A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Jezebel as a Picture of Abuse

Recently, Barbara was presented with a question about the “Jezebel Spirit”, specifically whether it applies only to women. In the ensuing internal discussion, we bandied back and forth about how to handle this subject as the original question raised a lot more questions. What exactly is the “Jezebel Spirit”?  Is it an issue for women only?  The topic intrigued me, so I offered to take it on. Note that I will not address some of the denominational baggage that is often attached to the subject (is it demonic or not), as this is outside our purpose for this blog.

What I hope to do is to take from Scripture who Jezebel was, and what her specific sins were.  My goal is to show that the most common uses of this phrase by church people are unscriptural and are improperly used as a battering ram against women who refuse to submit to an abusive husband, or anyone who raises tough questions to church leadership. It is a form of spiritual abuse.

Let’s start with an overview of who Jezebel was and the relevant passages that talk about her. We see her mentioned first in 1 Kings 16 as becoming the wife of Ahab. Now Ahab was one in a long line of wicked kings of the northern kingdom of Israel.  Like his predecessors, Ahab led the people into idolatry and embraced Baal worship. Scripture makes no bones about the fact that he was more wicked than even the kings before him (v. 33). As part of this process of leading the Israelites further into idolatry, he married Jezebel, the daughter of the Sidonian king. This was a direct violation of God’s commands not to intermarry with outsiders, and probably accelerated Israel’s demise. Thus married to a foreign idolatress, they became partners in all manner of evil. As such, his marriage to Jezebel was an extension of the evil in his heart and his rebellion towards God.

Note that Scripture does not say anything about Jezebel usurping the role of her husband, though she is portrayed as the evil antagonist in her dealings with God. It is more likely that the two of them plotted together and she is simply portrayed in Scripture as the face of the evil they practiced. In any case, it is clear that she was complicit in leading people into the worship of idols.

With that background, let’s look at the specific sins of Jezebel as listed in Scripture.  I will give chapter references rather than quoting the verses to save space.

  1. Murder and threats of murder of God’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4; 19:2).
  2. Seeking revenge (1 Kings 19:2)
  3. Conspiracy, theft, murder and suborning perjury in the incident concerning Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21)
  4. Sexual immorality and witchcraft (2 Kings 9:21)

All through the passages in Kings, there is an undercurrent of rebellion, but it is a rebellion against God and His prophets.  Further, we see signs of extreme narcissism, something that should seem very familiar to anyone who is a victim of abuse! Additionally, Jezebel was a consummate liar.  She refused to be wrong. Do you see a familiar pattern here?

The New Testament only mentions Jezebel in Revelation 2:18-29 (letter to Church in Thyatira).  Here, it is clear that the literal Jezebel was not in the church, but probably one or more persons who led people into idolatry and sexual immorality. In other words, God’s complaint with Thyatira was that they were tolerating false teachers who led them into immorality and idolatry. He mentioned nothing of abuse here, nor someone rebelling against their husband.

Now, when an accusation of having a “Jezebel Spirit” is leveled against someone, it is usually by an abusive husband or church leadership, and it is almost always made against women! The intent is to disarm the woman, to put her in absolute and total submission to either the authority of the abusive man, or an abusive church. Simply, it is meant to shut the person up!

There are several problems with this. First, it is saying what Scripture does not say. In other words, it is a misunderstanding of who Jezebel was and what God said against her. Examine list of sins above. If you really get down to it, it is clear that Jezebel was an abuser, not an innocent victim of abuse from her husband. She was clearly one who abused and used others for her own selfish gain. She enabled and encouraged her husband to commit grievous sins. She lusted for power and control in both the Old and New Testament references. Again, do you see the pattern? It is the classic pattern of the abuser, not the victim!

Second, none of the sins listed are exclusive to women. Men can and do engage in the same sins and have the same attitudes and motivations she displayed. People who accuse only women of this, or teach that this is a woman’s issue, are engaging in a logical fallacy. You cannot say that because Jezebel was a woman, and committed these sins, that only women can do so.

Third, by flippantly telling a woman that she is a Jezebel, without fully understanding what Scripture says about her, abusers and churches are not only making a false comparison, but are engaging in spiritual abuse. Most of these types, like all abusers, have a sense of entitlement to power. They are taking Scripture out of context, mixing in worldly assumptions and desires, and ignoring truth to empower themselves and shut down dissent. If that is not spiritual abuse, then I don’t know what is!

I want to encourage all victims of domestic abuse who have been called Jezebel, or told you have that spirit, not to believe it. It is clear from Scripture that there is no comparison between a victim of abuse and Jezebel. Your standing up to an abuser or even church leadership when they are abusing you is nothing like the Jezebel of either the Old or New Testaments. God’s word is intended to bring you freedom, not bondage. I pray that knowing the truth will free you to reject the slavery this phrase brings!

***

UPDATE about the origin of the term ‘Jezebel Spirit’. Update added 11 Jan 2017.

According to Mike Phillips (link)

The man who coined the”Jezebel Spirit” phrase, Francis Frangipane, told me it is one of his big regrets for it is most often used to denigrate strong, confident women in churches. He was describing an attitude that just wants to destroy people in authority. Men do that just as often.

He spoke this at the Pastor’s luncheon at the Montana School of Prayer in 1998 in Helena Montana. I was sitting on the dais beside him and he got up and answered questions. Someone asked about the Jezebel Spirit. He rolled his eyes and then said what I reported above.

In the book … “The Three Battlegrounds”, he clearly delineates the Jezebel spirit as an attitude which opposes spiritual leadership and seeks to destroy it for the sheer pleasure of destroying the work of God. It applies to men or women. 

24 Comments

  1. Round of applause, sir. Round of applause.

  2. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  3. Anonymous

    Sir Wendell, this is a marvelous explanation of an often misused and misunderstood topic. It seems that any victim of abuse that wants to stand up for herself or stand up for what she knows to be truth in order to gain freedom from abuse, gets the label! I know that for myself, I was panicked about getting the truth to those who “claimed” to want to help, but really just wanted to be the heroes who fixed the marriage. My responses probably seemed controlling, because I did not want to be sent back into the abuse. I am not certain that I was labeled a Jezebel, but I know of other victims that have been, because they too were pretty rigid about being sent back to the wolf, by leaders. Then throw in having to defy the “c”hurch who would send you back into abuse, and I guess those churches felt they had gained the right to accuse, whether by calling one a Jez”ebel” or a r”ebel”. But, we all know “who” it is and what “spirit” it is that accuses the true brethren. I continue to be amazed at the people God has put in my path, who have been mistreated and even kicked out of the “c”hurch, due to standing up for the true Gospel. I guess Jesus warned us all about these things and that these days would come, in John 16. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • “Sir”? Well, I doubt I will ever be knighted! Bonked on the head a few times, yes… 😉

      Thanks anon. I’ve also heard used against abuse victims, the verse in 1 Samuel 15 where Samuel confronts Saul for his disobedience by telling him that rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft. Funny thing is, Samuel as chastising Saul, not for disagreeing with a leader, but flat out disobeying God.

      It is strange how we will use Scripture to reinforce our own pride and arrogance and to shut down dissent.

  4. If you want to take this the way they do in churchworld, then for every Jezebel, there’s got to be an Ahab. She used Ahab’s position and authority to get *Ahab* what *Ahab* wanted, then stinky Ahab gets plausible deniability. “It wasn’t me– it was Jezebel.”

    Got *so* tired of hearing that one thrown around. In our church, I think they had a pretty good idea what she represented, they just equated themselves (and husbands) with God.

    Excellent post, Wendell!

  5. Thanks for cleaning that up. I always thought of the Jezebel spirit as a spirit of control. If that is true, then the abuser might be the one with a Jezebel spirit.

  6. Brenda R

    That is one name I’ve not been called. Maybe because my abuser didn’t know the Bible all that well. A church using that terminology I would run from quickly.

  7. Ruth

    After objecting to being bullied and abused out of leadership, and then out of my ministry, I had a 3-part sermon very pointedly preached against me entitled “False Prophets and Jezebels”!

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      So sorry Ruth!! My pastor was wonderful and supportive but my ex-idiot’s pastor was awful and repeatedly accused me of being afraid ( well duh!) and that he knew “all about abuse”.

  8. a prodigal daughter returns

    That line is the term used to erase any sort of accountability (generally in male leadership) Rather than respond to a question in a spirit of humility which is the Spirit of Christ evident in a human, an assault on the spiritual integrity of the questioner is launched. It shuts down a conversation, diminishes the personhood and worth of the person hoping for a human connection and is the perfect smokescreen to help an abuser expand his power base

  9. kind of anonymous

    I am familiar with the use of “jezebel spirit”. Its usually in reference to someone who is controlling, one thing in front of people, another behind the scenes, may cultivate an image of meek servanthood while they are very different towards anyone who threatens them behind the scenes. Manipulation through intimidation, domination and control are usually prime hallmarks, though seduction can be part of it as well, as can flattery for the purpose of gaining an advantage. Though its said to be a product of the flesh, it usually has a kind of false spiritual power to go with it, a counterfeit spirit.

    I believe there is something to it, having seen both men and women who fit the bill. Jezebels crave spiritual authority and power and usually try to get themselves into a position of spiritual association with leadership or a leadership/prominent role of some sort. I’ve noticed with those who seem to have it, that they are often deeply wounded and yet somehow must always remain in control at all times and cannot admit their need or that perhaps they aren’t in as good a shape as they claim.

    The accusation of being a jezebel does get thrown at anyone who churches dont’ like; anyone from someone who has fallen in adultery or some sexual failure, to anyone who sees the truth of an unhealthy church system or who confronts a pastor who is displaying unhealthy behaviour. Its a grenade to lob at anyone who won’t submit.

    The irony is that if you didn’t actually care about submission to God, that particular label wouldn’t hurt you nor bother you. It is those who actually want to submit to God’s order who find having to go against a husband or a pastor/church so upsetting. A true jezebel won’t give a fig and a true ahab is only concerned with saving his skin and his image. Sometimes it is right not to submit. Fleeing abuse and refusing to pretend not to know what you know doesn’t count as deserving that label. Nor does a refusal to follow a foolish glad-handing pastor who practicing “lite” christianity and who thinks being male autmoatically advances one several steps ahead in terms of moral superiority and being an emotionally upset, angry female automatically makes your words as suspect at best.

  10. kind of anonymous

    Oops; should have held off pressing submit; had an afterthought re wounding.

    My father would likely have fit the bill for a narcissistic or otherwise personality disordered abuser. He had suffered one of the most horrible childhoods I’ve ever heard of, absolutely sadistic abuse, a fact he reminded us of often. His wounds weren’t his biggest problem; his self pity and hatred and desire to subjugate and dominate women as he had been dominated by his mother were. Sinful responses to sin.

    Until there was some repentance in his life, feeling sorry for him unfortunately would have been a dangerous thing to do once he became entrenched in wrong adult response patterns. He had become a manipulative controller and used brainwashing/gaslighting techniques to make us doubt what we saw and heard and cover up evil things he had done. I don’t want anyone thinking ” Oh, poor dears they are just hurt and misunderstood” because I acknowledge wounding. He did need love and compassion but he also needed confrontation, consequences and accountabilty along with repentance. It would have done him a world of good to have met a godly and manly man he could respect who got in his face and confronted him about what it means to be a man and how to deal with what he’d suffered a different way.

    Most of the church men I meet are cowardly nice guys and posturing politicians who just want to be popular. Haven’t met a real seasoned, godly warrior with real spiritual insight and integrity yet.

    Just agreeing dad had been victmized alone wouldn’t have helped for long. He would still have had his sinful response patterns until he sought God for forgiveness and healing. A fact he demonstrated many times when people showed him kindness and had faith in him. If having someone love him and believe in him were the cure that he needed, he should have been healed and changed many times over. He did what was best for him even if he had to hurt someone and betray them to do it. He knew it was wrong; other wise he wouldn’t have been so upset when such things were done to him. Sorry for extra blathering 🙂

    • No need to be sorry for sharing this! I’m sure some of our readers will relate strongly. 🙂

  11. imsetfree

    I have been told by prophets I have this spirit. It came as a shock to me because the controlling and manipulative behaviours in me were a response to wounds of abuse. I’m not saying I wasn’t in sin for being this way but I wasn’t even aware of it at the time. I cannot tell the difference between Borderline Personality (an illness caused by PTSD) symptoms and Jezebel to be honest. When I read articles about Jezebel I honestly see mental illness and Complex PTSD issues. But at same time if these prophets are from God and I reject their words that I have Jezebel aren’t I in sin? After all they say the Jezebel spirit hates prophets. So maybe they are right?

    • I think by FAR the most likely thing is that those prophets were not inspired by God, but were speaking from their own imagination and were motivated by their own flesh, liking the status and power the so-called ‘office’ of prophet gives them in their circles. They may also have been imitating things they had heard said by other ‘annointed prophets’ – which is how they dub such people in those circles. (See the status symbol they get by putting ‘anointed’ in front of the word prophet?) And also, they may have been hearing words from demonic entities, and passing them on to you as ‘words of God’.

      I have been in circles like that, years ago, and I know what goes on and the prideful delight in status, power and control which the leaders tend to have. A person cannot be designated ‘anointed prophet’ or ‘anointed apostle’ or any of the other Grand Pooh Bah sounding titles they have, unless their spirit is a good fit with that deceiving and deceived ethos.

      • imsetfree82

        Thanks. I don’t want to be guilty of self pity but when these prophets spoke these words over me I was filled with such despair and hopelessness I wanted to die. When I tried to tell them my struggles with self harm they basically accused me of lying. One of them said the Lord told her I hadn’t actually self harmed for a very long time. In fact it had been three weeks ago before she told me this. I know God lives outside of time so maybe 3 weeks IS a long time to God? I don’t know. She told me the J spirit was causing me to believe my father had abused me and when I said she was triggering me told me “how dare you accuse us of triggering you?” In some ways she was very kind to me and God did tell her some genuine things about me- that I was proud and fearful and had a wall around my heart etc. She persuaded me to get right with God. I’m glad I did that. But somehow the Jezbel thing caused me a lot of fear and torment that took a long time to go. The fear has gone, praise God, but my hurt over this is still there. Cutting into my heart

      • Dear imsetfree82, I don’t think you are at all guilty of self-pity!. I would like I offer you (((hugs))).

        I think those so-called prophets are false prophets. Let’s remember the way we can determine whether a prophet is a false prophet:

        And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (Deut. 18:21-22)

        Now let’s apply that principle to the woman who said the Lord told her you hadn’t actually self-harmed “for a very long time”. That statement of hers was not true. It had been only three weeks since you self-harmed. No sensible person (and that includes the God in His Three Persons) would say that in regards to self-harm, three weeks since the most recent episode is ‘a very long time’.

        That woman was not speaking the truth. She was not hearing from God. She was listening either to her own puffed up imagination, or to some demon(s) who are her familiar spirits. Just because she spoke some bits of truth (e.g. that you are ‘fearful and have a wall around your heart’) does not mean she is a true prophet. A false prophet might speak truth 90% of the time, but if they get 10% wrong, even 1% wrong, they are a false prophet and you do not have to listen to them or fear them. You can cast out their so-called prophecies as just a lot of hot air and polluted garbage.

        Remember the demon-possessed slave girl in Acts 16?

        As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” (Acts 16:16-17)

        The demons gave this slave girl a ‘word of knowledge’ which happened to be truth:— that Paul and Silas were servants of the Most High God, and came to proclaim the way of salvation. Demons can easily give such words of knowledge to clairvoyants, diviners and false (so-called Christian) prophets. These prideful people — the false prophets — often speak some truth; but if they get ONE thing wrong we know they are false prophets.

        Paul told the slave girl and her masters to get lost. You can say “Get Lost” to the words this woman and her associates spoke over you.

        And after all, the bits they got right — that you are fearful and you have a wall around your heart — you probably knew that already, eh?

        I am sure you have good reasons to be fearful. You have been abused; false prophets have spoken falsehoods over you; you might be afraid of continuing to self-harm (or of renouncing self-harming behaviour). Whatever you are afraid of, I honour you for having jolly good reasons for that fear. And I also honour you for putting a wall around your heart: that wall no doubt protects you from some dangerous people, some experiences or emotions that would be high-risk for you, given how much pain and trauma you must have in your life and how much you are dealing with.

        Hey, another name for a wall is a boundary. Setting boundaries is one of the important ways we victims obtain and maintain our safety! 🙂

        bless you 🙂

      • imsetfree82

        Even as I type this I feel guilt and something inside me is screaming “slanderers and backbiters won’t inherit the Kingdom” and I feel God doesn’t want me to type this. I feel angry when God tells me this. I shouldn’t rebel but I have a huge need for my story to be heard and my questions answered. I know God won’t let us be tempted beyond our endurance but if not then why won’t He take away this desire in me for closure? For answers to my questions and my story to be heard?

      • I think your anger is fully justified. You are angry at the false teaching you have been given!

        You are not a slanderer or a backbiter by sharing your perplexity about this so called “prophet’s” words on this blog. You are sharing your burden with other believers, and we are willing to share it with you! You are seeking to understand truth! That is a righteous thing to do!

        It is not wrong to want answers to your questions, to want your story to be heard, to want closure!

        It is right, it is godly, to yearn for those things. 🙂

  12. imsetfree82

    Aaaw Barb thanks for the hugs. Hugs back at you. Funny thing about this woman is she had a facebook ministry and if anyone criticised her she would block them. Then add them back. She wanted me to call her my spiritual mum. I couldn’t do that because I was scared of her and I had a lovely woman I did at one point call my spiritual mum (at the time she was ill and unavailable for me). But I went along with this lady. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings as in some way she had been very kind. But she had this habit of blocking people and unfriending and then adding them back into her group. She ran a group for abuse survivors run on christian lines. Some good stuff there but one day I made a horrible mistake of breaking down online and spilling my guts out. I kept feeling (probably wrongly) that I was being ignored by the rest of the group. I was new and I didn’t know what I should be allowed to post or not. So I posted honestly and I said I felt my inner child was stuck at age 2 and that I was feeling abandoned etc and this woman came against a spirit of self pity and then said I was grieving the Lord. I told her my therapist at time said I had grief issues from my past needing to be expressed. She told me if I wanted to grieve I must do it properly and grieve for my sins. To be honest there was a lot I needed to repent of. And she did encourage me to get right with God. I’m confused though. Because I honestly don’t know when it is ok to share pain and when it is sinful? I think what hurt is that she expected me, a youngish believer, to know that. She also said to me that the Lord had told her to be tough with me “because she (me) could handle it”. I’d just had a breakdown not long before this incident and had no idea why God would believe I could take being spoken to like this. I don’t know. Correction from God Is fine but I remember Jesus in the Bible being very gentle with sinners – “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more” not “you stupid loose woman! You deserve hell etc”. It seems a pattern with me. My father believed God told him I was faking my problems and was just demonised etc and now this woman. And some others. Makes me wonder if God really does see me like this?? I hope not. Because I don’t think I can agree. And if I don’t agree then I can’t repent. And if I don’t repent then I’m in out of fellowship with God.

    • livingliminal

      Imsetfree82, I hope you don’t mind me answering your comment, but I was so incensed by what you’ve been told. No-one gets to tell you how you ‘should’ be feeling. No-one! And you certainly don’t need to submit yourself to such a controlling, manipulative behaviour as you’ve described here.

      You are absolutely correct that Jesus is gentle with those who are broken, so let him minister to you. He promised that his sheep will hear his voice, so you don’t need some third party telling you what he is saying. Ask him to show you how he sees you, and don’t feel the need to believe what other people tell you he says.

      And for the record, it is NOT sinful to share your pain! The only problem you seem to have had is that you shared it with people who are not safe. I’m so sad that has been your experience.

      • hisbannerovermeislove7

        Livingliminal i am posting under a new account. i am Imsetfree82 and i am so touched by your comment- thanks so much. i am now more careful who i share with….blessings to you. many blessings…

      • livingliminal

        So happy to hear from you, and to know you are keeping safe. Blessings to you, too! 😀

  13. According to Mike Phillips (link)  –

    The man who coined the”Jezebel Spirit” phrase, Francis Frangipane, told me it is one of his big regrets for it is most often used to denigrate strong, confident women in churches. He was describing an attitude that just wants to destroy people in authority. Men do that just as often.

    He spoke this at the Pastor’s luncheon at the Montana School of Prayer in 1998 in Helena Montana. I was sitting on the dais beside him and he got up and answered questions. Someone asked about the Jezebel Spirit. He rolled his eyes and then said what I reported above.

    In the book … “The Three Battlegrounds”, he clearly delineates the Jezebel spirit as an attitude which opposes spiritual leadership and seeks to destroy it for the sheer pleasure of destroying the work of God. It applies to men or women. 

    I have just added this info as an UPDATE at the bottom of this post.

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