Jezebel was the daughter of the king of the Sidonians, who married king Ahab of Israel, and hence became the Queen of Israel (1 Kings 16:31)
But even though Jezebel was a on the evil side as far as the ancient regents were concerned, why do we talk about a spirit, instead of a person? How, and when, did the real queen become a demon? A quick look over at Google makes one amazed at the imagination of some people, for the "Jezebel Spirit" is quite the thing. Take a look at these quotes:
Without question, the nastiest, evil, most disgusting, cunning, and seductive spirit in Satan’s hierarchy has to be what many call the Jezebel spirit.
This evil spirit has been responsible for not only tearing down churches, pastors, and different Christian ministries, but it has also been responsible for breaking up many marriages, friendships, companies, along with getting many people to commit cold-blooded murders and suicides. (Read the article here)
Wow. What a spirit! What else is it capable of doing?
According to another blogger, this spirit has 30 consistent traits. Here's an excerpt of some of them:
1. Refuses to admit guilt or wrong
2. Takes credit for everything
3. Uses people to accomplish its agenda
4. Withholds information
8. Ignores people
9. Never gives credit or shows gratitude
10. Criticizes everyone
17. Is pushy and domineering
21. Commands attention
22. Is vengeful
23. Attempts to make you look like you’re the Jezebel )
(Read the whole list here)
I don't know about you, but doesn't this sound awfully like a narcissist? No wonder people think this spirit is manipulative! But I don't think a personality disorder is cured through exorcism.
But let's move on. What biblical proof is there that this "Jezebel Spirit" exists?
The Bible doesn't talk about a "Jezebel Spirit." It is true that there are two Jezebels in the Bible, one is a queen and the other a false prophet (1 Kings 16:31; Rev 2:20), but they are real people. And although neither is exactly what we would call godly examples, they are still real women who lived and breathed.
So, why do we talk about a spirit? What caused Jezebel to go from a real person to a myth, and then later on to a hype?
I did some digging and found an excellent paper on the subject. "The Jezebel Spirit, A Scholarly Inquiry" (You can download the article here).
It appears that the church has never really liked her. Some brave feminist theologians have tried to rescue her reputation, but overall, she has never been well-liked. For example, Jerome considered her a "wanton person," which isn't surprising, considering how much Jerome favored celibacy; anyone who wasn't a monk was a wanton person. But the real damage was done much closer to our time: the power struggles that swept Europe before and after the Reformation saw the name Jezebel thrown around liberally, usually with the goal of condemning queens of the opposite side.
Oratio ad Milites that was delivered to Spain’s Armada fighters in
the latter part of the 16th century termed Queen Elizabeth I the
‘second Jezebel’. The Roman Catholic-Protestant struggles of the
16th century considered any woman on the opposite side to be a
Jezebel (Gaines 1999:99). In the opening sentence of the preface
of The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment
of Women, John Knox (1558:3) uses Jezebel’s name to call forth
ancient names of wicked female rulers of the past. He states that
the empire or rule of a wicked woman, a traitor and a bastard,
is abominable before God. Knox (1558:11) affirmed the empire
of a woman to be repugnant to nature. Nature paints women to
be weak, frail, impatient, feeble and foolish, and experience has
shown them to be inconsistent, variable, cruel and lacking the
spirit of counsel. Knox (1558:45) considered women in authority
as rebels against God.
Yet, they were still talking about a real person. When did Jezebel become a spirit that would possess unsuspecting people? Let's take a look:
Isaac Williams, born in 1802, is, among others, remembered
for his sermons entitled Female Characters of Holy Scripture.
This work includes his examination and evaluation of Jezebel.
Williams (1859:178) poses a question: If Ahab was in wickedness
beyond the wicked kings of Israel and the reason was that he
was stirred up to do evil by one worse than himself (Jezebel),
how bad must Jezebel have been? She appears like the type that
has appeared in the history of the world – women in high places
who incite men to commit great crimes. Williams (1859:179)
maintains that these women seemed as if they themselves were
fully and directly under the influence of evil spirits who used
them as instruments of seduction.
In other words, men are so easily swayed that any woman can influence them to make bad decisions - hence the need for the man's authority. But since not all women are evil, they must be possessed by a spirit. Ergo, there must be a "Jezebel Spirit," that causes women to influence men to do evil. There just cannot be another explanation according to some, although I suspect that the creation of this spirit in the 19th century has more to do with the legal minority of women that forced them to use manipulation and other devices to get unreluctant men to agree with them, rather than a real spirit that roams around and possesses people. The Victorian era was, after all, an era of superstition more than we care to admit, and more than false belief that still plagues the church comes from this era.
Yet, the honor of creating the "Jezebel Spirit" belongs to the 20th century evangelicals who transformed the real historical person to a hype, scaring children and unsuspecting men and women in the process. See, for example, what Francis Frangipane has written on the subject:
... to understand the spirit of Jezebel, we must understand the
genesis of this personality in the Bible. The first mention of Jezebel
is seen in the rebellious, manipulative wife of King Ahab. It was
actually this spirit, operating through Jezebel ….
We are told that Jezebel didn't create this spirit; the spirit existed before her and possessed her, as seen by her manipulative treatment of King Ahab. But what did Jezebel actually do? Well, she murdered a man called Naboth, whose vineyard King Ahab wanted. By sending letters to the town's people in the king's name and asking them to falsely accuse the man and then stone him for blasphemy of the king and God, Queen Jezebel gained access to the vineyard, and was able to hand it over to the king (1 Kings 21).
If the story sounds eerily familiar, it's because another royal person did exactly the same thing - except he didn't want a vineyard; he wanted a woman.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, "Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die." So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David's army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died. (2 Sam 11:14-17, NIV)
King David had Uriah murdered to cover his rape of Bathsheba. So why don't we talk about a "David Spirit," a spirit of murder and adultery? It's rather simple: because the Bible says David was a man after God's own heart. You can't exactly say that he was favored by God if he was possessed by an evil spirit (1 Sam 13:14), especially since we know King Saul was tormented by an evil spirit, and God had deposed him from being a king because he was displeased with him. Hence, it appears that the real reason for the vitriol against Jezebel is her idol worship and witchcraft (2 Kings 9:22). Another evangelical, John Paul Jackson, makes that connection:
Jackson (2001:12–15) discerns the Jezebel spirit as a celestial power that
has worldwide influence. It works in consort with demonic
powers, which include spirits of manipulation, religion, control,
lust, perversion and the occult. Jackson goes on to elaborate on
specific characteristics of Jezebel and the spirit that is associated
with her name.
The "Jezebel Spirit" is the spirit of witchcraft, the spirit of the occult. And that is what makes it so repugnant to evangelicals who fear even Harry Potter.
But the real question we must ask is: why do evangelicals claim that Christian women, who have the Spirit of God in them, are possessed by this spirit of witchcraft? And why do they say specifically that women who challenge male authority have this spirit?
I have a theory.
Jezebel was a powerful queen who did as she pleased. She wasn't under any man's authority, other than that of the king, who clearly was pleased with her scheming and idol worship. Jezebel represents everything authority obsessed men fear in women: independence, power, fearless decision making. She is the woman that cannot be controlled, and therefore poses a real threat to unearned and unmerited male authority.
However, she was far from the only independent woman in the Bible. Jael was equally fearless when she killed Sisera; Deborah led the whole nation making decisions on the matters of the law; Hulhad, the prophet, sent a message to a reluctant king; Priscilla taught Apollos; Rahab saved the Israeli spies; Mary said yes to becoming an unwed mother exposing herself to disgrace and death by stoning; Romans 16 mentions a long list of women who worked in the defense of the Gospel. And the list goes on.
No one would dare to say that these women were possessed with a spirit of rebellion and witchcraft, a "Jezebel Spirit." So why do we insult the Spirit of grace and claim our women are possessed, especially when they seek to be faithful to the Bible and the Spirit of God?
We know power is seductive; unearned power is even more so. Perhaps we shouldn't be looking at the women, but turn our eyes to the men, for if this spirit is the spirit of control - look around - who controls whom? Or maybe we should finally let Jezebel rest in peace and only refer to her by her rightful title, the wife of King Ahab, the Queen of Israel.
Now that would be biblical, don't you think?