Our biggest sale! 50% off your PLUS subscription. Use code SUMMER

Who Was Jezebel in the Bible, and How Bad Was She?

Queen Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon, and the wife of Ahab, king of Israel. Jezebel promoted the worship of false gods in Israel, harassed and killed God’s prophets, and arranged for an innocent man to be falsely charged and executed.

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Updated Dec 05, 2023
Who Was Jezebel in the Bible, and How Bad Was She?

When people hear the name "Jezebel," they often associate it with a figure from the Bible who is notorious for her wickedness and defiance of God. In the Old Testament, Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon, and the wife of Ahab, king of Israel. Jezebel promoted the worship of false gods in Israel, harassed and killed God’s prophets, and arranged for an innocent man to be falsely charged and executed.

Jezebel's name has come to symbolize traits such as wickedness, manipulation, and seduction, making it a symbol of female treachery and evil in popular culture. Her story serves as a cautionary tale in religious and moral contexts, illustrating the consequences of disobedience and idolatry in the biblical narrative. Before we take a look at the details of her story in the Bible, here is a quick overview:

Who was Jezebel in the Bible?

Jezebel is often depicted negatively in the Bible. Here is a summary of several factors that contribute to her negative reputation:

  1. Her Promotion of Idolatry: Jezebel was a fervent promoter of the worship of the Phoenician god Baal and the goddess Asherah. She actively sought to introduce these pagan deities into Israel, leading to widespread idolatry and turning people away from the worship of the God of Israel (Yahweh).

  2. Her Persecution of Prophets: Jezebel is infamous for her role in persecuting the prophets of Yahweh. She ordered the execution of many prophets and sought to silence those who opposed her promotion of Baal worship. One of the most well-known instances is her pursuit of the prophet Elijah, who challenged the prophets of Baal in a famous showdown on Mount Carmel.

  3. Her Manipulation and Control: Jezebel is often depicted as a manipulative and controlling figure who influenced her husband, King Ahab, to engage in unrighteous and unjust actions. Her influence over Ahab contributed to the deterioration of moral and spiritual values in Israel.

  4. Her Jealousy and Murder: In one of the most notorious episodes associated with Jezebel, she orchestrated the false accusation and execution of Naboth, a vineyard owner, in order to seize his property for her husband. This act of covetousness and murder illustrates her ruthlessness.

  5. Her Final Judgment and Death: Jezebel met a grisly end, as prophesied by Elijah. She was thrown from a window, trampled by horses, and eaten by dogs, fulfilling the divine judgment pronounced upon her for her wickedness.

"But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols." (Revelation 2:20)

Jezebel and King Ahab

King Ahab, who “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any [king of Israel] before him” (1 Kings 16:30), married Jezebel, making her the queen of Israel. We learn in 1 Kings 16:31 that Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, who was king of the Sidonians (or Phoenicians).

Before becoming king, Ethbaal was noted to have been a priest of Astarte, which was the Greek form of the moon goddess Ashtoreth. Astarte is what the Phoenicians called her. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Ashtoreth was “frequently associated with the name of Baal, the sun-god, [the Phoenicians’] chief male deity.”

Jezebel’s father, Ethbaal, was politically connected to King Ahab in Israel, which could explain the marriage between the two. This influence led to the promotion of false gods among the people of Israel.

As detailed in 1 Kings 16:31-32, Jezebel persuaded her husband to promote the worship of deities Baal and Asherah among the people of Israel. During this era of kingdoms, it was common for the king to establish worship facilities for foreign wives. In this case, Jezebel required the installation of a temple and an altar for Baal, which was built in Samaria. Since she was a Phoenician, Jezebel more than likely had a role that was more active than what was normal in Hebrew rule. Jezebel's commanding personality quickly led her to establish control over her husband and thus lead Israel away from God and toward idolatry.

During Ahab’s reign in Israel, the people were deeply divided into either worshiping and serving Baal or the Lord. Animosities were so heightened that Jezebel ordered the death of the Lord’s prophets while she fully supported the prophets of Baal and Asherah.

Jezebel vs Elijah

Jezebel's greatest enemy was the prophet Elijah, who refused to worship Baal. Elijah pronounced the punishment of God upon Israel in the form of a drought that lasted three years (James 5:17 A confrontation ensued between Elijah and King Ahab, which resulted in a gathering of all the prophets at Mount Caramel. At the gathering, Elijah proclaimed himself to be the only remaining prophet of the Lord following the execution of the others. The prophets of Baal numbered 450.

Elijah requested two bulls, one for himself and one for the Baal prophets. The bulls were to be cut into pieces and laid on wood as an altar without the usage of fire. Elijah requested the prophets call upon Baal to provide the fire, and he would call upon the Lord.

The prophets of Baal called upon their god for hours without any type of response. This silence distressed them. “So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom until their blood flowed” (1 Kings 18:28).

When it was Elijah’s turn, he cut up the bull and laid it upon the wood without any assistance of fire. Then he added 12 stones to the altar to represent the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob and dug a deep trench around the altar. He then called for the crowd to pour four barrels of water onto the sacrifice and wood. He instructed this to be done at least three times, causing water to surround the altar and fill the trench.

Elijah summoned the Lord and petitioned, “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:36-37). Immediately, “the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18:38). When the people witnessed the validity of the Lord, they fell on their faces and proclaimed, “he is the God: the Lord, he is the God” (1 Kings 18:39). Elijah then ordered the killing of all Baal prophets.

When Ahab told Jezebel what happened, she was so filled with anger and vengeance that she vowed to kill Elijah. Knowing Queen Jezebel’s rage and imminent desire for vengeance, Elijah fled to the wilderness under a juniper tree.

Who Is Naboth and Why Does Jezebel Kill Him?

Jezebel was still on a war path to display just how evil and wicked she truly was. In 1 Kings 21, we see how Jezebel organized the death of Naboth.

Naboth, a man who feared God and wanted to honor Him, owned a vineyard near the palace of King Ahab. Ahab demanded Naboth give him the vineyard for the purpose of an herb garden. He offered to improve the profitability of the vineyard from its current state or pay him for the vineyard. Naboth denied this request because “[t]he Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors” (1 Kings 21:3). Ahab was “sullen and angry” (1 Kings 21:4) and went home to sulk in bed. When Jezebel saw him, she mocked his powerlessness and told him she would cheer him up by handling it herself. 

Jezebel concocted a scheme to get the vineyard. She forged letters under Ahab’s name and seal requesting a fast. Additionally, the letters ordered Naboth to be charged with blasphemy against God, which would be supported by the false testimony of two scoundrels. The orders further demanded that Naboth be stoned to death. Jezebel’s plan was successfully carried out exactly as planned, and Naboth was executed.

As soon as Ahab got word of Naboth’s death, he went to take possession of the vineyard. As the Lord instructed the prophet, Elijah came out of the wilderness to meet Ahab at the vineyard and confronted him about Jezebel’s conspiracy against Naboth as well as Ahab’s sinful actions that were causing Israel to sin.

For Jezebel’s guilt in the matter, the Lord proclaimed, “[t]he dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel” (1 Kings 21:23). The Lord cast much of the blame on Jezebel by explaining, “[t]here was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife” (1 Kings 21:25). When Ahab “heard these words,” he realized his guilt in the conspiracy and “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went around meekly” (1 Kings 21:27).

In His great mercy, the Lord came to Elijah and said He would not bring evil upon Ahab in his life because he humbled himself, but judgment would pass onto his son’s days. Ahab lived another three years before dying in the ensuing battle between Syria and Israel. His son Ahaziah took over the throne but died soon thereafter and was succeeded by Joram.

How Did Jezebel Die?

The prophet Elisha, successor to Elijah, sent orders to Jehu, a commander in Joram’s army, to eliminate all of Ahab’s descendants.

Jehu killed Joram, then proceeded to Jezreel, where Queen Jezebel was, as she was his next obstacle for his promotion to the king. In 2 Kings 9:30, we learn, “When Jezebel heard about it, she put on eye makeup, arranged her hair and looked out of a window.”  The adornments were not to entice Jehu but to reflect her majesty, pride, and haughty spirit. Jehu looked up to the window and asked, “[w]ho is on my side? Who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. ‘Throw her down!’ Jehu said.” (2 Kings 9:32-33). 

The eunuchs were used as servants to women of royalty. Jezebel was likely very cruel to them and, therefore, did not earn any favor among them.  Then the eunuchs threw Jezebel out of the window, and her body was trampled by horses and consumed by dogs, just as Elijah had prophecized. 

Ironically, Jezebel's pride, selfishness, and greed ultimately led to her demise and death. She used her attraction and affection to gain a place in the government and was able to use her influence to spread the worship of Baal among the people of Israel. However, her pride and spirit to enact vengeance led to her death when her family's judgment was brought to fruition, as promised by the Lord.

FAQs About Jezebel

What was Jezebel's sin?

Idolatry was Jezebel's most woeful sin. She would fatten the prophets of Baal and Asherah, thus vexing God and provoking His wrath.

What did Jezebel say to Elijah?

1 Kings 19:1-2 - "Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

What does the name Jezebel mean?

The name Jezebel is a girl's name meaning “unexalted” and is of Hebrew origin. There may be two women named Jezebel in the Bible. The famous Jezebel is the notorious wife of Ahab, king of Israel in the Old Testament. (1 Kings 16:31). Source: All Things Baby Names

Chad is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his golf devotion par3sixteen.com. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.

Photo Credit: © GettyImages/Peshkova

This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity:

How Did the Apostle Paul Die?
Who are the Nicolaitans in Revelation?
Who Was Deborah in the Bible?
Who Was Moses in the Bible?

King Solomon's Story in the Bible
Who Was Lot's Wife in the Bible?
Who Was Jezebel in the Bible?
Who Was the Prodigal Son?


Christianity / Life / People / Who Was Jezebel in the Bible, and How Bad Was She?