Jezebel: Her Name is Not -- By: Joan M. Cahalan

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 045:1 (NA 2013)
Article: Jezebel: Her Name is Not
Author: Joan M. Cahalan


Jezebel: Her Name is Not

Joan M. Cahalan*

The Bible uses a simple litmus test to evaluate the reign of each Northern Israelite king: whether or not “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, walking in the ways of Jeroboam, son of Nebat” (1 Kings 15:34). For some considered especially detestable, however, elaboration is given. Ahab receives a longer evaluation in 1 Kings 16, for he “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel …” (1 Kings 16:31).

Jezebel is arguably the most reviled villain in the entire Bible. Such is her wicked influence that her husband is deemed the most evil Northern king to date by virtue of association. Her story is spread over a number of biblical chapters, spanning 1 Kings 16 to 2 Kings 9, and she is cast in an extremely negative light in each account. The writer’s aversion to Jezebel continues through her life and even past her death, which is recorded in 2 Kings 9:30–37. Her death scene is grisly and demeaning, fulfilling Elijah’s earlier prophecy of her downfall and celebrating her destruction as an enemy of YHWH and his people.

The scene of her demise is a well defined narrative unit. It begins as her killer rides towards Jezreel, where she has taken up residence, and ends as her body is reduced to “dung.” The passage follows a strict chronology from confrontation to killing to disposal of her remains. The only exception to this is when the narrator engages in analepsis in verse 36 when Jehu recalls both Elijah (1 Kings 21:23) and Elisha’s (2 Kings 9:10) past prophesies concerning Jezebel’s body being consumed by dogs.

Jehu is the first character mentioned in the pericope, as the biblical narrative continues with the vav conversive “and he went towards Jezreel” (2 Kings 9:30). Jehu has undergone an extensive life change since he was first introduced at the beginning of chapter 9. In 2 Kings 9:1–3, Elisha appoints one from his company of prophets to anoint Jehu king over Israel despite the fact the Jezebel’s son Joram is the si...

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