blah-ze my assignment, for ancient history.
i thought someone, somewhere, might like it. pull me up on any problems you see.

Part 1
Why did Jezebel marry Ahab?

Jezebel was the Phoenician wife to Ahab, King of Israel, who ruled from 869-850 BC. That she was the wife of the Israelite king puts her persecution into a new perspective, and raises the questions of how and why she became queen. If we look at Jezebel's marriage on a different level-at a social, political, and cultural level, the reasons for her position and subsequent harassment become much clearer.

The infamous Jezebel, Queen of Israel, is remembered as an evil woman, a tyrant and a heretic who spread false teachings and was a ruthless and manipulative wife to the king. This comes from our major source of information, the bible, which is a highly biased source towards the Jewish religious and cultural beliefs at that time, and especially biased against Ahab and Jezebel. Once we understand this, we can see that despite later society damning this union, the marriage was deliberately brought together as a way of sealing or strengthening an important military and trade alliance between the Phoenician king Ethbaal, who ruled over the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. This in itself was not unusual, even in the conservative Israelite society. Many men had 'pagan' Canaanite wives or concubines, and while foreign and coming from a separate culture were brought under the strict patriarchal society of the Israelites. An example of this in a political context was Solomon, a former king to both Judah and Israel, had solidified a situation of peace by strengthening diplomatic ties and creating alliances with other countries through diplomatic marriages. He eventually ended up with a harem of seven hundred wives, one of whom was the daughter of the king of Egypt, and three hundred concubines. At this time there was as later an alliance with Tyre, and we know that Solomon had wives from Phoenicia, among other countries, in a similar situation to Jezebel.

"Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter…"

After the death of Solomon the country of Israel was split by civil war into northern Israel and southern Judah. After a period of time, Omri came to power in Israel. He sought to remake alliances, especially Israel was under pressure from both the eastern threat of Assyria and also from the Arameans. This made a diplomatic alliance between the two states a very worthy-even vital-proposition. It shouldn't be thought that Ahab entered the marriage because he was forced, we know from the Book of Kings making an attack on him that he must have been in agreement.

"Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him…he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians…"

Jezebel's marriage, therefore, was not a particularly exceptional or out-of-order event in consideration of the advantages it brought with it. It was Omri who first wanted to consolidate the friendly relations that he had with Tyre and had existed since the time of Hirim I, back in David and Solomon's time, around 980 BC. The fact that the consolidation of the diplomatic ties in this case meant that Omri had to weather criticism from the radical aspects of the Yahweh religion in the prophets could have been seen as a necessary evil, given the context and the threats surrounding Israel. Omri, and later Ahab, who took a similar line of rulership to his father, are painted as evil primarily for the marriage, though there were other reasons. The marriage, to be seen in a fair light, has to be regarded as primarily a diplomatic stand aimed at sealing an alliance and not an effort to quell the criticism that it attracted from the prophets. This is especially easy to see in the case of the Book of Kings as it focuses primarily on the negative aspects. Especially it glosses over the beneficial reasons behind the marriage, which included giving Omri an advantage in Syro-Palestinian commercial affairs, and also gave Israel a guaranteed source of much needed resources, and allowing Israel to trade much more freely with Tyre.

It can also be suggested that a reason Ethbaal was so willing to marry off his daughter was as a means of extending his religious worship of the Phoenician gods into other areas. This is backed up by both his and Jezebel's background-the very name of Ethbaal means 'man of Ba'al' and he was certainly a high priest to Asherah, a female god, and Jezebel's mother is known to have been a priestess of Asherah as well. Certainly later into the marriage Jezebel was successful at propagating her pagan religion among the Israelites, though it is difficult to say if this was a reason for Ethbaal to agree to the marriage. It would definitely make sense for a religious man to want to spread his religion along with his political influence to other countries. Given also that the prophets make much of Ahab not giving much dedicated attention to religion-a sin in their view-a religious man such as Ethbaal could have seen an opportunity to spread his faith abroad. Jezebel did manage to set up religious collages in Israel, creating a following to her pagan gods, even swaying the faith of Ahab. Omri at the time must have known about this, and prepared for her arrival.

In conclusion, the marriage of Jezebel and Ahab was forged for diplomatic reasons, to strengthen links between the kingdom of Israel, and the Phoenician city-states of Sidon and Tyre. A marriage between an Israelite man and a foreign woman was not unusual, especially when the offspring of kings were used as pawns, as in this case, as a means to project political power through alliances into other areas, and also to benefit from increased military and trade security inside the region.

Part Two
With reference to sources, explain Jezebel's promotion of Ba'al worship.

Jezebel was the Queen of Israel, however she was not born in Israel, nor did she share the religious beliefs or cultural traditions of its people. She was from Phoenicia, a 'big city' place with a very different religion, and the attitudes and traditions that were present in Israel were not possessed by Jezebel. Instead, Jezebel had independence, which clashed with the strictly patriarchal system of the Israelis, a strong loyalty to her religion, and a domineering personality, which allowed her other traits to manifest themselves in the form of her introduction of the Phoenician system of belief into the Israelite society, and her conflict with the prophets.

Jezebel was not an Israelite woman, and after her marriage to the king of Israel was not about to change her attitudes to those which reflected her new home. She was a member of Phoenician royalty, the son of Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon, and had her own ideas and ideals as to what she should worship. This is shown clearly in our source of the Book of Kings with her husband, Ahab, King of Israel, building a temple to the foreign god Baal:

"…and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole…"

At this point it may be timely to point out that other kings, most notably Solomon, had taken wives from foreign countries, some of which formed political alliances as well, and that these wives had and practised other religions. By the time of Jezebel and Ahab the Israelites had seen foreign gods and their effects, and were in a way jaded against other religions. It is pointed out in the Book of Kings that these foreign gods begin to take a hold over Solomon, though it is possible that he worshipped these gods as a way of keeping his many, many wives in check.

"…and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart ws not fully devoted to the Lord his God…He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites..."

For the royal wives from these foreign countries their religion would have been more important than if had just been a simple way of belief. In many countries, just as it was in Israel and Phoenicia, the rulers of the country, especially if they were descended from a great ruler, were intrinsically and closely linked with the worship of the gods of that region. The king and his family was seen to be closer to the god than other normal people would have been, as he would have prayed for guidance and offered sacrifices to the god or gods. It was seen that the deity favoured that one in control, giving him godly qualities such as wisdom and strength to rule. We see this in the Israelite kings, on an occasion when Solomon makes a judgement:

"When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given…they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice."

The power of the Phoenician king, similarly, came from not just his civic leadership, but also from his role as a priest, which would have given him supposedly divine powers or the like. We are also told by Josephus that Jezebel's father Ethbaal was 'a priest of Astarte', and this duty or the implicated aspect of spreading the religion afield would have been passed on down from father to daughter. In this way, Jezebel's promotion of the Baal worship would have been seen as an opportunity to advance the religion-and in a way the power of the Phoenicians-further afield. We can see evidence of this advancement in the way that the Phoenician gods were spread throughout the Mediterranean region and became taken up and adapted by many other cultures. It is possible that this would have become the same in Israel if it were not for the stoic worship of Yahweh by the people and the prophets that prevented them from following the gods that their king followed. This is evidenced by the way Solomon was opposed when it became apparent that he was worshipping the foreign gods of his wives. In essence, the royal family of Ethbaal saw their duty to spread their religion afield as a duty, especially when surrounded by followers of another religion.

Another reason that Jezebel promoted the worship of Baal and the Phoenician gods was her personality. The Book of Kings portrays Jezebel as being a strong personality who kept her beliefs, and used various means to get what she wanted. It could be seen that she was simply too stubborn as to give up her religion and, being in a place where it was frowned on, took a mission to introduce it. The Book of Kings portrays her personality well, especially in relation to the incident at Naboth's vineyard, and although it does not deal with her introduction of religion, it gives us an idea of the type of person she was and what she would do to get her way:

"She wrote letters in Ahab's name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city with him. In these letters she wrote:…Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent position…seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and king. Then take him out and stone him to death."

Also: "As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, 'Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth…He is no longer alive, but dead…"

From this we see that she is a strong willed and somewhat relentless personality. She is said in the Book of Kings to have chided her husband on this occasion, and it is also said that he was under her dominion and did as she said. In the incident in Naboth's vineyard, she does what she sees as her duty to her husband by seeing him down and taking steps to cheer him up. In this way, she acts as she sees fit as the wife of a king, despite the fact that it is not within the law of the Israelis, and it can also be supposed that the reason she introduced the Baal worship actively into the Israelite society was that she was acting on what she saw was her duty as a priestess, despite the fact it was out side the Israeli law. Also, Phoenician women were held to be as the goddess Asherah, in being wise and powerful to the point of being near equal with men, and were allowed a large degree of independence as opposed to Israeli women. Phoenician queens could supposedly have acted as a king's adviser in some matters, as we see Jezebel doing for Ahab on occasion.

It is also interesting to note that this personality was in direct opposition to that of the Israeli cultural beliefs. The Israelis had a strong cultural belief in a patriarchal figure, as is especially shown by their belief in a single male god. We can extrapolate from this into saying that Ahab also followed this tradition. If this is so, then Jezebel must have been a very strong personality indeed, as there is no other woman who is noted as having her degree of power over another man. This is one reason why she was painted as being an evil figure by the Israelite historians and prophets.

All of these traits which Jezebel portrayed, the loyalty to her gods, her strong independent personality, her ignorance of the very traditional Israeli law and her opposition to the Israeli religion, can be seen as a result of her Phoenician 'big city' upbringing. Jezebel may be viewed as being somewhat naïve in her stirring up of the hornet's nest of religious fervour in Israel against her. In combination with other reasons for her introduction of the Baal worship, she may not have been able to adapt from her relatively free lifestyle in Phoenicia to the rigid and somewhat oppressive atmosphere of Israel. She may have only been doing what seemed most natural to her with her Phoenician attitudes, blithely and naïvely ignoring the way her world had changed and the trouble she was causing. This view is stronger, in the ways that she conflicted with the Israeli prophets, stirring up trouble if ever could be said, to her end.

Jezebel's introduction of Baal worship was an action that was been motivated by her sense of duty from her religious and noble background, propelled by a powerful 'big city' personality and helped by a sense of naïveté. She achieved reasonable success at her venture, having several hundred priests to Baal and introducing the worship into the royal house of Israel. However, it was met with strong opposition and the characteristics that had made her bring the Baal religion into Israel also contributed to her downfall, the downfall of Ahab's family, and the death of Jezebel at Jezreel.

Part Three
Assess the success of Jezebel as Queen of Israel

Jezebel was the Queen of Israel, but she was also portrayed as a domineering woman with a motivation to introduce a foreign religion into Israel, spreading the following of her gods. This second agenda would have been important to Jezebel as she was a fanatical follower of Ba'al, Asherah and Astarte, and her agenda of bringing her worship into Israel would therefore have been equally, if not more, important than the honours and duties of queenship ever would have been to her. We therefore can attempt to judge her on multiple levels, the first being her success of being the Israelite queen, judged through a more Israeli point of view, the second her success at her own personal agenda to introduce the faith of Ba'al into Israel and converting the population, and the third her and Ahab's overall promotion of the prosperity of Israel while she was a queen.

Jezebel was not what the Israelites believed to be a good wife. The Israelis believed in a strictly patriarchal society, with the husband being the absolute authority in a family, having the say in all matters, and generally being in control of the partnership. Jezebel, whether by naivety of by simple disregard, strayed well outside the tradition and custom of the Israeli people. The fact that she was able to at least partially convert her husband Ahab to the Ba'al faith speaks of her powerful personality. The Book of Kings makes a very strong point of this anti-traditionalistic attitude displayed toward the Israelite traditions, to portray Jezebel as being an evil and anti-traditional to the audience of traditional Israelis, making an example of her as being 'foreign and female'. We especially see this in the incident at Naboth's vineyard where she takes charge over her sulking husband, acting without his consent or even knowledge of her actions, shown to us by the way other men respond to Jezebel's orders, disguised as Ahab's own:

"…the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them…Then they sent word to Jezebel: 'Naboth has been stoned and is dead.'…"

In taking charge of situations over her husband she did not fulfil the expectation of the Israelites in being a deferential and respectful wife. Painting her as this evil and independent character was a reason why the incident at Naboth's vineyard was included in the Book of Kings. Also, she openly persecuted the Hebrew prophets, and she is evidenced as being a forceful queen, in the way she forced her religion onto followers of Yahweh. In this regard, she failed in the eyes of the Israelite prophets, who saw her as a danger to the Hebrew tradition.

In her own agenda of bringing the religion of Ba'al into Israel and converting followers to the religion she was quite successful, though the religion was not as long lasting as perhaps was her intention as both she and her family were killed before they could consolidate the religion in Israel. Her agenda of bringing the worship of the gods Ba'al, Asherah and Astarte was, quite simply, a matter of family and fanaticism. Both of her parents were high and important members of the cult of Asherah, and it is very likely that Jezebel was a priestess of one of the cults as well. She is described as being a fanatical worshipper of the gods of the Ba'al faith. Her first action in this agenda as the queen was to cause her husband to worship the gods of Ba'al and Asherah, and the evidence from the Book of Kings seems to point to this happening very soon after she moved into her position. The Book of Kings states that Ahab built a temple to Ba'al and set up an altar to Ba'alin it, and had a statue-the 'Asherah pole'-made to worship his new faith.

"…he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal ruler of the Sidonians, and began to serve Ba'al and worship him. He set up and altar to Ba'al in the temple of Ba'al that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole…"

In this we see that Jezebel has at least partially converted her husband to the Ba'al faith, the first step in her agenda to advance the worship of Ba'al in Israel. This done, she began to actively spread the worship to others, persecuting those who kept the Yahwegian faith, especially the prophets, and found faith in her own followers that she brought from Phoenicia with her. When Elijah travels to Mount Carmel, he gives us an example of how powerful the new faith was becoming:

"Then Elijah said to them, 'I am the only one of the LORD's prophets left, but Ba'al has four hundred and fifty prophets…"

And later, Elijah again gives us an example of how widespread the religion of the foreign queen has become:

"Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-all those whose knees have not bowed down to Ba'al and all those whose mouths have not kissed him…"

From this we see that Jezebel was successful in spreading her new religion, and the only thing that prevented it becoming a state religion and replacing the worship of Yahweh was the hardcore worship and promotion of the religion by the prophets, and those that the prophets supported. In this way, the reign of Jezebel was very successful in fulfilling her agenda of spreading her religion among the people of Israel, using the kingly power ceded to her by her domination over Ahab.

The third way in which we can judge the reign of Jezebel is by the way that the country of Israel was, how prosperous and how strong militarily, during the time she was queen. While this does not directly relate to her, more to Ahab, it does demonstrate that she did not undermine the kingship and its ruling powers and prevent Israel from continuing as a prosperous and secure nation in its own right, despite the internal pressures and discord from the prophets and their followers.

One way we can see that Ahab was successful during this time was in his handling of the military conflict with Aram and its king Ben-Hadad. In this event, Ahab is shown to be a very competent military strategist in the way he deals with Ben-Hadad on the field of battle. There is a comment supposedly made by advisers to Ben-Hadad after he has lost the first battle which carries with it a sense of irony when Ahab's worship is considered:

"'Their gods are the gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger then they…"

This comment shows an innate level of religious superstition within the Aramean people, believing that their gods manifested their power through the people, especially their leaders and kings. If we consider Ahab, who worshipped both Ba'al and Yahweh in partiality, we see that this split worship does not seem to have affected his military prowess at all, and Jezebel's new religion has not affected his ability to win battles and to defend Israel in the least. The alliance formed of the marriage of Jezebel and Ahab brought the military strength of the Phoenicians into Israel's fold of allies, which promoted the security of Israel even more. In this way, the reign of Jezebel and Ahab was successful as it provided Israel with the same level of military ability as any other ruler, irrespective of the religion of its leader and people.

Also, if we consider the prosperity of the trade routes that flourished between Israel and the trade-orientated Phoenician city-states, it is noticeable that this increased level of trade would bring nothing but beneficial aspects to Israel. Solomon's temple (to Yahweh) was created out of mainly imported materials from an agreement with the people of Sidon and Tyre, with imports including ceder wood and other materials both prized and rare to the Israelis. The marriage of Jezebel and Ahab was put together to strengthen an alliance between the Phoenician cities, ruled by Ethbaal, and Israel, to promote trade between the two countries among other things. This brought a level of economic strength to Israel, which was the best since the reigns of David and Solomon. In this way, the economic strength of Israel was increased by the marriage and reign of Jezebel and Ahab, and the reign of Jezebel was very successful for Israel.

It is also interesting to note that after Jehu deposed of the Omrides, Israel was in a much worse position militarily and economically, then it had ever been under them. This points out just how beneficial that the reign of the strong military king Ahab, with his ally of Phoenicia through Jezebel, was for Israel.

The reign of Jezebel can be exalted or dismissed as a success or a failure on multiple levels of analysis. On the traditional Israelite level, her reign was a failure as it included things, which threatened their religion and their tradition, including Jezebel's promotion of the Ba'al worship and her ideology of a strong female character. On the level of her reign as it completed Jezebel's own objectives of the introduction of her faith into Israel and the spreading of the cults of Ba'al, Asherah, and Astarte, it was partially successful as it was initially well followed, but did not last for a particularly lengthy amount of time, and did not have a long lasting effect. On the level of her reign being beneficial for the country of Israel, her reign was a success, as it's beginning forged important alliances for the wealth and security of Israel, it produced no negative effects while she was in power, and it's bloody end heralded a new time of crisis for the country.
mon loved reading this 031010
Lemon_Soda Nice 031010
Death of a Rose Pure unfiltered analysis. Cheers. 031010
blah-ze for those who are unfamiliar with the ancient history of the near east:

jezebel-daughter of ethbaal, married ahab, son of omri to become queen of israel. killed by eunarchs at the command of jehu (defenestrated).

ethbaal-king of a few city states in phoenicia. high priest to baal and astarte.

ahab-son of omri, former king of israel, and king of israel, the northen part of israel, the south being judah. killed in battle.

elijah-prophet who hounded jezebel.

jehu-king of israel after ahab.

the story goes-jezebel married ahab in a political marriage, and started to throw around her authority, introducing the worship of her gods to israel. the israelite men, being the gynophobes that they are, took offence, especially elijah, who made it a thing of his to stop her. ahab got killed in battle, and elijah brought up this bloke called jehu, who killed ahab and jezebels kids and then killed jezebel at jezereah.
blah-ze jezereah=jezereel. oops. 031013
loz what was this for?! and how old are you! gee!
i hope you are in at LEAST! year 11 or up! yes..i think so...chances are i havent read the site propally...on the bright side i plan to use this things about solomon in my school debate...just the idea of course! thanx!
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