Bob Dylan And Jezebel (Parts I and II)

by Larry Fyffe

Part I

Elijah, prophet of the Hebrew God, tells King Ahab, the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom are being punished with drought for worshipping Baal; Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, claims Baal is punishing them for straying away from the natural laws of the Golden Calf.

Elijah’s God says a hard rain’s hard agonna fall, and, sure enough, the Baal-prophets and soldiers are swept away in the River of Slaughter – the Kishon flows red with blood:

And it came to pass in the mean while
That the heaven was black with clouds and wind
And there was a great rain ...
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done
And withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword
(I Kings 18: 45; -19: I)

Poor Ahab was attempting to keep the peace with the Baalists, but begins have second thoughts about his marriage to Jezebel.

In the song below the singer/narrator takes on the role of Ahab:

Could be better had I never
Known such a lover as you
(Frankie Laine: Jezebel ~ Shanklin)

And so it goes –

Ahab say, I was just trying to play Baal with Belle
Elijah say the next time you see me coming, you better take a hike
And Ahab says, "It's enough; now O Lord, take away my life 
For l am no better than my fathers" (I Kings 19: 4)

Captain Ahab hangs around, however, and, to make a long story short, he gets killed, and Jezebel, her face covered in a fresh coat of paint, now with no one on her side, gets thrown out a window, and her flesh eaten by a pack of dogs “so they shall not say, ‘This is Jezebel’ ” (II Kings 9:30)

It could be said that the singer/songwriter/musician, whose lyrics are quoted beneath, gives an obverse twist to the biblical story above.

Turns Jez into a good gal:

Well,  I sat by her side, and for a while 
I tried to make that girl my wife 
She gave me her best advice
And she said , "Go home, and lead a quiet life"
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

Part II

In the concluding chapters of the Holy Bible, things start to get interesting.

Thus speaks Jesus:

Behold I stand at the door, and knock
If any man hear my voice
And open the door, I will come in to him
And will sup with him, and him with me
(Revelations 3: 20)

Singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan opens the mirrored door; not sure who’s there.

For one thing, were readers of the Holy Bible to take the Kishon River in the Northern Kingdom of Israel as the Red River spoken of in the song “Red River Shore”, we would indeed find ourselves strangers transported to the backstage of a strange Gnostic Land.

The unrepentant wife of King Ahab, Jezebel from the Kishon River shore, is said to end up eaten by dogs in the Old Testament, but backstage she’s magically brought back to life by the crucified Jesus of the NewTestament.

There, Christ, at the very least His Ghostly Spirit, admonishes those who claim to accept Him as their Messiah. They (in a city where temples to the many-breasted fertility goddess, a variation on the virgin goddess, Diana are built) have fallen away from His teachings:

Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee
Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel
Which calls herself a prophetess
To teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication
And to eat things sacrificed unto idols
(Revelations 2: 20)

The following song lyrics thus interpreted:

Now, I've heard of this guy who lived a long time ago
A man full of sorrow and strife
That if someone around him died, and was dead
He knew how to bring'em on back to life
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

Given the revelations above, the temptress Jezebel could well be the person brought back to life in the song.

With the curtains drawn, It's not  clear, that's for sure:
Well, I don't know what kind of language that he used
Or if they do that kind of thing anymore
Sometimes, I think nobody ever saw me here at all
Except the girl from the Red River Shore
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

The New Testament Jezebel does not repent; no more than she does in the Old.

But the gal in the song, akin to the southern belle in the movie ‘Jezebel’, starring Bette Davis, does – in the song, by sending her lusty buck back across the river before he gets into trouble.

Clear it be that she’s not among the ones who, in the song, knock at the narrator’s door looking to seduce him:

Pretty maids all in a row lined up
Outside my cabin door
I've never wanted any of them wanting me
Except the girl from the Red River Shore
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

If that be the case, the face of the evil female archetype – just happens she’s a  good cook – is given a brand new coat of paint by the refomed gold hunter, the Jack of Hearts.

He, now into commerce, a.k.a the RAZ, stands in the doorway:

The ghost of  Belle Starr, she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun, she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper, who sits
At the head of the Chamber of Commerce
(Bob Dylan: Tombstone Blues)

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