Jezebel has become a cultural symbol for treachery, seduction,
immorality and idolatry. A Google search for her name brings up four
million hits—more than twice the hits for “Ahab." Why so much focus on
In 1 Kings, the storyteller sets the scene simply. Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. We have already been told a lot. We know that Naboth calls this beautiful valley home, that its name defines him and that he is Naboth the Jezreelite.
When you have long hair and perfumed oil and kissing feet and a sinful
woman in the same pericope, it’s hard not to think of sex. No wonder
Christian commentary has for centuries assumed that this woman is a
One of my seminary teachers once said that if you can’t think of anything original to preach, you should tell Bible stories—they have enough power to turn people’s hearts toward God. This may not work with every text, but it certainly works with the drama and wisdom of the story of Naboth and the story of the woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears.
The Jews of Jesus’ time, the preacher intoned, were slavishly devoted to the practices of their ancestors. They studied scripture but did not apply it. Their temple was “rotten to the core.” Ancient Judaism was a religion whose rituals were “impressive, inspiring and empty.” It was a faith preoccupied with the superficial and lacking in substance.