The Abject, Liminality, and Mutable Identity: Esther, Judith, and Jezebel

TITLE: The Abject, Liminality, and Mutable Identity: Esther, Judith, and Jezebel

CREATOR: Marilyn Love



Why is it that Jezebel is often viewed as a biblical antagonist, and is portrayed as a seductress in artistic interpretation, despite the fact that her story does not explicitly describe her as promiscuous? Why is it that this woman is abhorred for her actions, while female biblical characters such as Esther and Judith, who engaged in a similar manner, are praised? Utilizing Arnold van Gennep’s theory concerning rites of passage, this paper details specific ritual practices that Esther and Judith perform which Jezebel does not, outlining the inherent xenophobia and fear of female sexuality that is prevalent throughout biblical literature. Jezebel is a cultural monster to the Israelites, and the unsympathetic telling of her story illustrates the tragic consequences of demonizing the enemy–her corpse, mauled by dogs beyond recognition, begs the question of whether or not she was even human to begin with. The practices which these three female characters must engage in in order to be permitted to operate in the public sphere also demonstrate how the body itself can become a monster–in order to operate in the realm of men, these women had to radically alter their identities through fasting and clothing change, subjecting their own bodies to abject practices.


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1743720_10152206612852210_396359578_nMarilyn is a third-year Religious Studies major who aspires to obtain a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. She has worked on two archaeological excavations in Northern Israel, and would be perfectly content to spend the rest of her life digging up rocks while coated in the grime of bygone cultures. She also enjoys cooking, extreme organizing, and anything with Hello Kitty’s face on it.

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