Drug Abuse in Scripture and Other extra-Biblical Writings
Heb.איזבל LXX / NT ’Ιεζάβελ
“What peace, so long as the whoredoms (Hebrew זונה zõnãh, LXX πόρνη pórne) of...Jezebel, and her witchcrafts (Heb כשפים kashãphim, the magical plant ‘off-cuttings’, LXX φάρμακα phármaka ‘drugs and charms, spells and potions’ etc...are so many?”
2 (LXX iv) Kings 9:22 KJV - Hebrew - LXX, (abridged) see below for full versification.
The Story of Jezebel
The Old Testament Queen Jezebel, a former Phoenician princess was the wife of King Ahab and Queen of Israel by a marriage alliance.
Unlike Solomon, who kept his foreign wives and concubines apart from the affairs of State, Ahab, who ruled the Northern Kingdom from c. 874-853 BC allowed his Queen at least a nominal provision in government with apparently - though not recorded in Scripture - her own Royal Seal †. At her instigation the cults of the Phoenician Ba’al, the storm and fire god Melquart,* and the fertility goddess Asherah (the Phoenician Ishtar) were introduced into Israel and which Ahab also worshiped. Cf. 1 Kings 21:8, 16:29-33. ISBE vol iii p.2073.
Photo: King Ahab of Israel from the Kurkh Monolith about c. 850 BC. Released into the Public domain by Yuber: Bible and Archaeology - Online Museum (more like this)
Ruthless in her zeal for her homeland religion she persecuted
the prophets of Yahweh, and, as shown by the story of the judicial murder of Naboth in acquisition of his vineyard, with scant regard for Hebrew law or humane justice she sought a power-base for the Phoenician Ba’al (god) in Israel. According. to the 1st. cent. historian Josephus בל Bel-us 1 Kings 18:2-4, 21:1-28.
Photo: The Ugarit Ba’al with Raised Hand 14 - 12 Century BC Public domain
With the appearance and opposition of Elija, the most powerful of the Hebrew prophets, the stage was set indeed for a classic ‘Church verses State’ power struggle, which, when it came, was of cosmic proportion. The first Book of Kings chapters 17-19 records the miraculous events on Mount Carmel.
And yet, although Elija was victorious no lasting peace was secured. In retaliation for the deaths of her priests and prophets, Jezebel, as ambitious and vindictive as ever, threatened Elijah’s life. He fled into the wilderness where he was sustained by angelic intervention and the Word of God. 1 Kings 19:1-7 f.
In seeing the evil that was the House of Ahab, God through Elijah designated Jehu, son of Nimshi King over Israel and instrument of Divine Judgement and retribution. (1 Kings 19:16). Jehu’s commission was to purge the kingdom of all Idolatry, Ba’al worship and the foreign cult of Melquart which the House of Ahab had introduced illegally into Israel. (Exodus 20:1-17, 34:12-17).
Ahab fell at the battle of Ramoth-gilead against the Syrians in about c. 853 BC. When his second son King Jehoram (Joram) retook the city from the Syrian Hasael and, severely injured had retired to Jezreel, Jehu’s commission was implemented by Elijah’s successor Elisha and Jehu was anointed King. (2 Kings 9:1-37 RSV).
Jezebel, as Queen Mother continued as a power in Israel a further ten or twelve years after the death of Ahab until Jehoram met Jehu in what had been Naboth’s vineyard which, according to the Hebrew, adjoined the Ivory Palace. At the fatal meeting Jehoram whom Elisha had rebuked as an idolater, (2 Kings 3:13-14) asked Jehu:
and Jehoram (Joram) was slain.
Knowing that Jehu was adamant for the kingdom and that her own death was now imminent:
‘She [Jezebel] painted her eyes, and arranged her hair (Heb. lit. ‘made [up] her head’) and looked out at the window. As Jehu entered the gate she asked “Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?” (or, as the NIV, “have you come in peace Zimrii, you who murdered your master?” ) and he looked up at the window and called out “Who is on my side? Who? LXX τις ει συ “Who are you?”
2 Kings 9:30-32 Cf. KJV/NIV/LXX
The Palace eunuchs then at the command of the Jehu threw her down from the window, and her blood splattered the wall, and the horses trampled her underfoot, that later, nothing was found of her but her skull, her feet and the palms of her hands, as Elijah had foretold, (1K. 21:23) the dogs had eaten Jezebel, and her carcass was strewn as dung upon the field.
Confer 1 Kings 21:22-26, 2 Kings 9:35-37, Jeremiah 8:2. KJV/NIV etc.
Graphic: The Death of Jezebel Gustave Doré
At the death of Jehoram undoubtedly it had been in Jehu’s interest to paint as dark a picture of Jezebel as possible, and yet, from the earlier Biblical narratives partic. 1 Kings 16:29-33, 21:25, where Ahab, under the influence of his aggressive wife (1 Kings 21:25) is described as having done more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any before him. Jehu’s account of the guileful Jezebel, through the use of drugs, charms and philtres, as having become a threat to the entire Hebrew Nation, including the Southern Kingdom of Judah, (2 K. 9:16) cannot be seen as an exaggeration, for Ahab ‘did abominably, according to all things as did the Amorites’. (1 Kings 21:25-26).
The Amorites, whom God cast out before the children of Israel (1 Kings 21:26) worshipped in form the detestable god Moloch of Ammonites*mg who required child-sacrifice by fire. 1 Kings 11:7 (The abominations of the heathen 2 Ch. 28:1-5, 2 Kings 16:3) Human sacrifice was also offered to the Phoenician god Melquart, (id. prob..מלך ‘King’) whose worship Jezebel, at least by instigation, introduced into Israel † . (Cf. 1 Kings 11:5-7 ISBE vol 1 p.118 q.v.) see col. right.
The practice of child-sacrifice and immolation by fire is attested not only from the later Biblical accounts (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Kings 21:6 etc.) but also from other ancient documents recovered from Syria. In Carthage, where the Phoenician Ba’al was also worshiped the practice continued into Christian times. Confer NBD p.836. ISBE: vol iii pp. 2074,5. HBD vol iii pp.415-417 sect. iii (2).
At the excavations of Samaria the Oriental Institute of Chicago (established 1919) uncovered the ruins of a temple dedicated to Ashteroth, the female counterpart of the Canaanite Ba’al, which stood in the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Stone jars were discovered near the site which contained the remains of infants and children. They were the victims apparently of the sacrificial Ba’al cultis. Similar finds, though likewise somewhat disputed, were also made in Carthage. (Confer e.g. www.biblehistory.net PDF download King Ahab and Jezebel)
It has been suggested that the Hebrew עשתרת ‘astõret (Ashteroth) is an artificial form created from עשתרת ‘strt by analogy with the vowel pattern of בשת bõsheth meaning ‘shame’[ful-thing] where it appears in Scripture twice as the condensed symbol of the abomination at Jeremiah 11:13 and Hosea 9:10. Similarly, as -baal in Ishbaal, the Hebrew המלך Moloch from the probable original מלך melek meaning ‘Lord’ or ‘King’, again by a substitution of the vowel points of בשת bõsheth (as above) were combined to form מלך mõlek Molech, 1 Kings 11:7 etc. as a term of contempt and reproach from the Hebrews for the cruel depravities of Moloch worship. Such wordplay and vowel substitutions were common among Semitic speaking peoples of ancient times where History and Scripture record that the practice of the Ba’alim, Moloch and other related cults were perverse and depraved in the extreme. (Cf. NBD pp.96, 836, ISBE vol.iii p.2074, HBD vol iii p.415) also column right - the Valley of Slaughter.
It is also clear from Scripture and the narrative of the Aramean siege of Samaria which took place in Ahab’s reign, that the Ivory Palace housed, if not the entire seraglio associated with the Ashera and Ba’al, worship, (the Tyrian Kedêshim and Kedêshôth proposed by the HBD vol i p.52), then at least a harem of some considerable proportion. (2 Kings 10:1.) The Syrian invader Ben-hadad, although defeated, had declared, “Your wives, (or, ‘palace women’ ונשיך, an irregular plural)...are mine”. (Cf. 1 Kings 20:3, 2 Kings 10:11). It was after all the palace eunuchs, who could only have been the seraglio or harem attendants, that cast Jezebel down from the window. Cf. HBD vol ii p.658.
Certain caveats however must be noted, for apart from the generalized ‘whoredoms’ זנוני znuni from Jehu at 2 Kings 9:22, a word supplied from the Hebrew זונה zõnãh ’a harlot’ - a figure seen often in Scripture to stand for both apostasy and heathen idolatry - is Jezebel herself ever termed, not even from the Hebrew prophets, a קדשה Qedesã or literally, one sanctified as a temple harlot to the heathen deity. Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, a priest-King of Tyre, (mentioned by Menander 342 - 291 BC and quoted Jos. Apion 1:18). The priest Kings or ‘King of Tyre’ according to Ezekeil 28: 2-9 proclaimed themselves Divine, and from this it has been suggested that Jezebel also may have been sanctified or self-proclaimed a goddess, and as such above all law and execration. Scholars maintain that ‘Jezebel’s seal’, which came to light in the 1964 and is now preserved in the Israeli Department of Antiquities, would further attest to this. †
Further, her posture at the window of the Ivory Palace before her death may also have been an enactment of a proclaimed divine or semi-divine where ‘the woman at the window’ was symbolic in Assyrian art and religion of the goddess Ishtar (the Phoenician Ashtoreth or Astarte) to whom Jezebels ‘groves’ (the Ashera) were dedicated. Cf 1 Kings 18:19, 2 Kings 17:16-17 etc. (For the concept of a ‘divine window’ in the celestial firmament of ancient cosmology see also page Nineveh column right).
And yet, if Jezebel was Ahab’s nemesis, if not an outright ambuscade, (not without good reason was Jehu later to speak of her as הארורה ‘anathema’ at 2 Kings 9:34) at least to some degree, she remains in Scripture. Certainly the ‘strange woman’ of Proverbs 2:16, the Hebrew זר zar, is a technical term for ‘harlot’, a word used in Scripture of the beguiling alien, a foreigner of flattering tongue; and hence Scripture is circumspect, and speaks only of Jezebel herself in the terms of Jehu’s condemnation, of the idolatry, apostasy, herbal abuses and sexual license, the LXX πορνείαι, porn-eiai of the Ba’alim cultis introduced into Israel and which led to the conflict with Elija on Mount Carmel. (Exodus 20:3-5).1Kings ch.17-19.
Similarly the LXX φάρμακα phármaka or ‘drug enchantments’ of Jezebel’s Ashera cult, in the sense of beguiling, strange or alien, the Hebrew זר zar, occurs at Proverbs 23:33 of the mimsãkh ממסך, the ‘mixed or spiced wine’ of Proverbs 23:30 as a possible hallucinogenic:
‘Thine eyes shall behold strange things’, NIV ’strange sites’
The Hebrew phrase is עיניך יראו זרות ‘an alien perception’
...a further indication that the ‘mixed’ or ‘mingled wines’ of the harlot’s con amore at Proverbs 23 :27-30 etc. were often of a herbal nature and sometimes, as a mixed φάρμακα phármaka almost certainly narcotic. See eBook page The Mixed and Mingled Wines of Scripture Confer also Prov.23:35 for the pro-addictive mimsãkh qualities, also page Nineveh (שכר shekãr).
(Cf. further Proverbs 5:20, 9:12-18, 22:14, 23:27)
For an academic assessment as to the authenticity of Jezebel’s Seal and further resumé of the Story of Jezebel please visit:
The Biblical Archeological Review - Jezebel’s Royal Seal
† It must however be noted that if the recently discovered seal is, as some have suggested, a modern forgery, or did not belong to the historical Queen Jezebel herself, then this would imply that the illegal introduction of the Phoenician Ba’al cultis into Israel was due, not to any nominal sanctioned authority invested in Jezebel herself (e.g. Rev 13:2) but as much through the gross collusion and non-intervention of Ahab. As shown by the judicial murder of Naboth and his sons from Leviticus 24:16, the ruthless Jezebel was merciless in the illegal manipulation of Hebrew Law where it suited her purpose, and hence the cogency of Jehu’s commission.
See 1 Kings 21:8
For an update on the archaeological evidence for Child Sacrifice in Ancient Carthage (a Phoenician Colony) visit
Did the Carthaginians Really Practice infant Sacrifice?
Bible History Daily 5 February 2014
“Notwithstanding, I have this against you. You tolerate that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols”
Revelation 2:20 NIV Cf. Revelation 2:20 KJV
In the New Testament the name of Jezebel stands synonymous with the false teaching and apostasy of the latter-day Church. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-10). The figurative ‘fornication’ (addictions and sorcery) of false religious teaching and the subsequent falling away of faith is thus personified in terms of the magical כשף kashãph or ‘off-cuttings’ of the Phoenician φαρμακίς pharmakis, the ‘drug enchantress’ of Old Testament times.
See also page Babylon
For a FREE eBook which would further elucidate the above concepts, with further exposition of the idol of Moloch, drug abuse, magic and the child immolation which took place in the of Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) in the reigns of the Hebrew Kings Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Kings 21:6) from the Biblical, the Rabinic, the Book of Wisdom (below) and other ancient commentaries:
Drug Abuse in Scripture.
Mini Book Reader for
The Book of Wisdom
(See Col. right)
The Text in English, Latin and Greek with full analysis
See particularly Ch. 12 verses 3-6 + notes Gk/Eng. p.79 with commentary p.174
William J. Deane MA 1823 - 1895
Biblical Source Index
(i) NBD, New Bible Dictionary pp.96, 836 IVF 1962 (ii) ISBN, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 5 vol. printed edition, vol iii p.2074, Eerdmans 1960. (iii) HBD, Hastings’ Bible Dictionary vol iii p.415, 5 vols. T & T Clark Edinburgh 1898-1906
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