Perceived Likenesses Between Nefertiti and Jezebel

Published January 2, 2014 by amaic


Taken from:


My biggest challenge in evoking 18th Dynasty Egypt was not being able to include all of the information that I had researched. There are so many great resources for studying ancient Egypt, and I was fortunate enough to be in contact with several Egyptologists who were available to answers any questions I had which couldn’t be found in books. But it was a real challenge not to include everything I knew about the Amarna period. One example would be how Nefertiti’s daughter had her own perfume line. To me, this was fascinating. It meant there were celebrity figures even three thousand years ago who young women at court wanted to emulate. But this fact simply had no place in the storyline, so I didn’t include it. Several wonderful biographies exist on Nefertiti, and my job was to remember that I was trying to write a compelling fictional narrative, not another biography.

At the recent North American Historical Novel Society Conference, you mentioned a previous novel, published in Germany, about the biblical Jezebel. How was writing about Jezebel different from exploring Nefertiti’s world? Did Jezebel help pave the way for you?

I wrote Jezebel while I was in college and was interested in the Iron Age II artifacts, and as I began researching into that time period, I came across the story of Jezebel, who had been a queen of Israel in 800 BC. The historical Jezebel is the narrator of my novel, and she brought into Israel (from her father’s Kingdom of Tyre) the cult of Baal and his consort Asherah. The book emphasizes the difference between Jezebel’s matrilineal kingdom, where land and inheritance was passed down from mother to daughter, and the kingdom of her husband, which was predominantly patriarchal. The novel is essentially a look at why Jezebel came to be such a hated female figure in the Bible. Jezebel was strong, cunning, and educated, then brought to a culture that emphasized female demureness and passivity. It’s no surprise that she was remembered with such hatred. After all, she had come from a land where women painted their eyes with kohl and dressed like the Egyptians, then became ruler of a kingdom where none of that was acceptable. Her mother had instilled in her the values of a culture that believed women could rule in their own right, and when she arrived in Israel with that attitude, she made quite a few enemies. Her real downfall, however, lay in her desire to change the religion of ancient Israel. Jezebel had grown up worshiping a goddess called Asherah, and a god she would have called by the affectionate term Baal Zebul (Baal the Exalted, who wore a helmet of horns on his head). But there is nothing more dangerous for a ruler than trying to change what her people believe in, and like Nefertiti, Jezebel failed miserably.

The writing and research for Jezebel wasn’t much different from the writing and research required for Nefertiti.



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