Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab, who was said to be the most evil of all the kings of Israel before him. The story of Jezebel and her husband is told in the Book of Kings in the Hebrew Bible.
Jezebel is remembered for her evil doings. As daughter of Ethbaal, a Phoenician king, she was brought up in a household that worshipped many gods and goddesses, a practice considered blasphemous in the House of Israel. For this, and leading her husband to stray from his God, she was brutally killed.
As the queen of Israel, Jezebel did not serve well, persecuting the prophets: “When Jezebel was annihilating the prophets of God, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them … and gave them food and water.” (Kings 18:4) To her own people she was a traitor, however to her own blood she remained faithful.
It seemed that Jezebel’s evil ways stretched far beyond her disloyalty to the God of Israel. She did not question her husband’s building an altar to worship the god Baal, or the temple he created to house the altar. She watched as her husband, the king of Israel, angered his own God.
The people of Israel lost respect for their king and queen, and were led by the words of their prophets back to the ways of their God. Therefore, when King Ahab asked a Jezreelite to give up his vineyard for his king, the Jezreelite refused in the name of God. This angered Ahab and Jezebel.
As queen of Israel, Jezebel took matters into her own hands to ensure what she thought to be her given right as queen. Yet it did not occur to her that her actions showed a lack of respect and commitment to the God of Israel; she schemed to claim the vineyard that her husband desired.
It was Jezebel who led her husband to his death. Although he was evil in his own right, her influence over him destroyed his name completely in the house of Israel. She arranged for the murder of the Jezreelite who owned the desired vineyard. The man’s death was justified on the grounds of disobeying his king and therefore his God: “She wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal.” (Kings 21:8)
After Jezebel ordered the death of the Jezreelite, the God of Israel proclaimed: “The dogs will devour Jezebel in the fields of Jezreel. All of Ahab’s line who die in the town shall be devoured by dogs…” (Kings 21:23-24) Jezebel and her husband died soon afterwards, their blood and guts eaten by dogs.
Jezebel’s death was ordered by God through the prophet Elijah: “The carcass of Jezebel shall be as dung on the ground in the field of Jezreel, so that not one will be able to say, ‘this is Jezebel’” (Kings 2:9:37). The God of Israel had no mercy for the ones who disobeyed Him so completely.
According to some interpretations, women such as Jezebel practiced Goddess worship as a form of embracing the Feminine Divine. Yet all forms of worship other than that of the One God of Israel were seen as mortal sins. It is said that: “Ahab also made a sacred Asherah pole” (Kings 16:33), to worship the Great Mother Goddess. The interpretations stress that in punishing Jezebel, God ruled against the Divine Feminine.
Jezebel has since become a name synonymous with the figure of the whore. This is because she put on makeup before God came to destroy her. Some have interpreted her makeup to be a sign of harlotry, claiming that women with morals did not use it in biblical times. Thus the name Jezebel is associated with harlotry and evil.
Jezebel has been portrayed as bloody and cruel. However, she was also an assertive woman who further female rights, as her worship practices were not governed by the rules of men. Nonetheless, as queen of Israel, she was unfaithful to her God.