Utrecht University Old Testament scholar Dr Marjo Korpel has discovered that a seal found in 1964 and dating from the 9th century BCE belonged to the biblical figure Queen Jezebel. The seal's symbols served as the basis for Korpel's conclusion.
In Israel in 1964, archaeologist Nahman Avigad found a seal engraved with the name yzbl in ancient Hebrew. It was initially assumed that the seal had belonged to Queen Jezebel (Izebel), the Phoenician wife of the Israelite King Ahab (9th century B.C.). However, because the spelling of the name was erroneous and the personal seal could just as easily have belonged to another women of the same name, there was uncertainty regarding the original owner.
A new investigation by the Utrecht Old Testament scholar Marjo Korpel demonstrates that the seal must have belonged to the infamous Queen Jezebel. Korpel reached this conclusion after more careful investigation of the symbols that appear on the seal.
The seal not only bears symbols that indicate a woman but also symbols that designate a royal female owner. Furthermore, the seal is exceptionally large compared to the seals commonly possessed by ordinary citizens. With regard to the name, Korpel demonstrates through comparison with similar seals that the upper edge of the seal must have carried two broken-off letters that point to Jezebel as owner and lead to a correct spelling of Jezebel’s name (in mirror image).
The seal is included in the ‘Israel Antiquities Authority Collection’ of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which thus vouches for the authenticity of the object.
Jezebel was the Phoenician (and therefore foreign, and according to the Bible also pagan) wife of the Israelite King Ahab (9th century BCE). 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.
The results were published in the Journal for Semitics.
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