Snow White was confronted of the nemesis of an evil queen. This beautiful woman had according to some versions wiled her way into the affections of the king, only to arrange his death and take power.
While not exactly the plot of the fairy tale, Kings and Chronicles give us some fascinating real life stories of such evil queens. In this case it is the mother/daughter pair, Jezebel and Athaliah.
Jezebel was a Phoenician (1 Kings 16), and while it was a diplomatic triumph for Ahab, King of Israel to make such a strategic alliance through marriage, it underscored his weakness as both king, and as a man of God. He became increasingly under his foreign wife’s influence, and soon built altars to Baal. Jezebel was well versed in the art of being a despot, and her mark was to be left on Ahab’s kingship.
The extent of her despotism, and her corruption is found in I Kings 21 when she plotted for the death of Naboth in order to obtain his vineyard, for her husband to use as a vegetable field. She used false testimony and deception to gain her ends. The result was for people (presumably in an act of religious fervour) to kill Naboth for cursing God (a crime he was innocent of).
What she ultimately caused was the downfall of her husband’s reign. She in turn, meet a terrible end herself, as prophecised by Elijah, with her flesh eaten by dogs.
Her corruption, and its evil impact on Israel, also infected Judah through Athaliah. Jehoshaphat’s kingdom had already had maritime setbacks because of the good king’s alliance with Ahab (2 Chronicles 20). But the marriage of his heir to Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter, proved an even greater threat.
God was not pleased with King Jehoram. He had killed all of his brothers, and according to 2 Chronicles 21 he “had forsaken the Lord, the God of his ancestors. He had also built high places on the hills of Judah and had caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves and had led Judah astray.” The result was invasions of the country from without, and a consuming disease on him personally. The invasions led the the loss of his wealth and children (say for one), and the disease eventually kills him.
On the death of Jehoram, his youngest son Ahaziah took the throne. This weak king ruled for only one year. He abandoned the righteousness of Judah, allies with his mother’s line of Ahab, and follows evil counsel: “He too followed the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him to act wickedly. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for after his father’s death they became his advisers, to his undoing (2 Chron 22: 3-4).”
On Ahaziah’s death (again only a year after coming to power), Athaliah took power herself.
When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes who were about to be murdered and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Because Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of the priest Jehoiada, was Ahaziah’s sister, she hid the child from Athaliah so she could not kill him. He remained hidden with them at the temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled the land (verses 10- 12).”
To assure her own position she attempts a purge of all of the royal line of Jehoshaphat. A plan, as we see that is mostly successful, but which failed in the end. In chapter 23, the rightful king with the aid of the priests and Levites is crowned, and Athaliah (like her mother) is killed. The new king, with the support of the priests and people brought down the evil reign, and went even further, for they tore down the temple of Baal.
And at the Temple of the Lord,
” . . . Jehoiada [the priest]placed the oversight of the temple of the Lord in the hands of the Levitical priests, to whom David had made assignments in the temple,to present the burnt offerings of the Lord as written in the Law of Moses, with rejoicing and singing, as David had ordered. He also stationed gatekeepers at the gates of the Lord’s temple so that no one who was in any way unclean might enter. . . . All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was calm, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword (verses 18, 19, 21).”
The line of Jezebel was ended. God was elevated. Evil seemed powerful, but in the end “the wages of sin proved to be death.” It may not be materially so these days, but the account of the costs and consequences of the queens’ evil, are great reminders to us today.