Who was Jezebel and why is her name used as an example for some people?
We know precious little about Jezebel before she appears in Scripture in 1st Kings 16, where it says, “Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him” (1st Kings 16:29b-31). Jezebel was the daughter of King Ethbaal, a king that even had Baal in his name, so there is no doubt, the Sidonians worshiped Baal; so did the king, and so did his evil daughter, Jezebel. After marrying Ahab, Jezebel now sits on the throne of Israel, and one of her first acts was “when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water” (1st Kings 18:4). The first mission Jezebel has is to wipe out Israel’s worship of the One, true God, but next, she’s out to destroy God’s mouthpiece; the prophets. That’s why Obadiah hid the prophets, although now they’re in the dark, and on bread and water…almost like prison.
When King Ahab and Elijah met, Elijah berates King Ahab by saying, Ahab “abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals” (1st Kings 18:18), so Elijah challenges all of Baal’s prophets, and says “send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table” (1st Kings 18:19). When Ahab had gathered all of the prophets of Baal and the people of Israel, Elijah said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word” (1st Kings 18:21). After the prophets of Baal had prayed and chanted and even cut themselves all day long, “they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention” (1st Kings 18:29). After their failure and Elijah’s success, all of the prophets of Baal were killed (1st Kings 18:4), and that enraged Jezebel who now sought Elijah’s life. After such a great miracle, and after defeating and killing the 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah runs for his life from a woman…Jezebel.
When “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow” (1st Kings 19:1-2). Of course, Elijah escapes into the wilderness and is provided food and water by an angel (1st Kings 19:5-7). He does survive Jezebel, but Jezebel’s character continues to haunt Israel and King Ahab. King Ahab saw a vineyard next to his palace, and sought to buy it, but was refused, so when Queen Jezebel sees the king moping, she finds out that it’s because the man refused to sell it to the king, so what does the queen say? “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (1st Kings 21:7), but the way in which she does it, isn’t even known by the king. Jezebel “wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death” (1st Kings 21:8-10). Do you really think Jezebel cared if someone cursed God? She had an innocent man murdered, only because her husband wanted the vineyard, and perhaps secretly, she wanted it too. This evil woman would reach to no height or depth to be a curse to Israel.
When Elijah came to King Ahab, he had a message for the king, and it was, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Have you killed and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, Thus says the Lord: ‘In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.’” Ahab, perhaps out of fear for his own life, asked Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel” (1st Kings 21:20-21), “And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel’” (1st Kings 20:23). Sadly, Ahab’s legacy was this: “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel” (1st Kings 21:25-26). Ahab repented and humbled himself and God spared his life (1st Kings 21:27-29), but Jezebel’s end did not turn out so well. She was thrown out of a palace window by three eunuchs, “So they threw her down. And some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her” (2nd Kings 9:33), but when King Jehu’s men came to bury her, “they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. When they came back and told him, he said, ‘This is the word of the Lord, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite: ‘In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel’” (2nd Kings 21:35-36).
Such a tragic end to Jezebel, but the so-called “spirit of Jezebel” is mentioned by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation, where he wrote to the church of Thyatira, “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 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. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality” (Rev 2:19-22). I believe that message is sent to churches that water down God’s Word, and it’s sent as a warning that God will judge all churches or nations or people who tolerate, or condone (approve) of allowing sexual immorality in the church or in their life. God has not changed. Marriage (and sex) is only to be between a man and a woman. God will judge all other adulterers and fornicators, even worse for those who teach such things.
Read more here: 7 Not-so-Good Women of the Bible
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.