Dr. Yael Shemesh, Bar-Ilan University
The article examines the relationship between Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, and focuses on the role reversal at work there. Jezebel is the active partner - playing the role expected of the man, all the more so when he is a king; Ahab, by contrast, is passive, as would befit a female character. This inquiry into the royal couple’s relationship emphasizes how the Bible depicts Jezebel.
Beit Mikra - Volume 60 (2015), No. 1, The Bialik Institute
|The Bialik Institute|
The second part of the article considers how feminist criticism sees Jezebel; to some extent it defends her and is overwhelmed by the queen’s personality. I distinguish between the arguments that defend Jezebel on the historical point of view and those that do so on the literary point of view. Thus the product of Biblical studies in general and of women’s studies in particular. Where as some of the historical arguments are persuasive, I reject the tendency to defend the character solely because she is a woman, as found in the literary arguments advanced to defend her.
In the last section, I relate briefly to the exploitation of Jezebel’s personality for cultural and gender construction by the talmudic sage Rav. He asserted that “he who follows his wife’s counsel will descend to Gehenna” (B Baba Metzia 59a), for which his proof text is the biblical statement that “Indeed, there never was anyone like Ahab, who committed himself to doing what was displeasing to the Lord, at the instigation of his wife Jezebel” (1 Kings 21:25). I show why this gender-biased lesson that Rav sought to convey to his community does not reflect the Bible’s position on the appropriate relationship between husband and wife.