chapter  5
22 Pages

The Shunammite and Elisha

Jezebel may be the most maligned woman in the Bible. She certainly is among its most powerful women. David Jobling argues that when strong women appear, the Bible seeks to diminish their power, even when it means detouring from other textual goals. For example, Elijah’s fight for “true religion” becomes “a crusade against the strong woman Jezebel.”1 Whereas other powerful women like Eve and Deborah have their power circumscribed within their narratives, Jezebel physically is cast down violently and utterly obliterated in her narrative. Her particularly violent fate may be attributed to the enormous threat she poses as a foreign woman who assumes a man’s position in Israelite society. As I argue in Chapter 4, not only does Jezebel invert the gender hierarchy, she behaves like a man, and most importantly, assumes a man’s formal position of authority. Therefore, one could argue, it is not enough to punish Jezebel, as Eve was, nor is it enough to deflect attention away from her, as the Bible does with Deborah when it introduces Yael. Gender transgressive Jezebel must be destroyed. The narrative shows her no mercy. In contrast, Samson and Ahab are buried as men among their ancestors. Perhaps emasculated men are less threatening than manned women, or perhaps, though compromised, as men they demand some dignity.