Not long after the death of King Solomon in 930BCE, a feud broke out among his children and the kingdom was split into two.
The area surrounding Jerusalem and the Beith HaMikdash was known as the Kingdom of Judah, while the area further north was called the Kingdom of Israel.
This schism lasted 200 years until the northern kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians and exiled in 722BCE.
King Ahab was the eighth of 19 kings who ruled over Israel – all referred to as ‘evil in the eyes of God’ – for embracing idolatry. He married the Phoenician princess from Sidon, Iizevel, or Jezebel.
She is accused of seducing her husband into abandoning the worship of God and luring him to worship Baal and Astarte, but the text doesn’t bear this out.
Instead, I Kings Chapters 16-22 notes that she persecuted the prophets of God, publicly threatened to kill Elijah, and sinisterly plotted the false conviction and stoning of neighbour Naboth to acquire his prized garden for her disconsolate husband.
Though King Ahab ruled 22 years and was granted Divine aid during two major battles against the King of Aram, this royal couple’s end was bitter.
Ahab was mortally wounded in a third battle, and three years later, Jezebel, the despotic queen mother, was defenestrated by her staff, her blood splattering the walls below and her flesh consumed by stray dogs (II Kings 9:30-37). Before meeting this grotesque fate, she notably put on her make-up.
Jezebel’s name over time became synonymous with idolatry, treachery and harlotry.
Over the centuries, Jezebel-like characters have served as a public warning against the corrupting influence of woman.
Today however, the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme, where women are disempowered and endangered by male sexual harassment.
Surely there must be a happier, safer middle ground for women.
Rabbi Jeff Berger serves the Rambam Sephardi Synagogue in Elstree/Borehamwood and can be contacted at RabbiJeffLondon@gmail.com.