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Dutch scholar convinced ancient seal belonged to Queen Jezebel


Elijah confronting King Ahab and jezebel Credit: Painting by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)/Wikipedia

The prophet Elijah confronting King Ahab and Jezebel Credit: Painting by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)/Wikipedia

Dr. Marjo Korpel who now teaches Old Testament studies at Amsterdam and Groningen Universities in Holland has concluded an ancient seal discovered in Israel in 1964 actually belonged to Israel’s notorious, evil-Queen – Jezebel.

Many consider Korpel to be a careful and respected researcher and her conclusions garnered a huge reaction in the archaeological community.

The account — recorded in 1 and 2 Kings — tells the story of King Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel — a Phoenician princess. When Jezebel arrived to take her place at Ahab’s side, she brought a wedding present for her husband — 400 prophets of Asherah and 450 prophets of Baal.

Almost immediately, two centers of idol worship popped up — one at each of Israel’s capital cities. A Baal temple was built in Samaria and at the main palace in Jezreel, Jezebel set up the temple of Asherah where the 400 prophets of Asherah served this deity and ate at the table of Jezebel (1 Kings 16:32, 33; 1 Kings 18:19).

In the end, she dominated her husband and effectively led the nation down the road to idolatry. Jezebel was eventually dealt with when her attendants threw her out a tower window at the order of Jehu a captain in the Israeli army.

Famous Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad (deceased) first came across the seal in an antiquities market. He speculated then that the relic belonged to Jezebel.

“Though fit for a queen,” he said, “coming from the right period and bearing a rare name documented nowhere other than in the Hebrew Bible, we can never know for sure.”

After this first interest, the seal slid from public view. However, work on another project brought Korpel into contact with the seal and after a thorough analysis; she concluded in an article published in the Journal for Semitics that it was indeed Jezebel’s seal.

“I am in my mind 99 percent sure it belonged to Jezebel,.” Korpel said in an interview with Harretz.

Seals were imprinted on documents through the use of clay or wax to indicate royal authority. In order for the images to read correctly when stamped, the seals were created as a mirror image of what was to be imprinted.

So what led Korpel to conclude this was Jezebel’s seal? There were a number of factors:

The size of the seal

First the seal which measures 33 by 22 by 10 mm is exceptionally large and twice the size of normal seals of that time. This indicated it belonged to someone of importance.The intricate carvings and size suggest the owner was also extremely wealthy.

Royal symbols

Secondly the seal incorporated elements from Phoenicia and Egypt that were not only used for royalty, but in some instances female royalty. This included a falcon, two cobras, a flower and a winged sphinx.

  • The winged sphinx is a well known symbol of royalty in Egypt and significantly it has a female crown on top of its head.
  • The symbol of the double-Cobras was typically used to represent female queens in Egypt as was the falcon.
  • The flower located at the bottom of the seal which could either be a lotus or rose, was a common image associated with Egyptian queens (see also 2 Kings 9:30 and Song of Solomon 2:1).

jezebelseal-n280The wording

However, what clinched it for Korpel was the Hebrew inscription “Yzbl.” The seal was damaged at the top, making it difficult to determine what the full name was which resulted in earlier uncertainty.

Korpel who has extensive experience in reconstructing damaged text showed by adding two Hebrew letters to the damaged part of the seal inscription showed that Jezebel was its owner.

According to Korpel, the “inscription [l’]yzbl means: belongs to Jezebel.”

Jezebel seizes control

In its news release announcing the seal, the University of Utrecht stated:

“The Bible portrays Queen Jezebel as a woman who, in the background, exerted enormous influence, including on her husband (1 Kings 21:25). She sees the opportunity to bend the country’s affairs to her will by devious means, including using her husband’s seal (1 Kings 21:8) to forge letters. Nonetheless, she now appears to have possessed her own seal, which enabled her to deal with matters independently of Ahab. Eventually, Jezebel came to a bad end. The prophets of Israel accused her of prostitution, murder, idolatry and sorcery. She is made to suffer a horrific death.”

This seal reveals that by the end of her reign, Jezebel had essentially usurped Ahab’s authority and was in full control of Israel.

Sources:

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