Jezebel

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible’s Harlot Queen by Lesley Hazleton.

Hazleton has been a journalist and a psychologist in Israel, and she puts both sets of experience to good use in Jezebel, an exploration of the historical figure behind the woman who is the supposed villain of the biblical book of Kings. The great Scarlet Woman of the Old Testament proves to be a very effective focus for viewing the cultures and politics of the ancient near east, and the development of Hebrew monotheism.

Although the book is very pleasant and speedy reading, the author musters a great deal of the latest archaeology and comparative ancient literature to provide persuasive reconstructions of the people and places from the biblical account. The Tyrian princess Isha-Baal (i.e. Jezebel) emerges from this book as a figure whose integrity is evident in the Bible despite the efforts of its redactors, and the court dynamics of the vanished city of Jezreel create a paradigm for “culture wars” in subsequent ages.

To all this, Halzleton adds her own experiences of visiting various sites where the story of Kings is supposed to have occurred, a device which helps her to tie reflections about gender, power politics, and religious fanaticism in ancient Israel together with the same topics in modernity. [via]