Jezebel and Babylon

Paul Duff (Who Rides the Beast? 90) calls attention to five parallels between the prophetess Jezebel of Thyatira (Revelation 2) and the harlot city Babylon (Revelation 17-18).

“First, Ahab’s wife was a queen—of the kingdom of Israel in the ninth century BCE; the regal bearing of ‘Babylon’ in chapter 17 would call the Israelite queen to mind. Second, she was associated with sexual promiscuity in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as in the later Jewish tradition, just as ‘Babylon’ is accused of porneia in this text. Third, in addition to the porneia she was accused of, Queen Jezebel was also guilty of spilling the blood of the prophets of God (see 1 Kings 18:3-4; 13). In this she corresponds to the bloodthirsty whore of Revelation 17 who is drunk on ‘the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.’ Fourth, the number of allusions to Elijah in other places in the Apocalypse would also point to the figure of Jezebel in this passage, since in the biblical narratives, Elijah was Queen Jezebel’s nemesis. Fifth, the fact that the flesh of ‘Babylon’ is devoured in 17:16 calls to mind the fate of the Israelite queen (1 Kings 21:23-24), whose body was eaten by scavengers. Of course, Queen Jezebel would also easily arise in the minds of John’s readers because the author had already introduced that figure into the text by labeling his rival with the nick- name ‘Jezebel.’ Consequently, it seems fairly obvious that the text invites the readers to consider ‘Jezebel’ in connection with ‘Babylon’ in the Apocalypse.”

Add to this: Jezebel is queen of Tyre, and Babylon’s luxury is described in terms drawn from Ezekiel’s condemnation of Tyre (Ezekiel 27-28).

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