🔼The name Jezebel: Summary
- Not Honored By Cohabitation
- From (1) אי ('i), a particle of negation, which may relate to the verb אוה ('wh), to desire, and (2) the verb זבל (zabal), to dwell together in honor.
🔼The name Jezebel in the Bible
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):
There are four different verbs אוה ('wh), which all appear to express a desire or movement toward something. Noun אי ('i) means coast, which has been mankind's preferred place to settle since time immemorial. Nouns או ('aw), מאוי (ma'away), אוה ('awwa) and תאוה (ta'awa) all mean desire. The noun אות ('ot) means mark or sign, and humanity's earliest marks were not to assert private ownership but rather a collective identity: something to draw toward and gather around. Noun אי ('i) means jackal, and noun איה (ayya) means hawk or falcon. These creatures were possibly named after their supplicatory calls, or else their rapturous method of predation.
The conjunction או ('o) means "or." The interjection אי ('i) expresses regret: "alas!" Adverb אי ('i) may serve as a particle of negation ("to be desired" and thus not so), or as an interrogative adverb, meaning "where?", usually in rhetorical questions. The substantive אין ('ayin) expresses negation or nothingness and occurs hundreds of times in the construct מאין (m'ayin), which literally means "from where is not?", as introduction to a rhetorical question concerning something that is true in all known parts of the world: "where isn't it so that such and such, hmm?"
The second part of the name Jezebel (and Baalazebel) comes from the root זבל (zabal), meaning to dwell with in honor:
The verb זבל (zabal), means to exalt or honor and occurs only once in the Bible. Noun זבל (zebul) occurs five times and refers to some lofty abode which is designed to honor the occupant.
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.