Edward Gibbon, historian and author, best known for his work The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empirewrote …
History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.
| Jezebel(Hebrew = Izebel) was the daughter of Ethbaal of Tyre, king of the Phoenicians, a seafaring people whose trade and exploration of the seas and oceans of the known and unknown world of ancient times have become historically famous. The Phoenicians have been credited for passing down maps that have been used up into the medieval period and on into the world of new exploration beyond the ancient lands of yore. The Phoenicians lived along the coast in city-states that was located in what is Lebanon and Syria today.
Jezebel became uprooted from her home when she was young by a regional alliance that offered her in marriage to Ahab, the king of Israel, when he became the ruler of Israel around 920 BC, as time when Israel had separated from the southern kingdom of Judah.
The Israelites insisted that there was only one God, a concept that did not fit into an ancient world of varied pagan religions with many deities. They referred to the Supreme Deity as Yahweh. The Phoenicians worshiped a variety of deities, as did most of the ancient world, whose major god was Baalfor whom the Israelites frowned upon stating that worshipers of this false god was associated with child sacrifice.
Jezebel followed her religion as zealously as the Israelites, which caused a conflict with the new wife of the Israelite king and his people. Indeed, Jezebel had become the controlling power of her religion with a large number of priests and religious followers at her beckoning.
Ahab, apparently a benevolent and just man, decided to tolerate Jezebel’s religion and respect her beliefs when he had decided to take her as his wife. The marriage was one that was part of an alliance, and he wanted to keep peace within diplomatic and non-secular circles. He was so tolerant towards Jezebel’s religion that he had a Temple to Baal built for her in the center of the town of Samaria. However, this was not enough for Jezebel, who didn’t have religious tolerance and she brought into Israel hundreds of Phoenician priests and prophets.
According to 1 Kings 18:4, she began to terminate any opponents of her priests, prophets and ritual practices of her religion, as well as insisted that Ahab impose her religion upon the people of Israel. She arrested and killed hundreds of Hebrew priests and forced others to hide to save their lives.
Soon after, a formidable religious leader, the Israelite prophet, Elijah, defended the Hebrew faith openly by challenging Jezebel’s 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah, the god of the sea, to a contest on Mount Carmel to decide whether Yahweh or their deities were supreme.
The priest of Baal built an altar and Elijah another. The challenge was to offer a sacrificial bull that their god would consume. According to the biblical account, Jezebel’s prophets spent most of the day praying to Baal and Asherah – but nothing happened. Elijah soaked the altar, the wood and the bull with water and then prayed to Yahweh to demonstrate his power. Yahweh sent fire from heaven that burned not just the offering, but also the timber and rocks of the altar.
When King Ahab informed Jezebel the result of the contest, she made a death threat against Elijah, who fled to Mount Sinai, after he had 400 of Jezebel’s prophets killed. The story reveals how much influence Jezebel had upon Ahab in the story of Naboth, an Israelite who owned a vineyard adjacent tot he royal palace at Jezreel. Jezebel coaxed Ahab to offer Naboth a fair sum to purchase his vineyard, but Naboth didn’t wish to sell. Ahab returned, dejected, to the palace and informed Jezebel what had taken place and she then mocked him with the words …
Is this how you act as King over Israel?
Jezebel then used the king’s official seal to send letters in his name to the townsmen of Jezreel that instructed them to bring charges of blasphemy against Naboth. He was found guilty and stoned to death and his land deed turned over in Ahab’s name.
After the death of Ahab and her oldest son, Ahaziah, Jezebel ruled through her second son, Joram. But the Hebrews had enough of Jezebel and her son, so they sided with Elisha, successor of Elijah, as a prophet to crown Jehu, Joram’s military commander as the sovereign ruler in defiance to the evil queen. Jehu accused Jezebel of countless harlotries and sorceriesiand he shot an arrow through the heart of Joram, dumped his body on Naboth’s land as a symbol of revenge, and rushed towards the palace in his chariot. Jezebel saw him approaching and prepared herself to look beautiful and seductive, hoping to save herself from Joram’s assassin.
When Jehu arrived he ordered Jezebel’s eunuchs to throw their queen from the window to the street below, her blood splattering onto the wall and nearby horses. As Jehu celebrated his victory inside the palace, dogs were feasting upon the body of Jezebel leaving only her skull, hands, and feet.
The story of Jezebel is about the desire for power at any cost, as well as description of atrocities in the name of religion. One can readily see that violence and atrocities occurred on between both religions, one becoming justified over another.
The biblical writers conveyed their views of paganism as a threat to their monotheistic religion and an confrontation with their one and true God, Yahweh.