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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: P. C. Headley :: Women of the Bible

P. C. Headley :: Jezebel

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Jezebel was a Sidonian princess of commanding figure, vigorous intellect, and depraved heart. Like Delilah, she was a voluptuary and an idolater.

Ahab, king of Israel, a man of weak mind and utterly destitute of moral principle, from a motive of policy similar to that which controls matrimonial alliances among the sovereigns of Europe, or influenced by her personal attractions, made her his queen. (1Ki 16:31.) Her genius soon gave her the ascendency over him and in the cabinet of his kingdom. In the temples of Ashtaroth and Baal, she had bowed with the enthusiasm of a devotee. She kissed the hideous images of her gods with burning lip, and breathed their names with the reverence and consecration of a martyr. And when she rode to the capital of Israel, and saw on the hills and house‐tops no altars but those of the golden calves of Dan and Bethel, symbolical of the Living God, with the silent energy of an independent spirit, conscious of its power to rule, her purpose was formed to revolutionize the ancient religion of the Hebrews, and in the very Tabernacle of the Shekinah, kindle the flame of sacrifice to the sun‐god-Baal.

The festivity and civic display attending her reception at court passed by, the acclamations of the people ceased, and her work was begun-this resolute propagandist of idolatry, who resembles Lady Macbeth in the great and revolting qualities of her character, was imbued with the sentiment of the invocation of that illustrious homicide.

-"Come, come, you spirits,
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here;
And fill me from the crown to the toe, top‐full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood,
Stop up the access and passage to remorse;
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, or keep peace between
The effect and it."

The prophets were the first victims of her malignant cruelty, and were slaughtered till only a hundred were left, who were concealed by the good Obadiah, governor of the royal household. (1Ki 18:4.) From the fact that no more mention is made of them, it is evident they were at length dragged forth by the executioners of her hostility to the worship of Jehovah, although its celestial glory was already gone, and its hallowed rites had given place to the forms of prevailing superstition.

Elijah, gifted and fearless, was especially the object of Jezebel's hatred. He lived awhile by the brook Cherith, near Jordan, a solitary hermit, mysteriously fed by ravens, till the approaching footsteps of the messengers of death perilled his life. (1Ki 17:2-7.) The Lord then sent him to the house of a poor widow in Zidon, whose table he miraculously supplied, and raised her only son from the dead. (1Ki 17:8-24.) One day, when Obadiah, by the command of Ahab, was surveying the land to find a gushing spring or green spot for the flocks perishing in the famine with which God had cursed the nation, Elijah met him, and told him to inform the king of his abode. (1Ki 18:5-8.)

The monarch, goaded on by the unwasting zeal of the queen, went forth to slay his enemy. But the prophet hurled back his bitter reproaches, until he stood pale and cowering beneath the eagle eye of his accuser; (1Ki 18:16-18) and then proposed to go with him to Mount Carmel, where, in the presence of his pagan priesthood, the authority of Baal against that of God should be fairly and finally tested. (1Ki 18:19.) Like the dark waves which clasp the summit they are submerging, the thousands of Israel crowded up the lofty mountain to behold the scene-for fire from Heaven was to descend on the altar of the Lord, or his homage be transferred forever to the idols of Jezebel.

The four hundred and fifty priests erected their altar, and called on Baal till their cries were one wild shriek, and cut their flesh till the trenches ran with blood; but there came no consuming shaft from the skies-no voice of approval stilled the wailings of the frantic worshippers. (1Ki 18:29.) Then Elijah built the despised altar of Jehovah, laid the slain victims thereon, and flooding the whole with water, gathered the excited throng around it. (1Ki 18:30-35.) The god of the sun had given no answer but the steady blaze which withered the fields and made the starving millions living skeletons. Now in lonely majesty the hunted prophet knelt in prayer, "and lo, fire from the cloudless heavens fell like falling lightning, and the bullock smoked amid the water that flooded it, and a swift vapor rose from the top of Carmel, and all was over." Then arose the swelling shout, "The Lord he is the God; Jehovah he is God!" The prophets of Baal were massacred in the valley below, turning the waters of Kishon in to a crimson flood. The people dispersed in the silence of an unearthly fear, and Elijah went back to the brow of Carmel to pray for rain. (1Ki 18:36-40.)

While Ahab tarried for refreshment, the march of the tempest came to the prophet's listening ear, and he sent his servant to hasten the king's flight to Jezebel. Elijah, strengthened by the might of the Lord, wrapped his mantle about him, and girded his lions, while the wrathful clouds blackened above his dauntless form like a descending robe becoming his dignity, and ran before the foaming steeds of Ahab, to the gates of the city. (1Ki 18:41-46.)

He thought Jezebel could not fail to believe now the king had bowed before the God of Israel, and been dazzled with the glance of his omniscient eye. She listened proudly and unmoved to the story of her trembling lord, then sent a messenger to Elijah, threatening with an oath, to mingle with the corpses of her priests, his own body, before the evening of another day. He fled to Beersheba, and his unrelenting persecutor, bewailing the dead, effaced with raillery and scorn from the heart of Ahab, any impression the miracle may have made, chiding him till he was ready to sue for pardon, for his weakness on Mount Carmel. (1Ki 19:1-3.)

And soon after, when he wanted the vineyard of Naboth, a citizen, to extend his gardens, but could not prevail on him to part with the ancestral possession, he went in tears to the palace, and throwing himself on his couch refused to eat. (1Ki 21:1-4.) Jezebel heard his complaint, and gazing upon him with a glow of indignation, and the fierce passions of a tigress, she said contemptuously, "Dost thou not govern the kingdom of Israel? Arise, and eat bread, and let thy heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth, the Jelzeelite." (1Ki 21:5-7.) Faithful to her promise, she wrote letters in the name of Ahab, and with the royal seal, sent them to the elders of the city and the nobles commanding them to proclaim a fast, and arraign Naboth for blasphemy against "God and the King." (1Ki 21:8-10.) False witnesses were suborned, and the mock trial soon closed. The victim was taken out of the city and stoned to death. (1Ki 21:11-14.) The remorseless queen then told the king to confiscate the vineyard, for the owner would trouble him no more. (1Ki 21:15-16.) He went down accordingly, but while walking over the grounds, Elijah crossed his path, forewarning him of his death, on the very spot where Naboth died at the hands of a lawless mob. (1Ki 21:17-19.) Conscience, though it slumbered deeply, always awoke at the sound of Elijah's voice-and he exclaimed in blended anger and anguish, "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" (1Ki 21:20.) Then followed a terrible prediction of the entire destruction of his family, and the tragical end of Jezebel. (1Ki 21:21-24.)

Ahab was fatally wounded not long afterwards in a battle with the Assyrians, and died; (1Ki 22:34-35) the prophet ascended in a chariot of fire to glory, (2Ki 2:9-11) and his mantle with "a double portion of his spirit," fell on his companion Elisha, who was to be an actor in the last scene of this doomed dynasty. He anointed Jehu, a captain in the army of the king, to execute the hastening vengeance of God. (2Ki 9:1-3.) The host rallied around his standard, and blew their trumpets in joyful acclamation, (2Ki 9:13) while he led them on towards the walls of the capital. (2Ki 9:15.) Meeting Joram son of Jezebel the reigning sovereign, and Ahaziah her grandson, king of Judah, who came forth in their alarm at the sight of that war‐cloud, sweeping as on the wings of a hurricane along the hills, he pierced the former with an arrow, and throwing the body into the vineyard of Naboth, slew the other in his chariot, and dashed on to the open gate of Jezreel. (2Ki 9:16-28.) The shouts of the populace, and the rushing of chariot‐wheels, reached the chamber of the queen.

No time was demanded, no weeping for the slain disturbed her Satanic self‐command. Painting her face, and splendidly attired, "she looked out at the window," (2Ki 9:30) and calling to Jehu, reminded him of the fate of Zimri the conspirator against Elah, who perished in the flames of the palace, his own hand kindled. (2Ki 9:31.) Jehu looked up and cried to the eunuchs, "Who is on my side?" (2Ki 9:32.) The quick reply was the descending form of Jezebel, mangled on the projecting wall, and sprinkling the horses with blood. He then drove over this dying daughter of a king, and queen of Israel, stern, sullen and daring to the last, till the hoofs of his steed were red with trampled dead. (2Ki 9:33.)

Entering now the desolate palace‐hall, he told the throng to go and "see this cursed woman, and bury her, for she is a king's daughter." (2Ki 9:34.) But in accordance with prophecy, they found only the fragments of Jezebel's body left by the dogs. (2Ki 9:35-36.) Jehu continued his work of slaughter till the idolatrous race was extinct, and the dishonor cast on the name of Jehovah was wiped out with the blood of a whole generation. (2Ki 10:1-11.)

Woman may be grateful for the seclusion that brings with it the culture of her sympathies and moral sensibilities; and that she is excluded from manifold temptations that crowd the pathway of man, whose restless eye turns ever to the height, however distant, whereon stands the temple of Mars, Jupiter, or Mammon; inviting him to come with the sacrifice of principle and the hope of Heaven, and take

"The wreath of glory that shall burn
And rend his temples in return."

For with the same opportunity and urgency of motive, she would oftener enroll her name among the great, whose power blasted where it fell, and whose fame rose with the commission of gigantic crimes.

The Queen of Sheba ← Prior Section
Athaliah Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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