1. Revelation 2:20 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

What was Jezebel teaching?

Revelation 2:20 (ESV)

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servantsto practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

She was “seducing [Jesus’] servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” Much like her namesake in the Old Testament, she herself was promoting worship of idols within the church of Jesus Christ, something the Lord of the church would never move anyone to do (see Deuteronomy 13:1–3). Her teaching can be broken down into two aspects:

  1. She made it appealing for those for whom Jesus died (his servants) to practice sexual immorality. The reference can be understood in two ways:

    1. Erotic activity had a place in the temples of the idols of the city; in this case Jezebel would be encouraging the Christians to go to the temples to participate in that sexual immorality.

    2. Repeatedly in the Old Testament Israel’s service to the idols is described as unfaithfulness to the Lord, her Husband by covenant. Think, for example, of Ezekiel 16:1–63 or Hosea 1:1 – 3:5. Introducing Baal worship was precisely what Jezebel did in 1 Kings 21:25–26.

    This sister in the congregation whom Jesus nicknames Jezebel would then be enticing the members of this church to add to their service of the Lord also service to idols.

  2. She encouraged fellow members of the church to eat food sacrificed to idols. The reference here is to the habit of the trade guilds of Thyatira, where practitioners of a given trade would come together with others of their trade for a meal in honour of the patron god of that trade. The food was sacrificed to that patron god and then shared among the participants for eating. The meal amounted, then, to a confession of dependence on this patron god for past success and future prosperity. From a human perspective, to do well in business required the friendly cooperation of fellow tradesfolk. Joining in on these guild meals, then, made good business sense. This is what Jezebel was teaching. And members of the congregation in Thyatira were falling for her instruction.