In 1964, Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad purchased a seal engraved in ancient Hebrew script with the letters YZBL —the name Jezebel. Professor Avigad, along with others, thought it might be the official seal of the Queen Jezebel of the Bible, but since the location and date of the item’s discovery were unknown, there was no way to link it to the infamous queen.
However, a recent investigation by Old Testament scholar Marjo Korpel of Utrecht University in the Netherlands indicates that the seal, housed for years in the Israel Museum, likely did belong to the murderous monarch.
The seal’s large size indicates that its owner was quite important, as does the fact that it was carved from opal, a semiprecious stone. “It’s twice as big as normal seals and also the iconography is very nicely engraved,” Dr. Korpel said.
Her analysis of the seal’s engraved symbols led her to conclude that it belonged to female royalty—i.e., a queen. “The lion-sphinx with female head and female Isis-Hathor crown, which is unique, this clearly points to a queen,” she explained.
Further, “the lotus [located below the Horus falcon] was a symbol of gender definition and refers to a female owner [while] the winged sun disk was a well-known symbol of royalty in and outside Israel.”
Other icons on the seal, such as the Horus falcon and twin cobras, symbols probably adopted from Egypt, also reinforce the object’s connection to a monarch, Dr. Korpel observed.
By process of elimination, she concluded that the biblical queen was the only plausible owner. Her complete analysis was published in a volume of the scholarly Journal for Semitics.
The biblical books of 1 and 2 Kings portray Jezebel as an influential ruler who manipulated her husband, the 9th-century-B.C. Israelite King Ahab, using deceit and murder to accomplish her goals. The daughter of a Phoenician ruler, she married Ahab as part of a political alliance and determined to convert both him and the kingdom of Israel to the worship of the deities of her former country.
After slaughtering true prophets of God, she also attempted to kill Elijah. In accordance with Elijah’s prophecy, she met a violent end and her corpse was devoured by dogs.
After learning of Dr. Korpel’s research and conclusions, Hebrew University professor Hagai Misgav said he believed that the Israel Museum and Israel Antiquities Authority possess many more artifacts that may carry unnoticed historical clues. “Not all the artifacts have been thoroughly examined,” he noted. “There are many discoveries waiting to be made.”