Jezebel is one of those names I knew from the Bible without really knowing the story. There’s a cultural baggage to the name — a deceitful woman, a whore, a temptress. That’s what springs to mind when I hear this. (Well, and now, a snarky feminist blog, but that’s another kettle of fish entirely.)
But that’s not what I see when I read this. I realize that this isn’t yet the entire story, but here I see something else.
Yes, Jezebel worshiped other gods, the gods of her people. And as the writers of the Bible were struggling to survive as a people, as a faith in the midst of culture that was polytheistic rather than monotheistic and I can see how they would be inclined to look unfavorably upon her beliefs.
But I also think of her. Jezebel is a woman away from her home and her people. She’s in a new culture that is very closed, with different rules and different faith and different systems. We don’t hear anything about how Jezebel came to be taken as wife to a King, but let’s assume that it may not have been entirely of her own free will, as marriage has often been used as a political tool.
If you were taken away — away from your family, your friends, the familiar rules you learned to live by, how would it be? Could you give up faith as well? Conversion is hard enough when it’s entered into willingly, how can it ever be forced?
Then we have Jezebel’s actions to help her husband gain wealth and power. They go against the cultural and religious norms of her time, but they aren’t anything that could be seen as deceitful to her family. In fact, they strike me very much as a wife wielding what power she has for love of her husband.
So I read this and I think, how do we get from here to there? I know, of course, the story is not over. But I can’t help but think as I read this that Jezebel, contrary to the image that has been built up of her, must have indeed been a woman of incredible strength and courage.