Scholars have called her “the wickedest woman in all the world. “
Jezebel. Even her name tells a story. Let’s look at what Liz Curtis Higgs, author of “Bad Girls of the Bible” has to say about our wicked woman – Jezebel.
Her husband, Ahab, the king of Israel, was equally evil, but you never hear someone sputter at a man, “Oh, you… you… Ahab!“
The Phoenician princess Jezebel was born rich and in charge. She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. Her marriage to Ahab was strictly a political alliance between two nations. But it was her personality and her past – not her position alone – that made her dangerous.
She grew up as a worshiper of Baal and was determined to drive Jehovah God out of Israel and to usher in Baal and Asherah, a fertility God and goddess of love –not agape love. Jezebel filled her palace and surrounding worship centers with 450 priests and 400 priestesses of her foreign gods.
Sexual immorality, temple prostitution, and even the sacrifice of children were the order of the day. If it took murdering a few hundred holy men of Israel to promote her religious beliefs, so be it, it seemed.
“Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets. “ 1 Kings 18:4
Notice it was Jezebel, not Ahab, who gave the orders to wipe out the prophets. She was a woman who urged her weak husband into a life of crime. Ahab, however, was the one who took the heat from Elijah, one of God’s favored prophets.
“I have not made trouble for Israel, “Elijah replied. “But you and your father‘s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baal’s.“ 1 Kings 18:18
Jezebel never claimed allegiance to the Hebrew God. But Ahab, as king of Israel, turned his back on the Lord and embraced his wife’s religion. This was a big no-no. As such, the greater blame fell on his shoulders.
Elijah demonstrated the power of the God of Israel by inviting the 450 prophets of Baal to prepare a bull for sacrifice and collectively to call on Baal to set fire to their altar. The pretend priests called on Baal all day. No show. That evening Elijah built an altar of 12 stones, one for each tribe, poured water on it three times, and called upon the Lord God. The fire of the Lord fell down from heaven, burning up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, and the water. The people fell prostrate before the Lord and did the bidding of Elijah by killing all 450 of Jezebel’s prophets.
“Now he had told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.“ 1 Kings 19:1
“so Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow, I do not make your life like one of them.“ 1 Kings 19:2
All her pronouncements are contained in five verses.
Her first statement was a threat.
The second was a complaint.
The third was sarcastic.
The fourth was an audacious order.
The fifth was an insult.
Two of them referred to murder; the other three were direct hits at Ahab’s dubious leadership abilities.
She was one of those women you might admire for their courage but never invite over for lunch. She had almost none of the qualities we associate with biblical women. We are never told she was beautiful or alluring, though she certainly knew how to make the most of her appearance with cosmetics and costumes. We are never told that Ahab loved her – though he was certainly under her spell – nor are we told that she loved him or anyone else. Potiphar’s wife loved men. Delilah loved money. Jezebel loved power.
Was there anything to recommend her?
1. She had a finely tuned mind. 2. She had boldness and courage. 3. She had strong leadership abilities. 4. She had an assertive personality. 5. She had a royal lineage.
Now let’s look at how she used these traits to glorify a false god, Baal.
1. She used her bright mind to devise evil schemes. 2. She used her courage to commit murder. 3. She used her leadership skills to take over the throne. 4. She used her assertiveness to draw people away from God. 5. She used her queenship to manipulate her subjects.
A century ago one writer observed that Jezebel was “very proud of her pride.“ Never was that pride more on display than in scene 2, set in Ahab & Jezebel’s private chambers.
“So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezereelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.” 1 Kings 21:4
“His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?” 1 Kings 21:5
“He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, “Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.“ But he said, “I will not give you my vineyard.“ 1 Kings 21:6
To his credit, Ahab told her the truth. It did not, however, earn him any brownie points with our bad girl.
“Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel?“ 1 Kings 21:7
None of us has killed a prophet, but more than one woman among us is guilty of slaughtering her spouse’s self-confidence with a verbal blow.
Bring on Jezebel in her new role as a motivational speaker.
“Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.“ 1 Kings 21:7
She didn’t offer advice or seek it – she simply took control. That’s what jezebels do best. “Wicked women are often excessively fond of power,” and Jezebel was wicked and excessive.
“So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him.” 1 Kings 21:8
“In those letters, she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people.“ 1 Kings 21:9
A day of fasting? How religious of her. A place of honor? Lots of witnesses. Our bad girl had thought of everything.
“But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king.“ 1 Kings 21:10
She knew the Mosaic Law inside and out. Two witnesses, as required, both of whom would insist that Naboth cursed God and King. God? Really? This woman didn’t care about God. Jezebel made sure all her bases were covered so the crowd would have no choice but to give innocent Naboth the sentence he seemingly deserved.
“Then take him out and stone him to death.” 1 Kings 21:10
“Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned and he is dead.“ 1 Kings 21:14
While Ahab was walking in his new garden, thanks to his lovely wife, he had a visitor. The words of the Lord came to Ahab through his prophetic mouthpiece, Elijah:
“This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property? This is what the Lord says: in the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will look up your blood – yes, yours!” 1 Kings 21:19
Ahab had been taking lessons from his evil wife. He didn’t acknowledge the prophet’s dire words but instead called him his enemy. Elijah lay down one perilous prediction after another, concluding with a zinger:
“And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: “Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.“ 1 Kings 21:23
Now that got Ahab’s attention. He tore his clothes and fasted and acted like his old self.
“He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.“ 1 Kings 21:27
Ahab repented, however temporarily. Jezebel did not.
She remained the proud queen even when an arrow neatly landed between the sections of her husband’s armor and he died by nightfall. Even when her son Ahaziah succeeded his father as king, she ruled. A commentator of generations past made the politically incorrect observation that “where a woman rules, the order of nature is inverted.”
Her rejection of Jehovah God continued through the death of Ahaziah and the anointing of Jehu as king of Israel.
The new king sought out Joram, another of the sons of Jezebel.
“When Joram saw Jehu he asked, “Have you come in peace, Jehu? “How can there be peace, “Jehu replied, “as long as all the adultery and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?“ 2 Kings 9:22
She practiced witchcraft in the sense of being under the influence of a spirit – Baal– other than God Almighty. Even when she was no longer on the throne, her nefarious influence prevailed. Jehu knew it was time to put an end to it.
“Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she painted her eyes, arranged her hair, and looked out of a window.” 2 Kings 9:30
To this point, Jezebel still has not repented. And that is by her own choice. Nonetheless, she was a bright woman. She saw the signs and heard the news. Death was knocking at her door no doubt the very one that looked upon the vineyard of poor, dead Naboth – yet her steady hand lined her eyes and styled her tresses. Proud, vain, and defiant to the end, she intends to go out looking her best, prepared for burial if necessary. It’s not going to be necessary.
“As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, “Have you come in peace, Zimri, you murderer of your master?“ 2 Kings 9:31
“Have you come in peace“ marked three similar statements made to Jehu.
Calling him Zimri was like calling someone Jezebel today – an insult –since Zimri was a traitor who only lived a week after overthrowing his master. None of that slowed down our man Jehu. He didn’t even address Jezebel – what, and get more of the same grief? Instead, he shouted to the servants standing next to her.
“He looked up at the window and called out, “Who is on my side? Who? “Two or three eunuchs looked down at him.“ 2 Kings 9:32
I wonder how long those fellas thought about Jehu’s question. They had been under the service of Jezebel for a long time. Looks like it was pretty quick from what we read next.
“Throw her down!“ Jehu said. So they threw her down and some of her blood splattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.” 2 Kings 9:33
In her own final scene our bad girl’s final words were not recorded, nor were they likely so sweet. Whether she cursed or screamed or called on Baal we’ll never know. Justice was sudden, final, and messy. Jehu’s appetite, however, wasn’t a bit ruined by the gore.
“Jehu went in and ate and drank. “Take care of that cursed woman, “he said, “and bury her, as she was a king’s daughter.“ 2 Kings 9:34
She was a king’s daughter but she was not the queen of Israel because her love affair with Baal made sure of that.
“But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet, and her hands.“ 2 Kings 9:35
Everything that made her who she was, was now destroyed and only a few pieces remained.
“Jezebel’s body will be like refuse on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, “This is Jezebel.” 2 Kings 9:37
So what’s the lesson for us here?
You cannot mock God and get away with it.
God gives grace to the humble, but as for the haughty – watch out!
Remember what she said to Elijah several verses back? Hmm, she should have heeded the warning from that exchange between Elijah and her 450 prophets.
She was a gifted woman, however, she used her gifts in the wrong way and misled many people to do the same. She embraced foreign gods and led others to do the same.
“There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.” 1 Kings 21:25
What else can we learn from this horrible woman?
1) Like father, not necessarily like daughter.
Jezebel chose to follow in her father’s footsteps. We can choose otherwise. Don’t have godly parents? Break the tradition, and resolve to establish a new inheritance for your family.
Psalm 68:5, “A father to the fatherless…is God in his holy dwelling.”
2) Ruling your country is one thing; ruling your husband is another.
God offers a model of leadership. This chick ran over her husband, controlling, deceitful, arrogant, and power-hungry. Our husbands are to be the spiritual leaders in the home. They should be taking the reins and leading wives and children spiritually. This bad girl turned her husband away from God and to her false gods. We must be careful we are following the one true God and our husbands are leading us to God and not away from God.
3) No one wants to work for a witch.
If we are in a leadership position either at work or home, there’s no reason to make our employees miserable. Judging by the hasty way she was shoved out the window, it may be fair to say she didn’t treat those around her kindly. Let’s lead with grace and compassion.
Colossians 4:1, “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair because you know that you also have a Master in Heaven.”
4) The only person who saw Ahab as weak was Jezebel.
Let’s face it, she had an ugly attitude toward her husband. It didn’t matter how pretty or how much makeup she wore, there’s no getting through all that with the way she treated him. Let’s treat the men in our lives kindly. Some of our men may be seen as competent and capable in every setting but their own home. It may be our strong-willed nature – and not their weak-willed one – that makes them appear “less than.” Let’s pray for a gentler, more supportive spirit. Even when we’re right, does it necessarily make them wrong?
1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
The final word of advice – don’t be a Jezebel.
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