January 11, 2008

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: Jezebel, Ahab’s wicked wife

John F. Fink(Twenty-second in a series of columns)

Jezebel was evil. (Her story is told from 1 Kgs 16:31 through 2 Kgs 9:37.)

The daughter of the king of Sidon, modern Lebanon, she was the wife of Ahab, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, which included Samaria and Galilee. She brought the worship of Baal and Asherah to Israel, and enticed Ahab to build a temple to Baal. She murdered Israel’s prophets. Ahab’s vizier, Obadiah, managed to save 100 of them by hiding them in two caves.

Elijah was Jezebel’s mortal enemy. He confronted Ahab and told him to bring the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah to Mount Carmel. He told them to place a bull on an altar and call upon Baal to send down fire to burn it.

The prophets prayed, danced and cut themselves while Elijah taunted them. Then Elijah put his bull on an altar and had them pour water over it until water lapped around the altar. He called on God, and the Lord’s fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones and water. Then Elijah had the crowd seize the 450 prophets of Baal and he slit their throats.

After Ahab reported to Jezebel what had happened, she sent a messenger to Elijah telling him that she would kill him. Elijah fled to the kingdom of Judah.

Sometime later, while Ahab and Jezebel were in their palace at Jezreel, Ahab tried to buy the vineyard of his neighbor, Naboth. Naboth refused to sell it. Jezebel wrote letters to the elders and nobles in Jezreel telling them to get two scoundrels to accuse Naboth of having cursed God and king. They obeyed, led Naboth out of the city and stoned him to death.

When Jezebel learned that Naboth was dead, she told Ahab to go take possession of the vineyard. However, he met Elijah while he was on his way. Elijah told Ahab that God would punish him by having dogs lick up his blood where they licked up the blood of Naboth. Furthermore, he predicted, dogs would devour Jezebel. Later, the prophet Elisha, who succeeded Elijah, repeated the prediction.

Three years later, King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to war against Aram, modern Syria. A lucky arrow struck Ahab between the joints of his breastplate, and he died, his blood flowing to the bottom of his chariot. After they returned to Samaria and the chariot was washed, dogs licked up his blood.

Ahaziah, Ahab’s and Jezebel’s son, succeeded Ahab, but he ruled Israel for only two years. He was succeeded by his brother, Joram, who reigned for 12 years. He was murdered by Jehu, chosen by God to return Israel to worship of the true God. Jehu rode into Jezreel, where Jezebel put on makeup and fixed her hair. When Jehu saw Jezebel at an upstairs window, he sent eunuchs to throw her down. They did, and her blood spurted against the wall and against the horses.

Hours later, when Jehu sent orders to have Jezebel buried, the attendants discovered that dogs had devoured her. †

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