Jezebel – Part 2

Plotting on behalf of her husband

Jezebel and Ahab confronted by Elijah.
Public domain

In part 1 we saw how Jezebel might have behaved differently and salvaged her reputation and her husband’s. As it is, Jezebel (Isabel) and her husband King Ahab are etched in the collective consciousness as two cruel people.

In the book of 1 Kings chapter 21:1-16 we read the story of Ahab king of Israel, coveting Naboth’s vineyard. Naboth refuses to sell the property he inherited from his forefathers, and Ahab returns to his house in great anger. At this point Queen Jezebel enters the picture and the plot begins to take on a criminal “hue.”

After all, according to what we read in the chapter on Jezebel, she is the main initiator of the murder of Naboth. Ahab did not plan to kill Naboth, even though he was totally disappointed and angry. It is true that Ahab is not innocent and should have gotten involved to find out how it was that Naboth mysteriously died and left Ahab the vineyard he so longed for.

The prophet Elijah confronts and rebukes Ahab, “Have you both murdered and inherited?!” (verse 19) exposing the conspiracy and pronouncing punishments.

It takes detective work to understand the chapter, the intensity of God’s anger, Elijah’s accusations, and the heavy punishment they both received – especially Ahab.

Who is more to blame – Ahab or Jezebel? And what is engraved in our collective impression of this royal couple? Just like with the police cases, so between the pages of the Bible there are criminal cases that have been closed but not completely resolved.

Ahab’s ignorance regarding the murder of Naboth is deliberate and planned by Jezebel to remove him from formal responsibility for the murder. Plausible deniability we call it today. Eventually, Ahab becomes aware of the murder, and yet descends to inherit the vineyard without taking responsibility for the act.

 

Dodge and disappear

Ahab stays silent when it is convenient, and reappears when the scene is clear. This is an attempt to gain the fruits of crime without soiling the hands by actual doing the deed. It is an evasion of responsibility and punishment, that may succeed in relation to human beings who can judge only by appearances. But it will not succeed in the true account between man and God, who sees inside us.

Men are known for systematic and age-old attempts to evade responsibility. This experience is passed down from father to son. The first man evaded responsibility and blamed Eve. The woman also rolled the responsibility onto the snake. No wonder their son Cain shamelessly claimed after murdering his brother that he did not know what happened: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God was not impressed by Ahab’s silence and punished him severely: His seed was to die out.

Let’s expand the analysis of the story and Jezebel’s role. Naboth is a vineyard owner, in our terms an agro-businessman, whereas the king sits in a palace of abundance and splendor.

First, there is the conversation between Ahab and Naboth. Ahab asks for the vineyard, so that he may have a “garden” close to his house, and in exchange offers Naboth a better vineyard and even money.

Naboth’s undiplomatic answer to the king: “God forbid that I should pass on to you the inheritance of my fathers!”

Ahab is offended and he responds with a kind of hunger strike.

This response actually reflects a surprisingly high moral standard of the Israeli monarchy which does not allow the king to use “carte blanche” power of the “arm” to get whatever he wants.

In upcoming part 3, we will see how foreign born Jezebel tries to manipulate the rules of the Torah and fight in a “man’s world.”