Why Did Jezebel Paint Her Face?

jezebel In the book of 1st and 2nd Kings we learn of a woman named Jezebel. She was a Sidonian (non-Israelite) and the daughter of their king. She was married to Ahab and brought Baal worship with her. She was a fanatical worshipper of Baal. She had over 400 prophets of Baal that were employed by her. She used Ahab’s authority to murder and steal the land of Naboth in order that Ahab would own the vineyard. Ahab was killed in battle and her son Ahaziah became king of the 10 tribes of Israel. Then Ahaziah’s brother Jehoram (or Joram) reigned over Israel. Jezebel remained as an occupant of the palace and certainly exerted authority as the dowager Queen Mother.

Elisha, led by Yahweh, was instructed to anoint Jehu (an Israeli military commander) king of Israel and to commission him to destroy the house of Ahab. So Elisha sent one of his servants to go and fulfill this task. So immediately, Jehu conspired to kill King Joram. He went to Jezreel where Joram was recovering from his injuries in the war against Syria. The king of Judah went to visit him there as he recovered. As they learned that Jehu was coming to them they prepared their chariots to go out to meet him. They asked him, “Is it peace Jehu” and he answered, “What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?” (2 Kings 9:22) The two kings turned and fled in different directions. Jehu took his bow and arrow and shot Joram. Then he pursued the king of Judah and killed him as well.

Elisha, led by Yahweh, was instructed to anoint Jehu (an Israeli military commander) king of Israel and to commission him to destroy the house of Ahab.

So, Jezebel heard that Jehu came and killed her son so she prepared her last effort to save herself. “When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window.” (2 Kings 9:30) In the KJV it says that she painted her face, but a more precise translation would be that she painted her eyes as we see here in the ESV. The KJV also says that she tired her head. This sounds a little mysterious, but basically it means that she beautified her hair. We could spend much time on oriental traditions of the time, but we could simply say she did her hair for a special event. She prepared herself in all her royal attire and it is recorded that after the event Jehu ate dinner. So perhaps she prepared herself in royal clothing and prepared an official meal of state for Jehu’s arrival.

She prepared herself in all her royal attire and it is recorded that after the event Jehu ate dinner.

 

Instead of mourning the loss of her son she went to win the favor of the person that assassinated him. So, then what was the reason that Jezebel painted her eyes?

There are at least two possible reasons. One is that she sought to seduce and become the wife of Jehu. The reason for this viewpoint is consistent with her reputation later in the Bible as a seducer. In Revelation 2:20 it says “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” She is both teaching and seducing God’s servants to practice sexual immorality. One objection against this viewpoint is that she was an older woman, the mother of a king who was in his 20’s. However, if we read closely the recounting of Jehu, we can realize that he was a servant of King Ahab in his protective guard. This is not something a small child would be doing, it would take a man that has proven himself and risen in the ranks of the military to get to that position. Then having served Ahab he served Ahazaiah and Joram. Jehu himself was not a young, but a man who had experienced a career in the military. After his ascent to the throne he ruled for 28 years. It is not known exactly how old Jehu was, but he was certainly not too far removed from the age of Jezebel. The next problem with this viewpoint is her words upon Jehu’s arrival which were, “Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master?” He is referred to as Zimri because he was a man that killed King Elah of Israel and Zimri was king for a very short time and had a terrible end of his life by running into the palace that was set on fire. Her tone is one of defiance. You have killed your master and your end will be like that of Zimri, overthrow of your government and suicide. If she wanted to become the wife of Jehu should would greet him differently than this.

She was in one last act of defiance showing that she was the royal authority.

 

The second viewpoint is that as the Queen Mother she was simply trying to appear in the grandeur of her office and to show she was not giving it up in shame. She was, with pride and arrogance, saying I was born a royal and I will die a royal. She was not putting on make-up and getting dressed in royal attire to seduce Jehu. She was in one last act of defiance showing that she was the royal authority.

Even though the Bible refers to her as a seducer and she adorned herself in royal clothes and painted her face her intention was not to seduce or to win the affections of Jehu. Her greeting to Jehu shows what was in her heart, she was defying him and showing that she was the royal authority. Perhaps it was her fanatical belief in Baal that led her to view herself as the prophetess and protector of Baal worship. So she was defiant to the last moment of her life in order to prove her faithfulness to Baal and her royal authority. We do not know all of her motivations, but it is clear she was dressing herself to show her royal authority and defy Israel.

The painting of her eyes was a common custom throughout the Middle East in this period of time. It is mentioned three times in the Bible and each time it is referred to in the context of a woman with a rebellious, deceptive and seductive nature. Here is the first mention of it (Jezebel), the second mention is in Jeremiah 4:30 (Israel and Judah) and the third mention is Ezekiel 23:40 (Israel and Judah).

Painting of the eyes or wearing of make-up is not connected to godliness or godly women. As we addressed before the Bible does not indicate that Esther wore make-up or painted her eyes. You can read more about that here. Sisters in the Lord should read these Scriptures closely and compare it back to 1 Timothy 2:9 regarding modesty. Is this the actions and the behavior that God wants you to follow? Pray in sincerity.

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