…as late as the 9th century B.C., there were still plenty of folks who worshiped Baal and Astarte and any number of other divinities, and who were fairly tolerant of whatever gods might be around. Which is where Lesley Hazleton's provocative Jezebel comes in. Although this volume sports a deliciously seductive cover, it is, in fact, a work both academic and speculative, taking as its underlying material the war between paganism and the God Yahweh, and how Yahweh won.
The Washington Post
Like other villains of the Bible, Jezebel, it turns out, may have been gravely mischaracterized throughout history. Unlike Judas, of whom there are alternative, rehabilitative stories, the only historical account of Jezebel's life exists in the Books of Kings. What Hazleton argues, however, is that this account is self-subverting and has been misconstrued throughout history. Interlacing fictional narrative with engaging commentary, Hazleton points out that Jezebel was never sexually promiscuous or even accused of being so; the word "harlot" only ever referred to her unfaithfulness to Yahweh. And while Elijah is a universally loved biblical figure (Hazleton gives examples of Jewish, Christian and Muslim reverence for him), her reading of Kings reveals him to be the worst sort of fundamentalist-the kind who thinks that all who oppose the true faith should be killed. Hazleton draws from a deep, impressive well of scholarship and includes a fascinating travelogue of her journeys to the places described in Kings. In addition, she provides her own rich, nuanced translation and uses it to highlight the wordplay in which the biblical authors frequently engage. Replete with apt comparisons to modern Middle Eastern conflicts, this revisionist portrait is equal parts fun and sobering-a colorful history lesson that's sorely needed. (Oct. 16)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Hazleton's journalistic experience led her to develop a lively and engaging prose style, which provides an only surreptitiously dense serving of information and reflection. Her treatment of Jezebel is similar to her take on Jesus's mother in Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother. Alternating among modes of history, historical imagination, and cultural studies, this book unfolds not only stories of its title character but also, more interestingly, stories of the stories about the "harlot queen" that detail and speculate on the influences, prejudices, and politics that have impacted their telling throughout the centuries. Several offerings in recent years have sought to revise the popular image of this foreign-born queen by marriage of ancient Israel, but this is certainly the most entertaining. Suitable for public library patrons; academic collections will prefer Janet Howe Gaines's Music in the Old Bones: Jezebel Through the Ages.
A dogged defense of one of the Bible's most controversial characters, used to grind a few axes. Hazleton (Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother, 2004 , etc.) aims to peel back centuries of slander and misconception about the character of Jezebel, utilizing modern archeological evidence, textual criticism and her own Mid-East experience. However, she leaps beyond the realm of biblical criticism to create a character all her own. The author's Jezebel is a beautiful, proud, cosmopolitan queen, a model of civility set against the rugged milieu of backwater Israel. She is also virtually guiltless, her only fault apparently being a well-earned arrogance as the worldly queen of the uncouth. Hazleton presents Jezebel in such a light largely to juxtapose her to her arch-enemy, the prophet Elijah-who the author palpably, almost viciously, disdains. But Hazleton's rehabilitation of Jezebel is a secondary aim. Her main theme is what she sees as an ageless struggle between civilized plurality and tolerance on one hand, and destructive fundamentalism on the other. Elijah-who she compares to both al-Qaeda operative al-Zawahiri and Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin's assassin-is squarely in the fundamentalist camp. The prophet, described as "downright feral," is the antithesis of Hazleton's Jezebel, who understood tolerance and statecraft and stood almost alone in ancient Israel against "fanaticism and intolerance." The implications for today are obvious: "Elijah issues the classic challenge, heard everywhere from Islamist madrasas and hard-line yeshivas to evangelical seminaries: you're one of us, or one of them." The author's attempt to resurrect the reputation of Jezebel is certainly hinderedby her own heavy-handed rhetoric. She argues correctly that Jezebel's name has been used (and misused) throughout time for the purposes of advancing separate arguments. But with this book, she does exactly that. Jews, Muslims and Christians alike may take offense to Hazleton's contribution to plurality. Agent: Gloria Loomis/Watkins Loomis Agency Inc.
Advance Praise for Jezebel:
“This riveting biography breaks through all our preconceptions about Jezebel. In Hazleton’s hands, the real story of the ‘harlot queen’ is a vivid and magnificent drama with direct relevance to our own time. You’ll never read the Hebrew bible the same way again.”
—Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth and Misconceptions
“I read Jezebel in a single enthralled sitting. In her wonderfully spirited retelling of the Books of Kings, Lesley Hazleton makes Jezebel our contemporary, and turns the ninth century B.C. into a prophetic mirror of our twenty-first-century religiopolitical wars. In a feat of nonfiction magical realism, she brilliantly collapses the worlds of now and then into one realm, where Jezebel and Elijah effortlessly rub shoulders with Ehud Olmert and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. The book is endlessly informative (and Hazleton’s knowledge of Hebrew serves her well here); it is also great fun.”
—Jonathan Raban, author of Surveillance
“This riveting book tells the story of the real-life, flesh-and-blood-and-brain female whose name has been, for the last three thousand years, shorthand for Bad Girl. Was Jezebel really ‘bad’? Or was she, like so many forward-thinking women after her, simply feared as a foreigner, reviled as an infidel, destroyed as a deviant? Read this book and find out.”
—Rebecca Brown, author of The Gifts of the Body
“Lesley Hazleton is a terrific, charismatic writer, and this book is an eloquent, smart, and thought-provoking reinterpretation of the biblical tale of Jezebel.”
—Neil Asher Silberman, author of David and Solomon
Praise for Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother:
“Thoughtful, evocative, and eminently readable...Dazzling to read and weighty to ponder.”
“Readers who loved the phenomenally popular fictional chronicle of Jacob’s daughter Dina in Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent will find this book about Mary, the mother of Jesus, just as enthralling....She also knows how to write a page-turner.”
“Weaves historical facts with empathy and imagination to construct a plausible, visceral version of this celebrated woman.”
—Los Angeles Times Book Review