They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Jezebel: a Name, a Woman, a Spirit

The time is 874 B.C. and the place is in the Northern Kingdom, also called Israel.  Ahab is king.  The Bible writer describes him this way:  “Ahab, son of Omri, did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.  He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.”  — I Kings 16:29-31

Jezebel is not and was not the only woman who has had sway and control over her man, but her influence had devastating consequences, not only for Ahab and his household, but for the whole nation of Israel (Deuteronomy. 7:3-4). This marriage sealed a political alliance between Israel and Phoenicia. However, it did much, much more. Let’s look at what Jezebel brought to the marriage. We know from Scripture that she brought at least 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (I Kings 18:19). Baal was a fertility deity and was worshiped in various ways. Asherah was Baal’s cohort, his mother and also his mistress. Their worshipers engaged in immoral sex a “sympathetic magic” believing that they would have children, good crops and livestock-material wealth. To add to this, in dire circumstances in order to appease Baal, the worshipers would offer their own child as a sacrifice by placing the child into the arms of Baal which was a fiery furnace (II Chronicles 28:1-4). It was not enough that Ahab fell in the sin of Jeroboam and worshiped the golden calves at Dan, but now he fell into the worship of Baal. Baal worship was made front and center in the lives of God’s people. It became an acceptable practice.

What else do we know about Jezebel? This lovely Sidonian princess made it her goal to kill the Lord’s prophets in the land of Israel. Even Elijah fled in fear of his life. Her purpose? Jezebel wanted complete control. If she could silence God’s voice in the land she would maintain power and her agenda could advance. Ahab went along with it; he allowed it to happen. Jezebel manipulated the system to work in her favor. In other words, she lied, plotted, bullied and even murdered to get what she wanted (I Kings 21:23-24). Her story, however, does not end well for her. Elijah’s prophecy (I Kings 21:23-24) came true. She died a gruesome death as did all of her children.

Interestingly, the name “Jezebel” is mentioned in another place in Scripture. In the letter to the church at Thyatira (Revelation 2), God praises the people for their love, faith, service and perseverance, but he had this against them – “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the food sacrificed to idols. (Revelation 2:20)” Scripture also says that she will be cast on a “bed of suffering” because she was unwilling to repent. And in v.23, “I will strike her children dead.” I don’t think it is a coincidence that John, inspired by God, brings another “Jezebel” to our attention. God’s people knew Scripture and would have made the connection.

It is likely that the “Jezebel” of Thyatira was a member of a trade guild. Potters, dyers, tanners, bakers, metal workers, textile-makers, bronze-smiths, slave-traders, leather-workers, etc. formed guilds in order to advance their trade. Thyatira was known for its trade guilds. Membership was compulsory. Refusal to join made it extremely difficult for the workers to make a living. It was the politically correct thing to do. Each guild was under the patronage of a pagan deity. The meeting place was often dedicated to this deity and was regarded as a sacred place. Feasts dedicated to their deity were well attended. Yes, they ate meat that had been sacrificed to these idols. These feasts, more often than not, turned into an orgy; drunkenness, perverted sexual activity with cult prostitutes, secret rituals, etc. Did the Jezebel of Thyatira take part in the idolatrous feasts that was required by her guild? What stands out in my mind in these Revelation 2 passages is the word “tolerate.” It is obvious that the citizens of Thyatira and the “church” allowed her to bring false teaching into the body of believers. They stood by and did nothing.

I have often wondered if there was an actual woman named Jezebel who lived in Thyatira, or if she was a personification that represented pure evil. Either way, this person was very prominent and persuasive in Thyatira and the church was being misled by her teaching. It appears that they tolerated her and allowed her to have her way in the church. She enticed them with her “so-called” deep secrets of Satan. The warning to the church is loud and clear.

I would like to conclude by looking again in the Book of Kings at the time of King Ahab and Jezebel. During King Ahab’s reign God anointed a man to be king over Israel. His name was Jehu. He was of no relation to Ahab and because of this was an unlikely candidate to reign as King. His mission was to rid Israel of King Ahab’s household and end the dynasty – to avenge the blood of God’s servants shed by Jezebel (II Kings 9). Jehu’s story is not a pretty one. He was no diplomat. He was not nice and he didn’t seem to care who he offended or hurt. Nevertheless, he had God’s anointing for this time in history. At God’s command, he killed King Joram, son of Ahab, then Jezebel, followed by seventy sons of Ahab-just as Elijah prophesied (II Kings 10:1).

Is there something in this story that is relevant for today? Are there parallels for our culture in 2020? I would argue that there is. What is the church’s role? Are there Jezebels today (male or female) who are doing everything in their power and using these same techniques to control? My question, “Are we tolerating the things of this world?” Are we being trained in a politically correct world to be silent? One thing for sure, God is serious about His Word. “He who has ears let him hear.”