In the collection of Scriptural writings, there are few names that spark more controversy than the name Jezebel. In Christendom, the name alone has becomes synonymous with seduction and temptation. Modern Pharisees throw the name on everything from celebrities, other pastors and even congregation members who may ask questions. It seems the easiest solution to a difficult situation, is to find a Jezebel, and then the people will no longer ask questions.
Let’s examine what Jezebel did, and then we’ll examine if we can separate truth from fiction. Her story is found 1 and 2 Kings, where she was married to the King of Israel, and, using her great influence upon the King, she lead the nation into Baal Worship, that encouraged sexual immorality among the people (1 King 16:32). While she herself did not issue such a command, she used the influence of the King to bring about her desires.
Now, there are two other points of note that we see in her life. One: she is obsessed with expanding her influence and controlling others, especially in their spirituality. Further, she sought to silence and stamp out the Prophets of God and as such she commanded them to be killed (1 Kings 18:4). Even after the defeat of the Prophets of Baal by a miraculous display of power by Elijah, she refused to recant her position and set out to kill Elijah. Her stubborn refusal to see and submit to what God has done, would lead to her hideous end (2 Kings 9:29-37).
The second point is how Jezebel deals with the man Naboth, who refused to sell Ahab land adjoining the palace, as it was forbidden by the Law to sell his inheritance (Leviticus 25:23). Jezebel, not wanting an opportunity to slip by, set out to belittle the king, then proceeded to write a letter in the name of King Ahab (1 Kings 21:9), to frame Naboth and have him killed (1 Kings 21:9-16), so the king could possess the land. From the account, we can see very plainly what characteristics define Jezebel. It has nothing to do with doctrine or teaching, and everything to do with power and control.
Firstly, Jezebel is never the one to use her name to something, but instead prefers to influence others to do what she wants. She has no problem using other names to issue instructions as she did in the case of the letter concerning Naboth. This will insulate and protect her from any back-lash. If things go well, she can get credit, but if things go badly, she’s far enough to be set apart from the situation and the people she uses can deal with the consequences. We saw this when the people raised up to kill the Prophet of Baal, we don’t see them going after her at that time.
Second, we see that Jezebel had a place of great influence over the people. In the symbolism of the book of Revelations, it describes the nature of her character by saying she calls herself a Prophet (Revelations 2:20), as one who speaks for God. She wants to be the voice of God for the people, and uses her self-given authority as an excuse to interfere in the lives of others. We saw this as she inserted herself in the issue between Ahab and Naboth, uninvited as she was, to deal with the matter as she saw fit, to the benefit of her husband.
Thirdly, she was obsessed with expanding her influence, by any means necessary. She went so far as to destroy any voices that opposed her selfish ambitions. She had no problem with having people killed to serve her own purposes and to silence any opposition. She is most vocal against opposition, as she labeled the prophets of God, false teachers and heretics, worthy of death, all while maintaining that she has the right to do so because of her position. Her accusations have little basis in reality, or in what God’s prophets actually said, but instead are purely self-serving to keep the people from hearing them.
Fourth, She is blind to what God is doing and driven by pride. Even after the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, where God clearly demonstrated the truth of who He is, she refused to acknowledge it, and instead sought out all the more to destroy Elijah. Jezebel is not interested in truth, she is interested in her self-given vision that she claims comes from god. There is nothing that will change her mind, not even God.
On a final point, while it is true that Jezebel taught the children of Israel to go after Baal, the teachings of Baal existed long before Jezebel married King Ahab. The Baal teachings didn’t have great influence in Israel, until Jezebel applied her influence on the King. I say this to make the point, that what makes Jezebel what she is, is not the fact that she taught Baal worship, instead it was the ruthlessness and extent of her influence over the king and the people of Israel that caused them to follow after it; that was what was dangerous.
Based on what the Scriptures have taught, we can understand clearly what was the character of Jezebel, and the means by which her character gets mention in the Book of Revelation. The character of Jezebel, much to the dismay of the modern day Pharisee, is not someone who questions spiritual authority, or has a different interpretation of Scripture. On the contrary, asking questions and challenging authority is exactly what we use to identity someone with a Jezebel character. Questioning things is what Paul commended the Bareans for doing, because they did not just take Paul’s preaching as true just because he said it, but instead checked for themselves (Acts 17:10-11).
In similar fashion we too, are commanded to try the Spirits (1 John 4:1), to determine the heart of the speaker. By it’s very nature, trying and testing the spirits implies asking questions and challenging things to see where someone is coming from, either the heart of the person, or from the Scriptures. If by doing so, you get the reaction as described above, then you have identified someone with the Character of Jezebel.
An insightful video about how manipulation can be done in a church.