Faculty Sponsor

Julien Smith


Christ College


Theology, Gender Studies

ORCID Identifier(s)


Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-1-2020


“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.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Emily is a senior studying Creative Writing & Humanities, she was selected to also present this research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research 2020 but unfortunately the event was canceled. Emily is passionate about interdisciplinary research, especially in the fields of literature, theology, and feminism, and she is often motivated by the question of "How to respond to the lost perspectives of the oppressed in the past?"