Date of Award

4-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Publisher

Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2017.

Degree Name

Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)

Director

Gina Hens-Piazza

Abstract

Even the casual reader of the books of Kings will notice that the Deuteronomic Historian assigns a disproportionately large amount narrated time (Erzählzeit) to the reign of the house of Ahab (1 Kgs 16:29-2 Kgs 10). This is surprising because, in the judgment of the Deuteronomic Historian, “no one sold himself to do evil in the eyes of YHWH as did Ahab, incited by Jezebel, his wife.” (1Kgs 21:25). Why does the Deuteronomic Historian dedicate so much narrated space not only to Ahab but especially to the character and deeds of his wife, Jezebel? And why in this narrative does the Deuteronomic Historian craft such an unprecedentedly abhorrent and objectionable portrait of Jezebel that makes her completely unacceptable even surpassing the evil of her husband?

Recent scholarly research has provided a convincing picture of 9th-8th centuries B.C.E. Israel, the setting of the Jezebel story. Ironically, the research discloses a heterogeneous society that enjoyed great diversity, accommodated a variety of deities, hosted a multiplicity of ethnicities with an array of interlocking cultures. This would be a society in which a foreign-born queen like Phoenician Jezebel would not be an anomaly but would be accepted and at home in such an environment. But the deuteronomic narrative about her suggests otherwise.

Today, scholarship is almost unanimous in its view that the final redaction of the Deuteronomic History occurred in Judah in the exilic and post-exilic era. Although Judah was permitted to rebuild after the exile, it had to grapple with significant socio-cultural and religious changes and in particular, it had to define a new self-understanding. This dissertation argues that the Deuteronomic Historian’s alienating portrait of Jezebel coincides with and serves the interests of the change in Israel’s self-conceptualization, a change precipitated by the post-exilic crisis of identity. The narrative paints a portrait of Jezebel as ethnically, religiously and culturally unIsraelite. Her unacceptability in the narrative coincides with the exclusiveness that haracterized this redefinition of the Israelite community. It offers the Yehud community a clear distinction between what is Israelite and what is not.

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