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Jezebel

Jezebel: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis count Jezebel among the four women who ruled in the world, two of whom were enthroned in Israel (Jezebel and Athaliah), and two who reigned over other peoples (the heathen Semiramis and Vashti) (Esther Rabbah 3:2). Jezebel is portrayed as a wicked woman (Sifrei on Numbers, 133), who represents the negative influence of Gentile women who turned Israel’s heart to idolatry; an evil woman who causes the king of Israel to stray from the ways of the Lord (Sifrei on Deuteronomy 159). Nevertheless, the Rabbis also indicate a favorable aspect of her character.

Jezebel: Bible

Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Phoenician city-state of Tyre, and wife of Ahab, king of Israel (1 Kgs 16:31), in the mid-ninth century b.c.e. She was undoubtedly the chief wife of Ahab and co-ruler with him.

Leadership and Authority

All early biblical leaders of the Jewish people were elected by God. The matriarchs and patriarchs, priests, prophets, kings, judges and warriors were chosen by divine plan to lead the nation at different points in its history. The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] offers us glimpses into the relationships between Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, Rachel, Leah and Jacob, based on the principle that ma’aseh avot siman le-banim (the deeds of the ancestors serve as a model for the descendents). Beyond the biblical text, the influence of matriarchal faith and insight is conveyed in the midrashic literature which expands the role of wife, helper and mother to include prophetess, teacher and visionary. Yet it is clear from the biblical narrative that females did not serve in the broader leadership roles filled by males.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jezebel." (Viewed on October 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/taxonomy/term/10888>.

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