Aware no doubt that her fate is sealed, Jezebel calmly and courageously prepares herself for the inevitable. As a blood-soaked Jehu gallops to Jezreel, she paints her eyes with kohl, dresses her hair, and awaits his arrival in an upper window of the palace. When he arrives, Jehu orders her eunuchs to toss her out, and in graphic detail, the Old Testament authors describe the end:
"They threw her down, and her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled her. Then [Jehu] went inside and ate and drank." Sated, he orders: "Attend to that cursed woman and bury her, for she was a king's daughter." It's too late. "And they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands." Elijah's prophecy was fulfilled. "The dogs shall devour the flesh of Jezebel...and the carcass of Jezebel shall be like dung on the ground...so that none will be able to say: 'This was Jezebel.'"
There are other biblical bad girls, such as Potiphar's temptress wife and Samson's treacherous Delilah. Jezebel's reputation, however, elevates her notoriety beyond that of other women in the Scriptures. But how much is true? Old Testament stories originating in the mists of time may be rooted in reality, but they evolved into metaphor and parable with each retelling.
Gaines believes the motives of the 1 and 2 Kings writers—as with all Old and New Testament authors—must be evaluated when considering the veracity of their accounts. The pagan Jezebel, she notes, is crowned queen of Israel at a time of spreading Hebrew apostasy. She conveniently provided an opportunity to teach a moral lesson on the evils of spurning monotheism and worshiping multiple idols, and the writers exaggerate her transgressions accordingly.
Despite the harlot references, there is no scriptural evidence that Jezebel was a prostitute or an unfaithful wife, yet the taint of immorality has branded her a whore for more than 2,000 years. One explanation is biblical allegory. The Old Testament authors often equated worship of false gods and foreign deities with wanton sexuality.
"Every biblical word condemns her," Gaines says. "Jezebel is an outspoken woman in a time when females have little status and few rights; a foreigner in a xenophobic land; an idol worshiper in a place with a Yahweh-based, state-sponsored religion; a murderer and a meddler in political affairs in a nation of strong patriarchs; a traitor in a country where no ruler is above the law; and a whore in the territory where the Ten Commandments originate."