Source: Robert Oscar Lopez
The biblical character of Jezebel is unforgettable. The original femme fatale appears quite a bit in popular culture. Bette Davis starred in a movie named after her. In 2007, now defunct Gawker launched Jezebel, marketing an entire online publication to women who want to embrace the scandalous Old Testament queen as an inspiring heroine. Some of the most recent headlines in Jezebel are “Dear F—–up, I think I ruined my Ex’s life!“; “F-Factor, Heavy Metals, and Influencers: Maybe the Real Toxin is Diet Culture“; and “Former Liberty University Student Allegedly Had a Sexual Encounter with Becki Falwell.” Another popular theme on Jezebel is allegations against men who sexually harass or abuse women.
Rambling personal drama, vain dieting tips, finger-pointing accusations against men, and vicious gossip about public figures’ sex secrets — this sounds like a dead ringer! It is — though as I’ll point out here, Jezebel the publication isn’t the real Jezebel you have to worry about today.
Who was the real Jezebel?
What matters about Jezebel is not that she was a woman, though her brand of behind-the-scenes malice is a particularly female kind. She was a rich and entitled princess who felt unsatisfied with mere privilege. She desired ever more power. She hailed from Sidon in modern-day Lebanon. She first appears in the sixteenth chapter of 1 Kings. Israel’s king Ahab “married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him” (16:31). When she came to reside in Ahab’s palace, she brought with her an ancient cult against which Israel had been constantly warned. Her faith in Baal was probably sincere, which was what made her so deadly.
Half a millennium prior to Jezebel’s appearance, God gave instructions about war. In Deuteronomy 20, God tells the Israelites they must offer terms of peace before besieging adversaries and must not kill women and children. Yet the treatment of pagan Canaanites requires uncommon brutality. God says, “[Do] not let any living thing survive among the cities of these people the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. You must completely destroy them — the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite … so that they won’t teach you to do all the detestable things they do for their gods” (20:16). The Lord says, “you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy” (7:3).
Their religion was false, but so were the cults of other nations, which God commanded the Jews to treat with greater charity. What made the peoples on God’s “kill them all” list different?
The irredeemable cultures go beyond mere error; they turn depraved in matters of sex and violence. They partake in degrading lusts and kill their own children as part of rituals to their imaginary gods. God demands that the Israelites wipe these people out entirely because any interaction with their sick worldview could lead them to question their covenant with God. They may begin to defile themselves through abhorrent acts of sex and violence.
Jezebel must be understood in this context. She has no intention of leaving behind the practices condemned in Deuteronomy, whose events predate her by roughly 520 years. But she wants these practices to look normal and harmless to her husband’s subjects. She brings her Baal cult and surrounds herself with her signature handymen: eunuchs and false prophets. Once she gets her husband to tolerate her cult, she wields Ahab’s power by forgery; her loyal eunuchs no doubt aid her subterfuge and intrigue. We see Jezebel’s exceptional manipulation in how she gets Naboth killed and transfers ownership of his precious vineyard to her husband.
She wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal … to the elders and nobles[.] … In the letters she wrote:
“Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people. Then seat two wicked men opposite him and have them testify against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king!’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”
Thus begins Jezebel’s stellar career. Already Elijah, God’s chosen prophet, goes to Ahab and warns him about where his despicable wife will lead him: “He who belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and he who dies in the field, the birds of the sky will eat” (1 Kings 21:24).
Jezebel corrupts the men around her by degrees. She moves from being accepted to purging those who disagree with her. Once her cult is established thanks to her husband’s weak character, she employs a host of “prophets,” though these are frauds. Sending them throughout her husband’s kingdom, she seeks to popularize her cult as the real one. As part of this, she must kill the authentic prophets. She chases after Elijah and Elisha. Fortunately, the true prophets stand against her false prophets, and the northern kingdom is saved from total destruction, at least for about 130 years.
Do today’s men know what a Jezebel is?
In John of Patmos’s letter to the church of Thyatira, a reference casts her as an evil type haunting churches until the end of the whole world. John writes, “You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My slaves” (Revelation 2:20).
Today’s sex issues are not new. As women and men contend in social debates, some women will fight righteously against male abuse, while there will always be female manipulators exploiting people’s sex-related anxieties to empower their false religions and ideologies. As the Bible implies, Jezebels will always play a role. But are we equipped to see a Jezebel coming at us?
A few blind spots make it hard to discern such a threat. First, Jezebel has been overly sexualized. Just before Jehu kills her, he tells her son Joram, “What peace can there be as long as there is so much prostitution and witchcraft from your mother Jezebel?” (2 Kings 9:22). But this refers to the male and female prostitutes associated with temples of Baal. It does not seem that Jezebel engaged in such activity; she set up the system for others to do so. Jezebel was not a whore, but an enabler of whoring. The original Jezebel was evil not due to sexual promiscuity; if anything, she surrounded herself with eunuchs who could not commit adultery with her and jealously guarded her relationship with her husband. While it is true that Jezebel painted her face in defiance just before her eunuchs threw her to the dogs, a Jezebel is not a woman who uses her sex appeal, primarily, to advance her goals.
While men sometimes call a woman a Jezebel if she brazenly defies society’s mores, this is a misreading. Jezebel gets Naboth killed by appealing to Israel’s deeply held taboos against blasphemy. Her false allegation against Naboth carries the weight of the king’s seal, revealing that Jezebel respects official rules enough to feign due process. Her eunuchs and false prophets strengthen her veneer of propriety, because the eunuchs look harmless and the false prophets appear outwardly pious.
Nor is a Jezebel simply any woman who holds a powerful position. The Queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon in 1 Kings 10 does not come with any verses condemning her for being a rich and powerful woman. Jezebel’s power is evil because it is fraudulent, malicious, and deceitful. She works through her husband and sons, preferring to manipulate men rather than taking official responsibility for affairs upon herself or working hard to prove her abilities.
While some commentators have sought to avoid sexism by saying a Jezebel can be male, I doubt it. Only women can shield themselves with the social respectability that comes with being a wife, mother, and concerned matron simultaneously. Protected by their status as the delicate sex to be chivalrously safeguarded, women can maneuver social perceptions to appear guileless and victimized even as they goad crowds to vilify, persecute, and kill men whom they accuse of moral outrages. Men who seem like that are usually the “eunuchs” orbiting a Jezebel.
The Jezebels of Today
Despite their attempts to pay homage to the ancient villainess, the publication Jezebel’s writers are rank amateurs. Her real descendants are not brazenly mocking morality online; rather, they are marshaling moral outrage against specific men in order to transfer their possessions to others. This was the heart of the “ChurchToo” movement that brought “MeToo” into conservative Christian circles. Famous women like Nancy French, Karen Swallow Prior, Susan Codone, and Beth Moore have manipulated Christian men with chivalric guilt and fear of emasculation. Always cloaking their accusatory campaigns in nice-sounding platitudes about Jesus Christ, they use tweets and petitions to denounce, fire, no-platform, and purge men who have a metaphorical “vineyard” they covet.
If you’ll notice, these ladies use classically female affectations — “abuse survivor,” “dutiful wife and mother,” “defender of women’s virtue,” “teacher of women” — to protect themselves from attack when their backbiting and bad-mouthing draw people’s attention. Their accusations focus on sins that we classically associate with males: sexual misconduct, getting fresh, being generally horny or vulgar, ogling women, or failing to protect innocent maidens from danger. This way, discourse centers on things that men rather than women do wrong, leaving Jezebel safe from backlash.
No doubt some Jezebels got “Fake Christian” to trend on Twitter as thousands of people accused Mike Pence of not being a “real” Christian — the “real Christianity” being the fake cult pushed by today’s false prophets.
In the case of Roy Moore, it was a Senate seat. Where Paige Patterson was concerned, it was a seminary known as the last stronghold of the Baptist Conservative Resurgence. In the case of Brett Kavanaugh, it was a seat on the Supreme Court. And in the case of Jerry Falwell, Jr., it was the largest Christian university in the world. Then there’s Trump, the president who got elected by promising to drain the swamp.
All these men had some power in the political realm and respect from Christians. Jezebels have different plans for Christianity, and such men, for various reasons, stand in their way. Therefore, Jezebels cannot allow such men to remain where they are. These targeted men must be dethroned, discredited, and destroyed so that their realms can be transferred to another set of men — men whom the Jezebels control. They want their husbands, sons, pet generals, eunuchs, and false prophets to seize these men’s dominions, because Jezebels know that if they can get the men they control to control power, the power will go to the Jezebels.
Where there are Jezebels, you will always find eunuchs and false prophets. You will find weak, insecure men who use gossip, whisper campaigns, smear campaigns, and propaganda to move people around like pawns. You will also find people posing as authentic spokespeople for divine justice, seeking to replace the real “prophets” through an invasion of the body-snatchers.
These men were imperfect, as all men are. If you define hormonal heterosexuality as a crime against women, basically any male can be brought down by any Jezebel. All she needs is some truthful account of the man’s sexual urges, and she can add layer upon layer of exaggeration or outright falsehood until the mob takes him out to be stoned.
Notice how the Jezebels operate. They steal what these men have from under them by leveling very female accusations against men. They pick an area that they know will inflame passion and raise an instant mob. The Jezebels never say they are coming to corrupt the institutions their power plays are targeting. They always say they are standing up for God and morality. Beneath all their talk of Jesus, however, they spit on forgiveness and mercy, making theirs a false Christianity no matter how much they protest to the contrary. All the recent Jezebel moves have emasculated the Christian leadership and made it more possible for advocates of abortion and LGBT to make greater headway into the church. To make these ancient horrors more amenable to Christians, then as now, the real prophets must be driven out.