(Jezʹe·bel) [from Phoenician, possibly meaning “Where Is the Lofty One [that is, the prince]?”].
1. Wife of Ahab, a king of Israel in the latter half of the tenth century B.C.E. She was a domineering queen who proved to be a strong advocate of Baalism at the expense of Jehovah’s worship. In this she was like her father Ethbaal, the king of Sidon, evidently the one identified by the ancient historian Menander (according to Josephus’ Against Apion, I, 116, 123 ) as a priest of Astarte (Ashtoreth) who gained the throne by murdering his own king.
Quite likely Ahab’s marriage to this pagan princess Jezebel was for political reasons, without regard for the disastrous religious consequences. And after his having made such an alliance, it was only the next logical step in pleasing his devout Baal-worshiping wife to build a temple and altar for Baal, erect a phallic “sacred pole,” and then join her in this idolatrous worship. In all of this, Ahab did more to offend Jehovah than all the kings of Israel prior to him.
Jezebel, not satisfied that Baal worship was officially approved by the throne, endeavored to exterminate the worship of Jehovah from the land. To that end she ordered all the prophets of Jehovah killed, but God warned Elijah to escape across the Jordan, and Obadiah, the palace steward, hid a hundred others in caves. (1Ki 17:1-3; 18:4, 13) Some time later Elijah again fled for his life when Jezebel, by personal messenger, vowed to kill him.
There came to be 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the sacred pole, all of whom Jezebel cared for and fed from her own royal table at the State’s expense. (1Ki 18:19) But in spite of her fanatic efforts to obliterate the worship of Jehovah, Jehovah revealed that, in the end, ‘all the knees that had not bent down to Baal, and every mouth that had not kissed him’ amounted to 7,000 persons.
In Jezebel’s treatment of Naboth, we are given another view of this woman’s wicked character, a character that was extremely selfish, unscrupulous, arrogant, cruel. When Ahab began to sulk and pout because Naboth refused to sell him his hereditary vineyard, this unscrupulous woman shamelessly overstepped her husband’s headship and arrogantly declared: “I myself shall give you the vineyard of Naboth.” (1Ki 21:1-7) With that she wrote letters, signed and sealed in the name of Ahab, ordering the older men and nobles of Naboth’s hometown to arrange for good-for-nothing fellows falsely to accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king and then to take Naboth out and stone him to death. In this way Naboth was put to death by a perversion of justice. Ahab then seized the vineyard and prepared to turn it into a vegetable garden.
For such wanton disregard for righteousness, Jehovah decreed that Ahab and his line of descent would be removed in a clean sweep of destruction. “Without exception no one has proved to be like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah, whom Jezebel his wife egged on.” Hence, Jehovah’s judgment against Jezebel: “The very dogs will eat up Jezebel.”
In the course of time Ahab died and was succeeded first by Jezebel’s son Ahaziah, who ruled for two years, and then by another of her sons, Jehoram, who ruled for the next 12 years before Ahab’s dynasty finally ended. (1Ki 22:40, 51-53; 2Ki 1:17; 3:1) During the reigns of these sons, Jezebel, now in the role of queen mother, continued to influence the land with her fornications and sorceries. (2Ki 9:22) Her influence was even felt in Judah to the S, where her wicked daughter Athaliah, who had married Judah’s king, perpetuated the Jezebel spirit in that southern kingdom for another six years after her mother’s death.
When the news reached Jezebel that Jehu had killed her reigning son Jehoram and was on his way to Jezreel, she artfully painted her eyes, adorned her hair, and framed herself in an upper window overlooking the palace square. There she greeted the conqueror upon his triumphal entry, saying: “Did it go all right with Zimri the killer of his lord?” This sarcastic greeting was probably a veiled threat, for Zimri, after killing his king and usurping the throne, committed suicide seven days later when his life was threatened.
Jehu’s response to this hostile reception was: “Who is with me? Who?” When two or three court officials looked out, he commanded, “Let her drop!” In the violence of the fall, her blood splattered the wall and the horses, and she was trodden underfoot, presumably by the horses. Shortly thereafter when men came to bury this “daughter of a king,” why, they found the scavenger dogs had already practically disposed of her, just as “the word of Jehovah that he spoke by means of his servant Elijah” had foretold, leaving only the skull, the feet, and the palms of her hands as evidence that all that Jehovah says comes true.
2. That “woman” in the congregation of Thyatira who called herself a prophetess. This “woman” no doubt was given the name Jezebel because her wicked conduct resembled that of Ahab’s wife. Not only did this “woman” teach false religion and mislead many to commit fornication and idolatry but she also callously refused to repent. For this reason “the Son of God” declared she would be thrown into a sickbed and her children would be killed, to show that each one receives according to one’s deeds.