Summary: Ahab, king of the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel, married Jezebel, a pagan woman. When she came to town, things went from bad to worse.
Introduction: Scripture records the names of many mothers. Some of these mothers were good, raising their children for good and for God. Eunice, Timothy’s mother; and Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist; are two mentioned in the New Testament. The Old Testament also has the names of many mothers plus those who are not named. Hannah, the mother of Samuel; and Jochebed, mother of Moses and Aaron; are two of these. Besides them, some good mothers were not named, such as the mothers of Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and other prophets.
It goes without saying that there were a number of evil mothers, too. In addition to the mothers who joined in the great rebellion against God, after the Flood, perhaps during the era of Nimrod (Genesis 10, compare with Romans 1:18-32), one of possibly the worst was Jezebel of Sidon. She and Athaliah, her daughter, nearly destroyed the nations of Israel and Judah.
Sadly, both of these women—as is true of every person born on this earth—came into the earth through the natural birth process. They grew up from babyhood to toddlerhood to marriageable age to, eventually, mature age. Somewhere along the way these women, as well as countless others, made the decision to follow false gods such as Baal, Astarte, and perhaps others, too. What makes it worse is that Jezebel was exposed to the truth of the True and the Living God, the God of Israel but rejected what she had seen or heard. Still worse is that she corrupted not only her husband but also her children, instructing them to forsake the God of Israel to worship the false gods she served. Hence, not all mothers are good people.
I Jezebel’s brief biography
Jezebel is first mentioned in 1 Kings 16:31 as the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon (“Zidonians”, KJV) and wife of Ahab, arguably the worst king of the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel. By Ahab’s time, the Ten Tribes had been ruled by kings who, since Jeroboam the first king, had worshipped golden calves, made by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28-31). The entire nation of Israel had, on any number of occasions, rejected the God of Israel for false gods but it seems that most of the northerners became firmly committed to the golden calves even before Ahab. But when he married Jezebel, and brought her “home” to Samaria, things got even worse.
Jezebel seems to be the one who formally brought “Baal” worship to Israel. Most likely she didn’t come alone, rather, she probably brought along an entire staff to attend to her, plus any number of priests and prophets of Baal. Compare this “invasion” with the dealings of David (2 Samuel 5) and Solomon (1 Kings 5, 7, and 9) with Hiram, the king of Tyre, in previous days. Hiram sent material and, perhaps, manpower to assist David and Solomon but Scripture does not record any effort of Hiram’s to colonize, infiltrate, or convert any Israelites to any deities worshipped by the people of Tyre or Sidon.
But things were different when Jezebel came to town.
II Her zeal for her pagan deities
Ahab had already gone deep into sin, but when Jezebel joined him, she “stirred (him) up (1 Kings 21:25)” to do even more evil and sin. Ahab apparently did not persecute any of the true prophets but Jezebel certainly did. We do not know how many prophets of the LORD were still in the northern kingdom but there were only 100 left by the time Jezebel was done. If not for Obadiah’s assistance (and he was one of Ahab’s personal staff!), there may not have been any of God’s prophets remaining in the Northern Kingdom (see 1 Kings 18:1-4).
And Jezebel didn’t stop with her persecution of God’s prophets, even after the events of Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). The 450 prophets of Baal did many things but accomplished nothing. Elijah prayed, and God answered, sending fire which destroyed the sacrifice, the altar, and even the water that overflowed and filled a small ditch around the altar. The people there believed in the God of Israel, then destroyed the false prophets of Baal, and most likely went back home.
Not so with Jezebel. She, to use a common phrase of these days, “doubled down” in her persecution and basically threatened Elijah’s very life. There was one result of this, in that she never had any further dealings with Elijah after this. One might say she had crossed the point of no return at this point.
But even if that was the case, Jezebel was still living for fourteen years after Ahab had died in battle (1 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 18). God was still giving her time to repent, but there is no indication she ever did so. What she did, still living, perhaps as queen mother—however that role is defined—is never revealed in Scripture but she apparently still remained in Samaria.