Jez'ebel (Hebrew lze'bel, אַזֶבֶל, not-cohabited, q.d. ἄλοχος, compare Plato, p. 249; Lat. Agnes, i.e. intacta chaste; an appropriate female name, remarks Gesenius, and not to be estimated from the character of Ahab's queen; comp. Isabella; Sept.Ι᾿εζάβελ; N.T.Ι᾿εζαβήλ, Re 2:20; Joseph.Ι᾿αζεβέλις, 9: Ant. 9, 6, 4; Vul. Jezabel), the consort of Ahab, king of Israel (1Ki 16:31), was the daughter of Ethbaal (q.v.), king of Tyre and Sidon, and originally a priest of Astarte (Josephus, Apion, 1, 18). This unsuitable alliance proved most disastrous to the kingdom of Israel; for Jezebel induced her weak husband not only to connive at her introducing the worship of her native idols, but eventually to become himself a worshipper of them, and to use all the means in his power to establish them in the room of the God of Israel. The worship of the golden calves, which previously existed, was, however mistakenly intended in honor of Jehovah; but this was an open alienation from him, and a turning aside to foreign and strange gods, which, indeed, were no gods (but see Vatke, Bibl. Theol. 1, 406). Most of the particulars of this bad but apparently highly-gifted woman's conduct have been related in the notices of AHAB and ELIJAH. From the course of her proceedings, it would appear that she grew to hate the Jewish system of law and religion on account of what must have seemed to her its intolerance and its anti-social tendencies. She hence sought to put it down by all the means she could command; and the imbecility of her husband seems to have made all the powers of the state subservient to her designs. The manner in which she acquired and used her power over Ahab is strikingly shown in the matter of Naboth which, perhaps, more than all the other affairs in which she was engaged, brings out her true character, and displays the nature of her influence. B.C. cir. 897. When she found him puling, like a spoiled child, on account of the refusal of Naboth to gratify him by selling him his patrimonial vineyard for a "garden of herbs," she taught him to look to her, to rely upon her for the accomplishment of his wishes; and for the sake of this impression, more perhaps than from savageness of temper, she scrupled not at murder under the abused forms of law and religion (1 Kings 21:1-29). She had the reward of her unscrupulous decisiveness of character in the triumph of her policy in Israel, where, at last, there were but 7000 people who had not bowed the knee to Baal, nor kissed their hand to his image. Nor was her success confined to Israel; for through Athaliah — a daughter after her own heart — who was married to the son and successor of Jehoshaphat, the same policy prevailed for a time in Judah, after Jezebel herself had perished and the house of Ahab had met its doom. It seems that after the death of her husband, Jezebel maintained considerable ascendency over her son Jehoram; and her measures and misconduct formed the principal charge which Jehu cast in the teeth of that unhappy monarch before he sent forth the arrow that slew him. The last effort of Jezebel was to intimidate Jehu as he passed the palace by warning him of the eventual rewards of even successful treason. It is eminently characteristic of the woman that, even in this terrible moment, when she knew that her son was slain, and must have felt that her power had departed, she displayed herself, not with rent veil and disheveled hair, "but tired her head and painted her eyes" before she looked out at the window. The eunuchs, at a word from Jehu, having cast her down, she met her death beneath the wall, SEE JEHU; and when afterwards the new monarch bethought him that, as "a king's daughter," her corpse should not be treated with disrespect, nothing was found of her but the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet: the dogs had eaten all the rest (1Ki 16:31; 1Ki 18:4,13,19; 1Ki 21:5-25; 2Ki 9:7,22,30-37). B.C. 883.
The name of Jezebel appears anciently (as in modern times) to have become proverbial for a wicked termagant (comp. 2Ki 9:22), and in this sense it is probably used in Re 2:20, where, instead of "that woman Jezebel" (τὴν γυναίκα Ι᾿εζαβήλ), many editors prefer the reading "thy wife Jezebel" (τὴν γυναῖκὰ σου Ι᾿εζάβελ), i.e. of the bishop of the Church at Thyatira, who seems to have assumed the office of a public teacher, although herself as corrupt in doctrine as in practice. In this address to the representative of the Church she is called his wife, i.e. one for whose character and conduct, as being a member of the congregation over which he had charge, he was responsible, and whom he should have taken care that the Church had, long since repudiated. Her proper name is probably withheld through motives of delicacy. We need not suppose that she was literally guilty of licentiousness, but only that she disseminated and acted upon such corrupt religious principles as made her resemble the idolatrous wife of Ahab in her public influence. (See Jablonski, Diss. de Jezabele Thyatirenor, pseudo-prophet essa, Frankf. 1739; Stuart's Comment. ad loc.) Others, however, maintain a more literal interpretation of the passage (see Clarke and Alford, ad loc.). SEE NICOLAITAN.