Now some of you who like old movies will remember Betty Davis in a 1938 classic named after the villain in today's first reading. For who can forget that rebellious antebellum Jezebel arriving at the ball in a bright red dress to shame Henry Fonda into paying more attention to her. Just like today we're enthralled with the schemings of Clare Underwood on House of Cards or Meredith Kane on Boss. we are always obsessed with the woman behind the evil man with blood on her hands.
But it all goes back to Jezebel, true daughter of Eve, who in today's first reading concocts a plot to get the house next door from the hapless Naboth. By forging the King's signature she arranges to have Naboth falsely accused and then stoned to death so she can annex his property and expand her vegetable garden.
But that's only part of the story. In the previous chapter she convinces her husband to abandon the one true God, while erecting shrines to the pagan deities Baal and Asherah. She has all the prophets of Israel slain (Elijah, fortunately, escapes) all the while anointing her self high priestess of idolatry and witchcraft.
She made quite a name for herself, as infamous as Judas in her own right.
So what does she have to teach us?
Evil is always sneaky
Evil always starts with a lie, a deceit, a masquerade. Like Eve in the Garden (“the serpent made me do it!”) or Cain (“I don't know where my brother is!”) or the little kid caught with the broken cookie jar (“I don't know how it got broke!”). The heart of evil is the lie, just as the author of evil is the father of all lies.
Evil is about everyday things
Evil is seldom about historic choices or momentous things. True evil has to do with deciding whether I will worship God or my own pleasures, whether I will seek the way or love or the way of selfishness, the way of purity or the way of corruption. Just as love is best found in the little things, so evil is as common as my next decision.
Evil always loses in the end.
Later on in the week we will hear about Jezebel's sad end. At the hand of Jehu she will be thrown down from a great height and, true to the prophecy of Elijah, the dogs will lick up her blood. In fact, they will eat most of her, for when Jehu went out to find her body, all that was left was her skull.
Nor will it be less horrific for the modern day Jezebel, who will be judged by the Lord when he returns in glory on the last day, when all those who have chosen evil will be consigned to a place of never ending torment, where the worm crawls and the flames burn undimmed.
And that is what Jezebel has to teach us today.