Collection Israel Museum/Photo Zev Radonav

The seal of Jezebel? Four paleo-Hebrew letters—two just below the winged sun disk at center, two at bottom left and right—spell out the name YZBL, or Jezebel, on this seal. The letters are shown in mirror image, so as to read correctly when the seal is impressed into wet clay.

Carved in Phoenician style, the seal depicts, from top, a winged sphinx holding in his forepaws an Egyptian ankh, or sign of life; the winged sun-disk; and a pair of serpents (uraei) flanking a falcon. Although there is no definite link with Jezebel, the Phoenician design, the dating of the seal to the ninth or early eighth century B.C.E., the elaborate design and, of course, the name have led scholars to speculate that the biblical queen may once have used this gray opal to seal her documents.

In the Phoenician language, Jezebel’s name may have meant “Where is the Prince?” which was the cry of Baal’s subjects. But the spelling of the Phoenician name has been altered in the Hebrew Bible, perhaps in order to read as “Where is the excrement [zebel, manure]?”—a reference to Elijah’s prediction that “her carcass shall be like dung on the ground” (2 Kings 9:36).