Posted by monicamynk
This post is continuing with the theme of finding redeeming traits that might make characters based on Bible villains more three-dimensional.
Of all the villains in the Bible, Jezebel is one of the most fascinating. Even among those who aren’t avid Bible readers, mention of her name conjures images of wickedness and seduction.
Her name appears in the Bible twenty times, although one refers to the Jezebel of Revelation 2:20. This Jezebel, though also a seductress, does not have quite the wicked reputation as the Old Testament queen.
When Jehu conspires to kill Joram after being annointed king of Israel, Joram asks if he’s coming in peace. Jehu answers, “What peace, as long as the harlotries and witchcraft of your mother are so many?” (II Kings 9)
Unlike Cain, to whom the Lord gave leniency, Jezebel was sentenced to death by her own servants and eaten by dogs.
I love these Old Testament stories, with all their twists, turns, and gore. But to write a Jezebel–how can she possibly have any redeeming qualities?
At first, I considered the possibility that perhaps she didn’t WANT to marry Ahab, and she might have been at least somewhat obedient there. Yet I Kings 21:25 says:
But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up.
It’s hard to picture her not enjoying being a powerful queen, manipulative and murderous. This verse has the same feel to it as Adam’s blame in Genesis–the woman made me do it!
So, admittedly, these might be a stretch, but here goes–
- She was zealous in her idolatry. In how many other instances would a woman marry a king and not be expected to adopt his faith? Especially in Bible times where women wouldn’t have had the freedoms we relish in today.
- She was effective in her evangelism. In I Kings 16:31-32, we see that Ahab not only fell into worshipping Baal, but he also built altars to worship in Samaria, which he surely knew was an atrocity to God. In this, I picture her as perhaps a smooth talker–the seductress side of her winning him over. And perhaps, that alone would be a redeeming enough quality for a Jezebel-type character, charismatic enough that readers are swept into the seduction.
- She accepted her death with dignity. Although there was no dignity in being eaten by the dogs, Jezebel did face her fate head on. Unlike the warden in The Shawshank Redemption, who ended his life in the final moment before the authorities came for him, Jezebel put on makeup and adorned her head, and waited for Jehu. She even asked him, as Ahab had, if he came in peace, knowing full well the answer.
There you have it. Redeeming qualities of Jezebel. On to the next villain!