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Meaning and etymology of the name Jezebel

Jezebel Jezebel

There's only one Jezebel in the Bible. She's 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 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.

The name Jezebel (which is properly pronounced as eezebel) is so unique in Semitic that BDB Theological Dictionary assumed it's a contraction of the Phenician name Baalzebel, 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 part:

The first part of the name Jezebel is the particle ay, which in the void of context of a name may mean a lot of things: ay (ay) means coast or region (Isaiah 20:6); ay (ay) means jackal; ay (ay) is a common interrogative adverb meaning where; ay (ay) means alas (Ecclesiastes 4:10 only); and ay (ay) a rare adverb of negation meaning not (Job 22:30 only). BDB favors the latter because it is used often in Rabbinical literature to indicate a negation or impossibility. It should be noted that for instance the name Ichabod is also constructed from this same particle, and most probably also denotes a negation.

The second part of the name Jezebel is formed from the verb zabal (zabal), meaning exalt or honor, and which only occurs in Genesis 30:20 in a word play on the related name Zebulun. The noun derived from this verb is zebul (zebul), which typically denotes a dwelling place which is designed to honor the occupant. It's used only five times in Sciptures, for God's temple (1 Kings 8:13), for the heavens (Isaiah 63:15, Habakkuk 3:11) and once for earthly mansions (Psalm 49:14).

Together the name Jezebel is probably meant to say something like Un-Exalted or Un-Husbanded (BDB Theological Dictionary); Unmarried, Chaste (NOBS Study Bible Name List) or Without Cohabitation (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names).

A related name is Zebulun.



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