Theology, Gender Studies
“When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; she painted her eyes, and adorned her head, and looked out the window” (2 Kings 9:30). Traditional theologians have used Jezebel’s final moments as an opportunity to justify her violent murder and disparage the power she held as a foreign female. Feminist scholars have criticized how Jezebel’s narrative has been manipulated in order to secure the oppression that her reign threatened, but how her beautifying is connected to her power has not yet been explored. Her final moment feels different than most narratives about women that are written by men— it actually seems like what a woman would ascribe to herself, especially a woman of power in an ancient, patriarchal context. Jezebel knew that her death was inevitable, and that she would be deprived of the honoring burial rites entitled to royalty. Since the archetype of a sensual siren was one of few dynamics women did hold over men, Jezebel’s actions provided her own opponents with a way for them to justify the unprecedented power she had over them. Her decision to beautify guaranteed that, if she would not be remembered through burial, then she would be immortalized in her murderer’s records. In so doing, she exerted agency despite a degrading death, and ensured that at least two details would be remembered— that she was a woman and that she had power. Perhaps by finding more authentic moments for Biblical women, they can be reclaimed and recreated as more realistic characters.
Neuharth, Emily, "A Woman Who Understood the Minds of Men: Another Interpretation of Jezebel’s Final Moments" (2020). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 920.