STRONG, independent, and courageously grounded women are the focus of Lesley Hazleton’s Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible’s Harlot Queen and Joan Chittister’s The Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible. While both books are written with different purposes, each author re-tells and dissects the stories of some of the most well-known and least known women from the Bible.
In Jezebel, Lesley Hazleton strips the foreign-princess-turned-queen of Israel from her image of a harlot, which was given to her in Kings; an image that was amazingly penned three centuries after she became queen and met her most gruesome death. Through facts found in religious texts, Middle Eastern history and archeology, Ms. Hazleton shows Jezebel as a young polytheistic woman who is strong, independent, courageous, grounded in her values and beliefs, and worldly; a woman whose story is made up of politics, religion and tragic death. As Jezebel’s untold story is revealed, the reader is also taken on a journey that shows how she went from being known as Itha-Baal, woman of the Lord, to I-zevel, woman of dung.
[pullquote]As someone who is more acquainted with other figures in the Bible and shamefully not that familiar with Jezebel and her story, I found myself drawn to Ms. Hazleton’s book. I wanted to know more about this woman who continued to worship more than one god while she ruled Israel with her husband, King Ahab, who worshiped one god.
I wanted to know more about how she courageously stood up to the threats of her nemesis, Elijah, and about how she met her death with such grace and poise. I found myself fascinated, and my thirst for wanting to know more about Jezebel and her story made it hard to put down this book. However, I found that I had to put it down on more than one occasion in order to digest the heavy academic analysis that filled each chapter. The history student in me appreciated Ms. Hazleton’s research and in-depth analysis that revealed the story she wanted to tell, but that appreciation often battled my desire to simply know more about the overall story.
The stories of 12 other equally strong women from the Bible are briefly told in Joan Chittister’s The Friendship of Women. The stories are used to show how the qualities of each woman are the qualities that we seek out and value in our friendships. In this book, which can be read in the course of an hour, the reader becomes acquainted with Lydia, Prisca, Deborah, Phoebe, Esther, Martha of Bethany, Veronica, Elizabeth, Ruth, Anne, Miriam, and Mary Magdalene and with the ways that their qualities of growth, self, wisdom, support, leadership, truth, presence, acceptance, availability, nurturance, joy, truth and love are important qualities in the bonds that we foster with other women.
The Friendship of Women is insightful and, as someone who is blessed with deep and meaningful relationships with some of the women in my life, I found myself trying to match up the types of friendships that I have with each chapter. I found the book so insightful that it is one I would consider giving to those women who are near and dear to my heart.
Shannon Cottrell is the donor relations co-ordinator in the Anglican Church of Canada’s department of philanthropy.