So just who was Jezebel in the Old Testament? It is important to know the history of the woman that took on the moniker for these insidious behaviors.
Scripture References—1 Kings 16:31; 18:4-19; 19:1, 2; 21:5-25; 2 Kings 9
The spirits of control, deceit, seduction, witchcraft and murder which came against God’s anointed were operating in the world long before the woman who exemplified these spirits was born. The spirit of Jezebel is neither female nor mail as it is a demon. Queen Jezebel symbolized the combined capabilities of all these spirits better than anyone and thus naming this spirit after her was most appropriate. This scheming and evil woman with a history of murder truly represented the spirit that bore her name as by nature she was a most proud, immoral, manipulative and even murderous woman. She was a seductress, using all the ploys of a sensual woman trying to lure in her prey using all her methods both physically and emotionally. Jezebel was rejected by her father and had a controlling mother.
She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, and priest of Baal worshipers. The Phoenicians were an extraordinary race, and outstanding as the great sea faring peoples of the ancient world, but they were idolaters who regarded God as only a local deity, “the god of the land.” Their gods were Baal and Ashtaroth or Astarte, with their innumerable number of priests, 450 of whom Ahab used in the amazing temple to the Sun-god he had built in Samaria. Another 400 priests were housed in a sanctuary that Jezebel built for them, and whom she provided food from her own table. Perverse and evil rites were associated with the worship of Baal including child sacrifice.
It was this ungodly woman who married Ahab who was the king of Northern Israel, and who in so doing was guilty of a rash and damaging act which resulted in evil consequences. As a Jew, Ahab sinned against his own Hebrew faith by taking as his wife the daughter of a man whose very name, Ethbaal, meant, “A Man of Baal.” Ahab was captivated by her beauty and commanding character and fell for her, and Jezebel, cunning and proud, eagerly seized the opportunity of sharing the throne of a king.
Any man, able to resist the wiles of a beautiful but wicked woman possesses true heroism. Joseph succeeded against the lovely yet lustful wife of Potiphar, but Caesar and Antony after conquering almost the whole world, were conquered by Cleopatra. The Welsh revival in 1904 saw over 100,000 souls come to the Lord through a young man named Evan Roberts but he was conquered by a Jezebel controlled woman named Jesse Penn-Lewis who seduced and deceived the revivalist in the prime of his anointing in the early 1920’s. She sought to ride on Roberts’ coattails and flattered him with her words that tried to ease the pain he was suffering from the religious spirits coming against the revival. But her smooth words hurt and did not help him. He suffered a nervous breakdown and was confined to a bed for more than a year and he allowed his wife to decide who he would see and what he would do. She wrote a book called “War on the Saints” that he later denounced. Her doctrine was largely rejected in Wales. Although Roberts lived to 72 he ceased preaching in his early 20’s. Jezebel hates the move of the Holy Spirit and shut the revival down just as it was really starting to move powerfully.
Ahab, enchanted by Jezebel, took her to be his wife, and served Baal and worshipped him. All the other sins of Ahab were minor as compared to his marriage to Jezebel and serving Baal that followed. 1 Kings 16:30-32 NKJV states “30 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as though it had been an insignificant thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.” For over 60 years idolatry had made a horrible life for the Hebrews and meant more to them than the breaking of the first two commandments of the law; it produced spiritual and moral disintegration which was intensified by Jezebel’s determined effort to destroy the worship of the one and true God. What was the character of Jezebel? Her name has become a prominent cliché for seductive power, worldly subtlety and evil of the worst type throughout the ages.
Jezebel was no ordinary woman who was misguided through an error in judgment. Her behavior caused her to attract the immediate attention of all that came into her presence. Though by no means a sweet and loving person, she had a masculine and militaristic demand of others, and was dominated by her extraordinary force of character. Jezebel’s life came to an awful fate with a just ending which belongs to no other woman of the Bible. While the Bible does not go into great detail about her character, it simply sets forth the events in which she bore such a major part, yet as we read between the lines we see her as a woman of powerful force, intellect, and will. She knew nothing of the restraint of higher pure principles. Savage and relentless, this proud and strong-minded woman carried out her foul schemes and whoever got in her way would face a terrible ending. A skillful woman, she prostituted all her gifts for the continuance of evil, and her misused talents became a curse. Persuasive, her influence was wrongly directed. Nothing would or could stop her in the flesh. Unyielding above other women, she used her strength of character to destroy a king and her own descendants, as well as corrupt the life of an entire nation.
Baal had no more devoted follower than Jezebel. None could match her desire for the worship of Ashtaroth the famous goddess of the Zidonians, as zealous and liberal maintenance of hundreds of idolatrous priests clearly proves. Not content with establishing the idol worship of her own country in her husband’s court, she desired to convert the entire nation of Israel to Baal worship. Two heathen sanctuaries were built, one at Samaria with its 450 priests, and the other at Jezreel with its 400 priests. In a most relentless fashion Jezebel tried to drive out the true prophets of God from the land, and thus became the first religious female persecutor in history by using the power that was given to her by her husband King Ahab. From her idolatrous father, a high priest of Ashtaroth, she inherited her fanatical religious enthusiasm which inspired her to exterminate the worship of the true and living God, and almost succeeded in the attempt.
The overtaking of the nation with all the sins and cruel superstitions of such a discouraging cult as Baalism brought upon the scene the chief of the true prophets, Elijah. He appeared suddenly before Ahab, predicted three years of drought, and at the end of the period unexpectedly appeared again and challenged the 850 prophets of Baal to a supreme test of power. The confrontation took place at the top of Mount Carmel which today overlooks the valley of Megiddo which is to be the place of the final battle of Armageddon that will take place during the end times before the second coming of Christ. Elijah taunted them making fun of their gods for sleeping and then with great boldness commanded fire to fall from heaven and then took back the control from Jezebel and had the people kill all the priests of Baal while Ahab escaped back home to Jezebel to report on what happened.
After such an overwhelming victory, once Elijah heard about Jezebel’s threat (which is a very common ploy to be threatened by people who host the Jezebel spirit which cause fear in their victims) to kill Elijah and his partners “by tomorrow at this time” caused him to fear and he felt that the fury of a murderous woman was more than he could face. The spirit of controlling fear caused him to flee for his life across the kingdom of Judah, leaving the arrogant queen, for the time being, in undeniable possession of the land.
Ahab was like a puppet in the hands of his overpowering wife. He was compliant and weak which made it easy for Jezebel to achieve her murderous designs. How could worthless and spineless Ahab resist the evil scheming of his immoral partner? It was Jezebel who became feared commander in Israel and not the cowardly husband she could put under her thumb. Ahab was more luxury-loving and sensual than cruel, but under the complete domination of a ruthless woman he was forced to act against his finer feelings. Without Ahab’s authority, Jezebel would have been a serpent without fangs. In this marriage, Ahab was the weaker vessel with a wife who mocked his diligent scruples and bound him in all wickedness as with strong chains.
Our Lord used a striking figure to illustrate the continuing influence of evil, emanating from a life devoid of godly principles—
Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? … a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit…. a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit (Matthew 7:16-20).
Jezebel had a rotten root and so everything connected with her was contaminated. With her strength of character, lust for power, remorseless rejection of godliness, and unshrinking and resolute activity to eliminate all that interferes with the satisfaction of her wicked designs, she was evil in every imaginable way.
Her children continued in the wickedness in which they were raised. Jezebel’s evil influence was revived in her daughter Athaliah of Judea. Her maligned character reappears in her eldest son, Ahaziah, who, like his idolatrous mother, was a devout worshiper of Baal. Her second son, Jehoram or Joram, was another image of his mother—further corrupt fruit from a corrupt tree. It was Jehoram, who heard from the lips of Jehu who had been raised up to obliterate the Ahab dynasty, that there would be no peace in Israel, “so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many” (2 Kings 9:22). Is it to be pondered that Jehoram suffered a similar fate to that of his mother’s at the hands of Jehu?
The tragedy of Naboth and his vineyard reveals how vicious a woman Jezebel was. Life was cheap to such a female who had murder in her veins. Her father, Ethbaal, murdered his predecessor, Phelles. Brought up in such a home of intrigue and murder, what else could we expect but a she-devil as Jezebel had become?
Naboth’s refusal was the introduction to one of the strangest, most powerful, and most terrible stories of the Bible; a drama, on the one side, of innocence, courage, independence, and the fear of God, and, on the other side, of covetousness, greediness, cruelty, perjury, death and terrible revenge.
Jezebel was prepared to murder in her stride toward the desired objective, as the incident of Naboth’s vineyard reveals. King Ahab happened to see this fruitful vineyard and inquired as to its owner. Learning it belonged to Naboth; Ahab called him to the palace and offered to buy the vineyard. But it was not for sale. It had belonged to his forefathers and had become precious to Naboth, and as an Israelite Ahab understood his desire to retain it. Thwarted in what he coveted, Ahab took to his bed and fasted.
Jezebel came upon the scene. Learning what had happened, and, as a foreigner from a country where the wishes of a king were never questioned, she revealed herself as a woman of accumulated authority when she consoled Ahab by saying—
“Arise and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry. I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
Jezebel ordered, by letter, stamped with the royal seal, a public feast. She also instituted an assembly of the people of Jezreel to try the pure and Godly Naboth for blasphemies against God and the king. Naboth was arrested, tried and convicted on the accounts of false witnesses secured by Jezebel. She found these witnesses in order to appear within the bounds of the law. Found guilty, Naboth was stoned until his innocent life was crushed out of him. Ahab took possession of the much-coveted vineyard. But the blood of godly Naboth did not cry out in vain. God called Elijah out of his retirement to go to Ahab and pronounce the fearful doom awaiting the murderous pair and their unholy seed. The prophet told the king of his fate—
“In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.”
This prophecy was fulfilled shortly after its pronouncement for war broke out between the Israelites and the Syrians, and Ahab, while riding in his chariot, received his death wound. The blood-soaked chariot was taken to the spring which ran through Naboth’s vineyard, and the dogs came and licked up the bloody water. Concerning Jezebel, Elijah said, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel,” and shortly we shall see how this prophecy was also fulfilled to the very letter.
The death of Ahab, the one whom Jezebel had “stirred up to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord” revealed her to be proud and unable to have any feelings of repentance. There was no sign of sorrow in her, as she went out proudly to meet her prophesied doom. Jehu had been appointed and anointed as the avenger of God, and he set about his grim task of dealing out justice to those who had polluted the land. Jezebel’s son and grandson met Jehu in the blood-stained vineyard Naboth had once possessed. Jehu killed Jezebel’s son, the king of Israel, and her grandson was overtaken while trying to get away and was killed. The still proud, defiant queen-mother knew her last hour was not far away, and great-grandmother though she was, she took time to arrange her hair and paint her face, and looked out at a window to greet Jehu as he passed by. Jezebel did not paint her face from any motive of vanity because she knew that death was ready to finally take her. Therefore, she determined to die like a queen….so Jezebel painted her eyes and placed her jeweled crown upon her head; then, mounting to the palace tower, she watched the impressive advance of Jehu’s chariot.
One item in her sinful life that gave rise to the bitter taunt, “a painted Jezebel,” as painting the face was accepted as evidence that a woman had loose morals. Certainly no woman’s name in history has become as commonly accepted as a symbol for wickedness.
The climax came as Jehu entered the city gate. Reaching the palace, he looked up to the window from which came the taunting voice of Jezebel: “Is it peace, thou Zimri, thou murderer of thy master?” Such a taunt angered her triumphant enemy, and seeing the two eunuchs standing at the window with the defiant queen he shouted up to them, “Who is on my side? Who? Throw her down!”
They obeyed and threw her out of the window, and as she fell the walls were sprinkled with her blood. Below her were the soldiers with their spears, the horses to tread her underfoot and the hungry dogs waiting for her flesh. The triumphant Jehu entered the palace over Jezebel’s dead body. As he ate and drank where she was just standing, he remembered that the one who had just died as prophesied had been a queen and a mother of kings, so he ordered—
“Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her. And they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands.”