Jezebel is the name of an ancient queen of Israel. She is notoriously one of the most evil women in the Bible.
Jesus criticized the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29 for tolerating “that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.” Her parents never named her Jezebel. Jesus invoked the name of the ancient queen to show what spirit animated her teaching.
We don’t normally think of Jesus as intolerant. It is clear, however, that whatever he didn’t tolerate two thousand years ago, he still doesn’t tolerate. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV).
Unfortunately, the spirit of Jezebel has reared her ugly head in America in recent decades.
Jezebel of Samaria
When Solomon’s kingdom broke in two, Jeroboam became king of Israel, the northern kingdom. He set up golden calves in two cities and proclaimed them the god who delivered Israel from Egypt.
It didn’t matter to him that he violated the Second Commandment. He feared that if his people had to go to Jerusalem to worship, eventually they would become disloyal to him. He ignored the prophets’ rebuke. God saw to it that Israel would become disloyal to Jeroboam and destroy his dynasty.
Generations later, Ahab became king of Israel. Like every king of Israel until the final destruction of the kingdom, he followed Jeroboam’s sin and supported his idols.
“And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him” (1 Kings 16:31).
In other words, Ahab chose to become more unfaithful to God than any other king of Israel. And he did so only after marrying the domineering Jezebel.
Here are the sins of Jezebel:
She emasculated her husband and son
Ahab’s father Omri had built Israel from a little backwater to a powerful kingdom and built a strong new capital. The Bible says little about him, but part of his success came in forming alliances with kings more powerful than himself. He arranged for Ahab to marry Ethbaal’s daughter.
Ahab appears as a weak and vacillating character. Jezebel, the strength behind the throne, appears as a dominating woman, determined to make Ahab into as kingly a man as her father.
Two of Ahab’s sons succeeded him as king. Ahaziah fatally injured himself, leaving the throne to his younger brother Jehoram. The Bible doesn’t mention Jezebel’s activity during either of their reigns, but Jehoram proved every bit as weak and vacillating as his father.
As surely as she compelled Ahab to do her bidding, she remained the power behind the throne and dominated her sons.
She imposed a foreign religion on Israel
At least Jeroboam pretended that his idols represented the true God of Israel. Jezebel introduced Baal worship, the same Canaanite religion that Joshua’s generation should have wiped off the face of the earth.
Baal was supposedly the son of a god named El and a goddess named Asherah (among other names). Except that somehow people stopped worshiping El and Asherah became Baal’s consort.
Incest never seems to have bothered many of the peoples of the ancient Near East.
According to Canaanite mythology, both Baal and Asherah controlled fertility. Baal brought the rain necessary to grow crops. Asherah, as the mother of at least 70 other gods, was certainly fecund. Worship of these gods involved emulating their behavior. Prostitutes of both sexes in temples of Baal enabled worshipers to partake in Baal’s activity in bringing fertility to the land, farm animals, and the worshipers themselves.
But Baal could get angry and refuse to bless people. He demanded sacrifices to keep him in good spirits. In particular, he demanded the sacrifice of children. Baal worship, therefore, rested on a foundation of sexual immorality and killing babies.
The people of Israel had participated in Baal worship from the beginning of their settlement in the Promised Land. But no temple to Baal existed until Jezebel persuaded Ahab to build one in Samaria and attempt to make Baal worship the sole accepted religion.
She violently sought to silence the prophets of God
The prophet Elijah demonstrated conclusively that Baal could not command rain. He told Ahab that there would be no rain in the land until God told him to proclaim it. Then he went into hiding for years.
The Bible doesn’t say whether Jezebel’s systematic attempt to exterminate God’s prophets came in response to the famine or whether she had already started earlier. It does say that a man of God who had a high position in the palace hid a hundred prophets from her. And certainly, the evident fact of her god’s failure did not cause her to repent.
Her god suffered another humiliating defeat when 450 of his prophets failed to call down fire from heaven. They spent most of a day frantically shouting, dancing, and cutting themselves trying to get Baal’s attention. Then, Elijah soaked the wood on his altar with water before quietly offering a simple prayer that brought down fire.
God does not tolerate rivals. Elijah supervised the execution of all the prophets of Baal. Far from repenting, Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah.
She pursued her aims with violence, oppression, and murder
Not only prophets suffered from her intolerant wrath. Ahab built a second palace in Jezreel and wanted to buy a vineyard next to it. Naboth, the owner, invoked God’s will to vow that he would not sell his inheritance.
Jezebel obtained the vineyard by murder and fraud. She ordered officials to find false witnesses and try Naboth on phony charges of blaspheming God. They executed him as ordered and Ahab seized the vineyard.
The relatively few references to Jezebel in the Bible probably only hint at the enormity of her wickedness.
She could not have been loved by her people or even her servants. She met her death when three eunuchs in her service threw her out a window. When someone thought to bury her, she had lain on the ground long enough for dogs to eat almost her entire body.
Jezebel of Thyatira
Greek (and Roman) paganism, like ancient Canaanite paganism, practiced sexual immorality. After all, humans might as well behave the way their gods did.
So Greek culture condoned consorting with prostitutes, indulging in homosexuality, and other practices forbidden in God’s moral law. As Christianity spread, not all converts were prepared to turn their backs on their former lifestyle.
Even before the ink dried on New Testament scriptures, false teachers arose in numerous Greek churches. They proclaimed one could be a good Christian without adhering to the Christian moral code. After all, hadn’t Paul himself proclaimed that Gentile Christians need not follow Jewish law? And that law-keeping could never get anyone saved?
And that’s just like the devil. Tie a little truth to a lie and lead people astray.
Powerful trade guilds in Thyatira largely controlled anyone’s ability to make a living there. And membership in a guild required participating in guild banquets. In turn, that meant eating meat sacrificed to idols and participating in their sexual activities.
Most commentators on Revelation say that “Jezebel” in the letter to refers to a woman leader of that church who claimed to be a prophetess. That is, she claimed to speak for God in teaching that people could profess Christianity and still live like pagans.
It’s not that the whole leadership of the church followed her teachings. But none stood up to her. The spirit of Jezebel essentially emasculated the other leadership. The church tolerated following demonic teaching.
The Old Testament frequently likens pagan worship to adultery against God. The letter to Thyatira makes reference to people who committed adultery with Jezebel. And like the historic Jezebel, she had plenty of opportunity to repent but refused.
The spirit of Jezebel in America
People nowadays debate how much America was founded on Christian principles. To be sure, the United States has never been an officially Christian nation. The founding fathers explicitly denied it. Although many founding fathers were devout Christians, many others were deists.
That said, there was never a dime’s worth of difference between a Christian and a deist when it came to moral standards or the necessity of strong religious life.
George Washington, not one of the more religious of the founding fathers, explicitly denied that “national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles” in his Farewell Address
As soon as the capitol was built, it started to house non-denominational worship services. These worship services took place in the House chamber until after the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison regularly attended them while they were President.
Jefferson was a deist. Madison had somewhat more complicated and nuanced religious views, but I have never seen him described as a devout Christian. Late in life, he wrote that “belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources.”
Jezebel and religion
Thanks to the drumbeat of propaganda from Jezebel-inspired organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, more and more Americans confuse the separation of church and state with separation of religion and state.
As we have seen, the founding fathers intended the former and rejected the latter.
No one thought freedom of religion meant freedom from religion until recent decades. Militant atheists seek to impose a brand of secularism unknown throughout most of American history.
Where Madison and others championed religious liberty, Jezebel’s spirit seeks to paint all Christians as some kind of humanity-hating bigots. So, in this twisted view, Christians don’t deserve religious freedom. Anyone who dares to assert Christian principles in running a business risks a vicious hate campaign, complete with specious lawsuits and attempts to put them out of business.
And the preferred alternative? It seems that the spirit of Jezebel wants to revive a version of the old Canaanite religion, complete with sexual debauchery and killing babies.
Jezebel and morality
Within living memory, American society at least paid lip service to Biblical standards of sexual behavior. Now, unmarried cohabitation and unwed motherhood have become accepted. No one blinks an eye when people flaunt multiple sex partners. Virgins seem strange.
The appalling number of sexual predators that make national headlines shouldn’t surprise anyone. They practice recently accepted behaviors on a still-unacceptable scale.
Homosexuality, once acknowledged as a sin, has become a political cause. It has invented the term “homophobia” to imply that any opposition can only come from an irrational fear. No earlier society, no matter how tolerant of homosexuality, ever included homosexual relationships in its definition of marriage.
Not even the ancient Canaanites thought of gender fluidity. But now males “identify” as female and females “identify” as male. Newspaper editorials advise high school girls to get used to the presence of a person with a penis in their locker rooms so as not to make the transgendered uncomfortable.
Every cell in everyone’s body proclaims what sex they are. Compassion for the transgendered would require helping them to accept and celebrate their actual sex. Anyone who dares say so anymore draws down progressive hatred.
We don’t burn babies alive at pagan shrines anymore. We kill them before birth in clinics. And woe betide anyone who dares to interfere with a mother’s “right to choose.” No one ever completes that sentence. They assert the right to kill an unborn child.
But how many abortions take place because a man impregnates a woman and then forces her to abort in order to avoid child support? What, then, happens to the woman’s choice?
Now, some politicians even refuse to allow protection to babies that survive the abortion process. They bristle at the idea that killing them amounts to murder.
Jezebel and masculinity
God made a man, planted a garden, then created a woman to be a suitable helper for him. God never intended for men to dominate and oppress women. That abuse of the role of men resulted from the fall.
But he doesn’t want women to dominate and oppress men, either.
After more than a century of struggle, women have not yet gained all the parity they deserve. They don’t get equal pay for equal work. They don’t get the same encouragement as men to seek certain jobs. And they disproportionately suffer from sexual abuse of the heterosexual variety.
The loudest, shrillest advocates for the women’s movement seem to have turned their attention from doing anything about those issues.
Instead, they rant about masculinity as if it were inherently toxic. They seem more interested in punishing men—the innocent with the guilty—than in working to gain the consensus needed to make real progress on real issues.
Jezebel and the church
And where is the Christian church in America?
It has largely wilted under the onslaught of the Jezebel spirit. In 1973, Karl Menninger published a book titled Whatever Became of Sin? The eminent psychiatrist noticed that the word and the concept had disappeared from public conversation. He feared that any possibility of a moral society would disappear with it.
Why did a psychiatrist ask that and not a church leader?
The church has generally not made a strong response to any of the social upheavals of the past sixty years. The judgmental ranting of some preachers does not constitute a strong response. If the church has not been silent, it has been effectively silenced because it can’t get society to pay much attention.
“Seeker friendly” churches seldom mention the concept of sin. It makes people uncomfortable and might drive seekers elsewhere.
What’s worse, vast segments of the American church have taken a page from the teaching of Jezebel of Thyatira. They condone sin in the name of compassion.
They point to Jesus’ compassion but fail to live up to his example. In the only gospel story directly concerned with sexual sin, Jesus showed great compassion to the woman taken in adultery. But his last words to her were, “Go and sin no more.”
Whole denominations have become a mission field for the remaining members who still honor biblical morality.
Chances are if you have read this far that you are either boiling mad at me or nodding glumly in agreement.
I speak now to the latter. Pray for the church without ceasing. Study Scripture to understand what it teaches and why. Speak the truth in love. Be strong and courageous.
Jezebel of Samaria died when eunuchs threw her out the window. The impotent finally mustered some strength.
Jezebel. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Jezebel and Ahab. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Child sacrifice. Source unknown
Death of Jezebel. Public domain from Picryl
Roman sacrifice. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Moses at the Supreme Court. Source unknown
Idols logo. Source unknown
Gay rights parade. Some rights reserved by Guillaume Paumier.
Sin. Some rights reserved by Corey Balazowich.