Jezebel meaning | Jezebel etymology

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Jezebel in Biblical Hebrew
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The name Jezebel in the Bible

There are one or two women named Jezebel in the Bible. The famous Jezebel is the notorious wife of the notorious king Ahab, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31).

Jezebel promotes the worship of Baal in Israel and murders the servants of YHWH (1 Kings 18:4). The prophet Elijah the Tishbite predicts Jezebel's death; she will be eaten by dogs (1 Kings 21:23). When Jehu is anointed king, he has Jezebel thrown out a window. She is cared for so little that by the time people go to bury her, most of her body has been carried off by dogs (2 Kings 9:35).

Jezebel became such a symbol of evil that John the Revelator refers to her in Revelation 2:20 (spelled Ιεζαβηλ, Iezabel), or so it seems. The Jezebel John describes is a self-proclaimed prophetess who misleads Christians and who'll end up on a bed of sickness. John's Jezebel is either a woman of some renown, alive at that time, or the Jezebel of the Old Testament has some symbolic value that is no longer obvious to us.

Etymology of the name Jezebel

The etymology and meaning of the name Jezebel is unclear. It's also so unique in Semitic that BDB Theological Dictionary assumed it's a contraction of the extra-biblical Phoenician name בעלאזבל, Baalazebel, meaning Baal has exalted, and that pious scribes deleted the reference to Baal. BDB also acknowledges that in its present form the name Jezebel should have seemed to a Hebrew audience to be a construct of two elements:

The first part of the name Jezebel seems related to any of the words אי ('i):

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

The second part of the name Jezebel (and Baalazebel) comes from the root זבל (zabal), meaning to exalt or honor:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Jezebel meaning

The name Jezebel may be interpreted as a combination of any of the above, but most scholars and commentators see אי as the particle of negation, and זבל either indicative of glory, or else living together with a spouse, which is a rather askew.

For a meaning of the name Jezebel, BDB Theological Dictionary suggests Un-Exalted or Un-Husbanded, and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Without Cohabitation. NOBSE Study Bible Name List avoids the presumed negative charge of the name, reads Unmarried and adds the rather liberal Chaste.

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