This is more of the lengthy teaching blog series on Judah, Jehu and Jezebel. These next 3 blogs will breakdown Jezebels effect on israel and subsequently the symbolism we can apply today as result of our sexual brokenness. Aside from telling me it's too long, please leave your comments below after each of the blogs. I'd like to hear your thoughts!
Jezebel, Part I
Jezebel, Jezebel, Jezebel…what can we say about Jezebel? (Almost sounds like Roger Rabbit saying, Jessica, Jessica, Jessica...and we aren’t too far off from Jessica’s reputation - “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”).
Well to start, she wasn’t exactly the kind of girl that I would hope my son would bring home to me. You know like Super Freak? So let’s take a look at Jezebel’s personal life. Who was she? In what type of environment was she raised? So, as with all fun Bible lessons, let’s start with searching the Hebrew language and breaking down her name.
Back in Bible times, names were extremely important and could even determine your destiny, which is why God would sometimes change a name to reflect His call upon their life, i.e. Abram, (father of many) to Abraham, (father of many nations) meaning his role increased as God was going to use him not just to be a leader of a family but of a nation and nations, which would be an offshoot of Abraham’s offspring or vice versa Saul (asked for, prayed for) to Paul, (small or humble) because God was going to demolish the pride of a so called “Pharisee of Pharisees” in order for Paul to go from torturing and killing Christians, to aligning himself with them; powerfully promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ and the coming Kingdom of God. Or sometimes God would tell people what to name their children. John the Baptist and Jesus received their names that way.
Jezebel simply means “where is the prince?” a common phrase used in the worship of the god Ba’al, which means “lord, owner, master.” When the farmers would see their vegetation die, it was understood that Ba’al must be in the underworld. (Perhaps that was his winter retreat? I hear Hell is wonderful when it snows.) When warmer weather was approaching, the people would ask, “Where is the prince?” As in, “Is he coming back? Will we have a harvest?” It was a hopeful cry trusting that Ba’al would return and bring the rain and abundance.
Jezebel’s name could also mean, “Not Exalted” - which could have its own implications seeing that Jezebel apparently spent her life working to exalt herself; which we will see later in this blog. Jezebel’s father was named Ethba’al which means “toward the idol” or “with Ba’al or man of Ba’al.” Ethba’al was a priest of Ba’al as well as Asherah (whom we shall discuss shortly). Eventually, after killing Phelles, the existing king of Tyre, Ethba’al became the new king of Tyre, expanding his realm to the region of Sidon and over all the Phoenician people - even to include the island nation we know as Cyprus. So Jezebel, as “fate” would have, was born into a nation whose very foundation was Ba’al and to an apparently power hungry father. So, since we’ve brought up this Ba’al character, who is he?
Well you and I know him by a different name, Satan. One of the many incarnations of gods throughout the ages that Satan formulated in people’s heads to entice them away from YHWH or JHVH, the God of all creation, the one true and living God. Ba’al was mainly known as a fertility god, especially as it related to abundant harvests and the blessing of rain.
The Canaanite land to which God was bringing Israel, otherwise known as the Promised Land, was chock full of Ba’al worshippers. Over time the pagan belief systems influenced these distant cousins of Israel. They came to believe that Ba’al was the god who brought rain to the fields each year to assure a good crop and fertile soil. God told Israel that upon entering the Promised Land, they would encounter worshippers of foreign gods. God gave explicit instructions to the children of Israel that they were not to accept these belief systems but to stay true to Him. God also told them that they were going to need to fight the various nations still living there in order to possess the land. In Judges 3:1 we read, “These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan” (He did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience). One reason I believe that Israel needed to battle these nations is because Israel became soft, entitled, if you will, during their wilderness experience. Even though it was a tough experience, they had adapted over the course of 40 years farming and herding and, along with God caring for them by providing food and water and fighting their battles for them, the up and coming younger generation of Israelites did not fully understand what it was like to truly have to fight for something meaningful, something that was officially theirs. They needed to learn to truly value something and hold on to it for dear life - especially now that the generation that had been freed from Egypt was dying off. These people understood what it was like to truly live everyday crying out for God to deliver them from their slavery and bondage in Egypt. So, God left some nations in Israel that would most certainly war against them in order to hold to their land, but in doing so would actually train Israel to defend their inheritance. Learn by doing. Trial by fire. This tangible example has spiritual implications as well. God is consistently working in our lives to bring us through difficult life experiences to teach us how to fix or eyes on the prize of our inheritance in Him. Sometimes we let it slip through our hands and other times we hold on for dear life believing His goodness and promises for our lives.
This was an amazing gift of God to Israel after bringing them out of 400 years of bondage in Egypt and 40 years of wilderness living - a land flowing with milk and honey, fertile soil and lush green pastures. It was meant for Israel to hold onto it with all their might and not let it go for something pretty and shiny - or to deny Him after they got the good land. After all, when the 12 men returned from spying on Canaan shortly after being delivered out of Egypt, they brought back grapes the size of their heads! That’s got to be some seriously fertile soil and peak growing conditions! They could’ve taken Jericho that week simply trusting God but they delayed the conquest for 40 years because 10 of the 12 spies said they felt like they were “grasshoppers” compared to the size of the nations they were going to have to fight. All that being said, when Israel finally assumed their rightful inheritance and entered the land, warring as they went, God once again emphasized that they were not to associate themselves with these other nations or their pagan gods. Not too much time had gone by since God had given to Israel, through Moses, a list of laws - the Torah as some call it - the law of God. This list of 613 laws, including the 10 Commandments, took into consideration many of the religious behaviors of pagan worshippers that surrounded them in other nations. In fact, He pretty much kicked off the whole list of laws with this command, “You shall have no other God but me.” And then came the secondary laws where they were told to avoid all aspects of pagan lifestyles and not to accept pagan religious beliefs. Well, that lasted about a hot second.
Israel started to hang out with these distant cousins, learn their ways, and wouldn’t you know it, they sorta forgot what God had told them about staying true to Him alone and not letting anything interfere with their worship of Him alone. I mean, they were supposed to obliterate the enemy and take hold of the land! They had one job. (Well maybe 2). But, because the Canaanites experienced such plentiful harvests and seemingly had the best of everything AND THE FACT that they attributed it to Ba’al, well you can’t blame them for becoming a little curious now can you? (The answer is yes. Yes, you can blame them) Maybe there ARE other gods? I mean YHWH is cool and all, but man we had to really rough it out there in the wilderness sometimes and wait on His timing to do His thing for us.” Maybe this Ba’al dude is just super hard working and really wants to bless his people here.” That might have been some of their thought processes. Satan seems to always do that stuff, regardless of the reality of the situation, he always has this tendency to make people want it now and then he ends up giving those people what they want when they want it and not build in them the character of patience that leads to humility and trust as God does with those who follow Him. (Selah)
The goodness with which God wanted to bless Israel was such a special gift from Him and they took it and instead, started to attribute much of it to Ba’al. That was a first step over the edge of an incredibly gargantuan chasm. Intermingling and accepting what they thought to be true. It goes to show you how strong relationships can be. They can either create a movement for God or fragment your faith. You are who you hang with.
Ok, one more foundational note and then we’ll speed up the clock here. So according to the religion, Ba’al was believed to be the son of El. El had a mistress named Asherah (sometimes known as Ashtoreth, Astarte, Ishtar). And ohhhh wasn’t she a peach? Ba’al was actually the love child of El and Asherah. But then as El kind of faded out of the picture for whatever reason, Ba’al and his mother became….um….shall we say….close? Ewwww. If you’ll recall, one of the 613 laws stated that a man was not to have any sexual relations with his dad’s woman. This is why, right here folks! Mirroring in their worship, who and what their god was, led the pagans to live highly perverted and sexualized lives. Whether serving Ba’al for his fertility powers in the earth OR worshipping his dear old mother, Asherah, for the fertility of women, they had some pretty crazy sex rituals. Often times these rituals would take place around wooden poles, cut from trees, with carvings of naked women on them to represent Asherah. (Psalm 115:4-8) Oftentimes, these poles overemphasized the breast which was meant to represent life giving power. Incidentally, the god that supposedly blessed women with fertility is the same pagan god that would require a child sacrifice as well. Sound familiar? <<cough cough>> abortion <<cough cough>>.
So we'll stop here and let it sink in. Take a breather and read on when you can. I know in a world of headline news and 15 second sound bytes, no one actually takes the time to develop the "WHY" of a story anymore. So take your time. This is great bathroom reading especially for those who take a little longer than most humans. :)