Who is on my side? Who?" he asks, "Throw her down!" (2 Kings 9:32). Jezebel's eunuchs betray her by throwing her out the window where her body is also trampled by horses.
Jehu decides to take a break to eat and drink (though it’s hard to understand how he would have an appetite after that scene). Hours later, he commands that that body of Jezebel be buried "for she was a king's daughter" (2 Kings 9:34). Notice that he does not call her a queen, but the daughter of a pagan king. No doubt, he commanded that she be buried in order to avoid a dangerous precedent regarding the proper burial of royalty. However, by the time his men go to bury her, a pack of dogs have eaten all but her skull, feet and the palms of her hands 2 Kings 9:21-37.
Throughout the centuries, Jezebel has been attacked as a woman of promiscuous behavior. In the bible, following after false gods can be seen as either adulterous or idolatrous. She was certainly guilty of idolatrous harlotry. But there is an absence of any clear record to suggest that Jezebel was ever adulterous and unfaithful to her husband Ahab. In fact, she seems to have been fiercely loyal to him and her sons.
So in the context of the modern church, when someone accuses a woman or women of having a “Jezebel spirit,” they may actually be accusing them of having an independent nature or of simply questioning authority. The true context of a “Jezebel spirit” would be a person who rejects God and encourages and actively seduces others to reject Him as well, in favor or pagan worship and practices.
Revelation 2:20 “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.”
There is no doubt that Jezebel got it all wrong, Her faith, her life was devoted to a pantheon of false gods and false teachings. Though exposed to the faith of the Israelites who worshipped the one true God, she chose to reject Him. As a result, her name is identified and synonymous with spiritual harlotry. The only legacy left by her life is a warning to others.