Forty women: 33. Jezebel
I wonder what you’ve made of the 32 women we’ve looked at so far in this series. I wonder if you’ve been surprised by how complicated some of their stories are. How even those women held up as models of faith in the New Testament could be jealous, angry, sinners. How even some of those we might have assumed were on the outside of God’s covenant blessings – the foreigner or the prostitute, say – turn out to be key players in God’s covenant purposes.
It’s almost as if these women are people.
So what about this woman? What about Jezebel, whose very name, many thousands of years later, continues to be a term of derision for a certain kind of woman. Shameless. Sexually shameless. One who uses her sexuality to exert power and influence.
Well, she was shameless. And she did want power. And she was prepared to be ruthless in exercising it.
Jezebel made it her business to see that all the prophets of Yahweh were destroyed, while the prophets of the false gods were invited to eat at her table.
Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah, after his great demonstration of Yahweh’s power and superiority over all the false gods of Baal – gods that she had taught her husband to worship.
And when her husband was sulking because he could not have something he wanted, Jezebel was willing to get it for him by falsely accusing an innocent man, so that he was stoned to death.
Her influence extended not only to her husband, Ahab, king of Israel (the northern kingdom), but after him to her son, Joram, and even to their son-in-law, Jehoram, king of Judah (the southern kingdom), and to the next generation after them. It’s only when Jehu, a new leader of a new dynasty, is anointed, that the cycle is finally broken: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.” (2 Kings 9:6-10).
Jezebel was wicked. There is no question about that. She was wicked, shameless, ruthless. She was promiscuous, manipulative, and bloodthirsty. She was idolatrous and faithless.
But she was not those things because she was a woman.
She was not those things because she was a woman who wore make up and tight-fitting clothes.
She was not those things because she had breasts and hips and was a sexual being.
Be very careful who you call a Jezebel. Be clear what you are calling down on her head. Because it’s not a fate to wish on someone lightly.