References: Jezebel

Table of Contents

ETHEL: I seen that red-headed Jezebel frum acrost the tracks prancin’ outa here as I come up the walk. What was she doin’ here?

Jezebel: A woman who is regarded as evil and scheming.

In the Scriptures

In the Christian Old Testament, Jezebel is a queen of ancient Israel, whose story is told in Kings I and II. She is introduced as a Phoenician princess, the daughter of King Ithobaal I of Tyre, who marries King Ahab. She turns Ahab away from the God of the Israelites and of the Jews and towards the worship of her god, Baal. The two then allow temples of Baal to open in Israel. Jezebel uses her control over Ahab to subject Israel to tyranny. After she slaughters the prophets of the Lord, the prophet Elijah confronts her to charge her with abominations. She responds by threatening to kill him as well. After Ahab’s death, Jezebel continues to rule through her son Ahaziah. When Ahaziah is killed in battle, she exercises control through her other son, Jehoram. Jehoram is killed by Jehu, who confronts Jezebel in Jezreel and urges her servants to kill her by throwing her out a window (defenestration). They comply, tossing her out the window and leaving her corpse in the street to be eaten by dogs; only her skull, feet, and hands remained, in fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecy. Her daughter, Athaliah, is wed to King of Judah, Jehoram, similarly corrupting Judah.

In the New Testament, Jezebel calls herself prophetess in the city of Thyatira. She is accused in Revelation 2:20 of inducing members of the church there to commit acts of sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Some authorities suggest that the author here uses the name Jezebel as a nickname, knowing that readers in Thyatira would know to whom it was being referred, and they would also know of the deeds of the previous Jezebel recorded in 1 Kings.

The Name

Using the vowels traditionally used for this name by Hebrew readers, the Hebrew form of this name means “not exalted”. But it is highly unlikely her parents would have given her such a name. Read with different vowels it can be understood as meaning “Where is the Prince?” (‘ay zebul in Hebrew). In fact, early Syrian inscriptions from Ugarit demonstrate that “the Prince” (equivalent of Hebrew “Zebul”) was a popular title for the storm god of the Phoenicians. The sentence “Where is the Prince?” is even found in Ugaritic literature. It is a form of invocation, calling on the god named to appear and act. In other words, this Tyrian princess was given a name in praise of the chief god of her people (whom the Hebrew Bible refers to mainly by the title “Baal”, meaning “lord, master”). “Jezebel” is, then, a reinterpretation, intended to mock this Queen and her god, whom she encouraged Israel to worship.

In Modern Culture

The name Jezebel has come down through the centuries to be used as a general name for all wicked women. In modern usage the name of Jezebel is used to as a synonym for a hussy or controlling whore, as in the title of the 1938 film Jezebel or the 1951 Frankie Laine hit “Jezebel”. This image is epitomized by the phrase “painted Jezebel.” The “painted” part refers to a line in II Kings, just before she is killed, where she puts on her makeup. While it is often negative in connotation, some embrace the image, as evidenced by various lingerie designs named after Jezebel.

From a Christian point of view, the story of Jezebel has been used to refer to those who challenge evidence and belief in God. From a biblical and Christian point of view, a comparison to Jezebel would suggest that a person would be a pagan or an apostate.

Cultural References

  • In the Season 2 episode of Criminal Minds “The Big Game”, a woman who commits adultery is called Jezebel. She is murdered by a serial killer who feeds her to dogs.
  • Edith Piaf recorded a song called “Jezebel,” which was later covered in tribute by Ann Wilson of Heart.
  • Pioneer Virginia gospel/pop quartet of the ’30s and ’40s, The Golden Gate Quartet recorded a song titled “Jezebel” on their Rock My Soul album; the song reflects the story of Jezebel, and was re-recorded and adapted for Recoil‘s album Liquid.
  • Bette Davis won an Oscar for Best Actress in William Wyler’s Jezebel (1938).
  • Anita O’Day was billed as the “Jezebel of Jazz”.
  • Frankie Laine had a big pop hit in 1951 with a song called “Jezebel”.
  • Indie musician Sam Beam (aka Iron & Wine) recorded a song somewhat sympathetic to Jezebel on his Woman King EP.
  • Australian rock band The Drones recorded “Jezebel” as the opening track of their third album, Gala Mill. A sprawling 7 minute song, it appears to cover topics from nuclear testing in Australia to the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
  • Nathan Price mentions and compares his daughter to Jezebel in the novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
  • British grime artist Dizzee Rascal recorded a song titled “Jezebel” on his debut album Boy In Da Corner; it is a tale of a young girl and the choices she makes.
  • British singer Sade Adu (Sade) also recorded a song titled “Jezebel” on her Promise album in 1985 about a girl who knows how to get what she wants.
  • In Margaret Atwood‘s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the chapter where Offred talks to her best friend Moira, an escaped handmaid transformed to a whore, for the final time is entitled “Jezebel.” The name refers to the brothel used by the Commanders.
  • The American band 10,000 Maniacs also recorded a song titled “Jezebel” on their 1992 album Our Time In Eden, concerning Jezebel’s regrets about the inexorability of her mission.
  • In Tom Robbins’s novel Skinny Legs and All, Jezebel is presented as a down to earth, sympathetic, and strong female character, wrongfully slandered in the Bible because of her religious beliefs.
  • In Isaac Asimov’s novel Caves of Steel, Jezebel is described as an ideal wife, and a woman who, in full compliance with the mores of the time, promotes her own religion conscientiously.
  • In Memories by Leonard Cohen, Jezebel is mentioned as being sung about by Frankie Lane in a dance club.
  • Joni Mitchell’s song “Magdalene Laundries” from her album Turbulent Indigo, along with many other biblical references, alludes to Jezebel.
  • Jezebel appears in Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues” from his 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited. Here she “violently knits a bald wig, for Jack the Ripper”.
  • My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, a 1981 album by Brian Eno and David Byrne, features the song “The Jezebel Spirit”, which contains a sample of Jezebel being mentioned during an exorcism performed by a preacher.
  • In the 1997 Jim Carrey movie Liar Liar, Carrey and co-star Swoosie Kurtz are involved in a courtroom argument that degenerates into name-calling. The dialogue in the released version of the film begins with Kurtz objecting to one of Carrey’s character’s points, Carrey saying “You would,” Kurtz calling him “Bastard,” with Carrey finally calling Kurtz “Hag” before Jason Bernard‘s “Judge Stevens” harshly reprimands them both. In the gag reel on the DVD, Kurtz continues with “Overactor” before Bernard has a chance to begin his dialogue, to which Carrey responds “Jezebel” as the film crew break down in laughter.
  • In the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy, The Wedding Planner, Lopez’s character mumbles while drunk that “Jezebel is the only queen in the Bible to be eaten by dogs.”
  • KMFDM has a song entitled “Juke Joint Jezebel” on their 1995 album Nihil, written by collaborator Raymond Watts, which is considered by many to be their most popular song.
  • WWE commentator Jim Ross refers to the heel divas as “Jezebels” quite frequently.
  • The hard rock band He Is Legend refers to Jezebel in the lyrics of their song “The Seduction” which was released on the album I Am Hollywood in 2004.
  • The Hip-Hop group Outkast have a song off the album ATLiens called “Jazzy Belle”, a take on the name that explores similar themes to the biblical Jezebel.
  • From Lauryn Hill‘s 1998 rap hit “Doo Wop (That Thing)“: “Now that was the sin that did Jezebel in / Who you gonna call when the repercussions spin?”
  • In the 2005 movie musical Reefer Madness, Mary Lane refers to herself as “a pubescent addition to Jezebel” in the song “Murder”.
  • Tea Leaf Green, a rock ‘n’ roll band from San Francisco, plays a song by the name of ‘Jezebel’.
  • In the movie Jacob’s Ladder, Jacob’s girlfriend is named Jezebel.
  • In the original Twilight Zone there is an episode about an evil girl named Jess-Belle,a reference to Jezebel from the old Testament.
  • In the comic book V for Vendetta, the main character V calls Justice ‘Jezebel’ in an inner monologue for having fallen for the interests of the fictional British fascist regime.
  • In a Saturday Night Live skit, Gus Chiggins (portrayed by Will Ferrell) mutters “Oh Jezebel, why are you so sweet? I’ll take you down to the market, and put you in my shoe” as he is leaving the room.
  • In the Elvis Presley song “Hardheaded woman”, he sings “I’ve heard about a king who was doing swell until he started messing with that evil Jezebel”.
  • On That 70s Show Episode 605 “I’m Free”, Fez tells Laurie (Eric’s sister who is sexually promiscuous) to “Zip-it Jezebel”.
  • In the Broadway musical Godspell by Stephen Schwartz, the song “Learn Your Lessons Well” features the lyrics, “…Just as old Elijah said to Jezebel/You better start to learn your lessons well.”
  • Focus on the Family Radio Theatre produced a miniseries called Father Gilbert Mysteries. In one episode, Father Louis Gilbert, a former Scotland Yard detective who became an Anglican priest, is investigating a female kidnapper who operates under the alias “Jezzy Bell”.
  • Ric Flair referred to Miss Elizabeth as “That Jezebel” in a promo at Wrestlemania VIII
  • “This is Jezebel in hell” is a lyric from the song ‘Angry Johnny’ by Singer/songerwriter Anne Danielewski, more commonly known as ‘Poe’.
  • Canadian band Two Hours Traffic has a song titled Jezebel on their second album “Little Jabs”.
  • Jezebel was the name of an unreflected critical assembly of plutonium used in neutronics experiments at Los Alamos National Laboratory. One writer speculates that the name references the aforementioned Bette Davis film–a plausible suggestion, given the respective dates of the film’s release and the beginning of research at Los Alamos.
  • In Kaori Yuki‘s Manga series Godchild, one of the main antagonists (and the main character’s half brother) is called Jezebel Disraeli.
  • “Don’t need no modern-day Jezebel” is a lyric from the song “Wish I Had A Girl” by singer/songwriter Henry Lee Summer.
  • In season 6 of “The Simpsons” episode “Bart’s Girlfriend,” the church marquee reads: “Evil women in history: from Jezebel to Janet Reno.”
  • One of the quests that the player can undertake in the computer game Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is to kill a character named Jezebel Locke. Jezebel Locke is revealed to be a seductive vampiress that deliberately spreads a dangerous disease through the local human population in downtown Los Angeles, endangering the masquerade.
  • Brian Eno and David Byrne (Talking Heads Frontman) recorded a song called “Jezebel Spirit”. The song has a spiritual theme.
  • The song “Carnivale” by English Drum & Bass producer Lynx and German rapper Kemo features a mention of Jezebel along with many other religious mentions.
  • In an episode of The Bernie Mac Show, Vanessa puts on lipgloss and Bryanna “Baby Girl” calls her Jezebel.
  • Louisiana sludge metal band Acid Bath has a song entitled simply “Jezebel” in which a woman, presumed to be a whore, is killed and mutilated.
  • There is a song lyric by EmmyLou Harris that refers to Jezebel–“You’ve been burned by Jezebel.”

One Response

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