Recently, we talked about Mark Driscoll, who accused the organizers of an evangelical men’s conference of being infested with ‘the Jezebel spirit.’ Turns out he’s just written a book about the various boogeyman ‘spirits’ he sees around every bush. Of course, the Jezebel spirit isn’t some new concept he made up himself. He’s not capable of that sort of originality. No, this phrase has been part of evangelicalism for decades.

Let’s see where this idea originates, what it means, and why evangelicals love to hate the Jezebel spirit.

(This post went live on Patreon on 5/10/2024. Its audio ‘cast lives there too and is publicly available!)

Christianese 301: Jezebel, generally

Oh don’t give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit
No, don’t you give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit
For my head will fly, my tongue will lie, my eyes will fry and I may die
Won’t you pour me one more of that sinful Old Janx Spirit

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

If you hear an evangelical—it will almost always be an evangelical—criticize someone using the phrase the Jezebel spirit, then know this: You have found a live one. This is fairly advanced Christianese.

In the Old Testament, according to the encyclopedia maintained by the Jewish Women’s Archive (archive), Jezebel was Phoenician royalty. Her father, Ethbaal, ruled Tyre in the 9th century BCE. Jezebel married Ahab, the King of Israel. She likely bore Ahab’s royal heir, Jehoram/Joram.

As you might have guessed from her father’s name, Tyre’s rulers were worshipers of the ancient god Baal. At one time long ago, Baal and Yahweh were part of a pantheon of gods worshiped in that area. Baal was a fertility god, while Yahweh might have originated as a god of mining and metallurgy (archive). Or perhaps Egyptian nomads introduced their god to the proto-Israelites (archive). For a time, he served as a war-god and storm-god.

Either way, until about the 9th century, the cults of Baal and Yahweh coexisted.

The story of Jezebel, Ahab, and Elijah fascinates me. It’s possible that this mythic tale represents the elevation of Yahweh to the status of Israel’s only god. Ahab’s barely even a side character in the story, as well. The central conflict revolves around Elijah and Jezebel: Yahweh’s hometown boy versus Baal’s foreign-born girl, and the winner takes Israel.

Even Yahweh agreed with that assessment, apparently.

Jezebel’s ascension and downfall

Jezebel was not Ahab’s only wife, of course. But she seems to have been the most powerful and important of them. She wielded considerable power on her own. Though the Bible’s writers refused to give her the title of Queen, that is very obviously what she was. She even convinced Ahab to start worshiping Baal with her, as 1 Kings 16:31 tells us.

In short order, she began ordering the murder of Yahweh’s prophets. At the same time, she honored the prophets of Baal along with the prophets of the goddess Asherah, the onetime divine consort of the then-pantheon’s chief god El.

When the prophet Elijah killed Jezebel’s prophets on Mount Carmel (in 1 Kings 18), though, she decided he had to go. Elijah fled in terror.

Deposing Jezebel required nothing less than a powerful god

Around then, Yahweh decided he needed a new dynasty of kings in Israel.

Through Elijah, he appointed a military commander named Jehu to be the next king. However, Jehu had to murder not only Jehoram but also Jezebel before taking the throne (in 2 Kings 9). Not only that, Jehu at first refused to give Jezebel a proper burial. He wanted her entire existence to be memory-holed. However, he relented later and buried the few remains of Jezebel that could be found. Even then, she was only “a king’s daughter” buried to avoid offending her father—not a former Queen herself.

In Revelation 2:20, we see Jezebel’s name again. In Thyatira, she pops up as a false prophet. There, she leads Christians astray by “teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” That last bit was a big point of contention in the early Christian church. In Acts 15:20, one early Christian leader specifically forbids such food. Apparently, that custom was making conversion too difficult for the pagans who were beginning to join the new religion.

So Jezebel was causing a problem with recruitment. What a lackluster role for an ancient queen! But if she didn’t clean up her act, Yahweh planned to murder her children.

(Don’t worry. One evangelical guy has warped the phrase to mean her followers, not her literal children.)

How Christians have warped the character of Jezebel

There’s a reason why I consulted Jewish sources for information about Jezebel. Christians have demonized her to a truly shocking extent.

Bible Gateway calls Jezebel “a remarkable evil woman” and clearly thinks she deserves “a perpetual infamy wherever the Holy Scriptures are known.” Further, its writer asserts that she was “a true daughter of a pagan court—intrigue, treason, deception, public display of legality and virtue to cover subvert unrighteousness.”

Yes, because obviously, that never, ever happened with ancient Israelite nobles. Solomon wouldn’t even have become king in the first place without his mother engaging in serious court intrigue with a prophet to bamboozle the aged, infirm, dementia-addled King David. But go off, I guess, Bible Gateway.

The King James Bible Dictionary has this to say about Jezebel (archive):

Jezebel has stamped her name on history as the representative of all that is designing, crafty, malicious, revengeful, and cruel. She is the first great instigator of persecution against the saints of God. Guided by no principle, restrained by no fear of either God or man, passionate in her attachment to her heathen worship, she spared no pains to maintain idolatry around her in all its splendour.

We find that same exact description reprinted in Bible Study Tools (archive). Bible Odyssey (archive) is hardly more respectful, accusing her of inciting Ahab to sin.

Meanwhile, Christianity.com (archive) says she “promoted the worship of false gods in Israel, harassed and killed God’s prophets, and arranged for an innocent man to be falsely charged and executed.” Later in their writeup, they accuse her of deliberately setting out “to display just how evil and wicked she truly was” in seeking Elijah’s death. But we already know that’s not why she threatened to kill him.

Lastly, Study Light (archive) accuses her of “conniving” to get her way—as if every court figure ever hasn’t done that.

And how evangelicals in particular use her story

Evangelicals in particular have latched onto Jezebel’s story to advance their culture wars against women. Any woman who aspires to leadership gets called a Jezebel, as Hillary Clinton discovered years ago. When she ran for President of the United States in 2016, plenty of evangelicals openly called her a Jezebel figure.

On the site Faith Writers, Lauren Alan wrote (archive):

Hillary Clinton supporters believe Hillary is a generous woman who is a champion for everyone’s rights. Hillary certainly wants them to think that. After studying her life and the lifeof Queen Jezebel, the most notorious woman in the Bible, the similarities in their personalities and actions is quite frightening.

John Kilpatrick, a pastor, even spoke in tongues and celebrated Clinton’s loss. He thanked Jesus for “bringing Jezebel down” (archive).

Evangelicals do not like it when someone accuses them of the same thing, though

What’s really funny here is that Hillary Clinton has also drawn upon the Jezebel moniker for her enemies. In 2019, she compared a recently-departed US Representative, Elijah Cummings, to the Old Testament Elijah—and Donald Trump and his umpteenth wife Melania to Ahab and Jezebel (archive).

As you might suspect, that comparison really angered evangelicals (archive)! Accusing people of being Jezebel is their thing, dammit! Even Michael Brown, a conspiracy theorist who blathers on on various right-wing nutjob sites, showed up to complain about it. He’d recently published a book about the Jezebel spirit. In it, he tried to make America itself sound like it was in danger of being destroyed due to this imaginary force of evil.

But he was neither the first nor the last to publish a book about the Jezebel spirit. On just one page of Amazon search results for that exact phrase, I turned up about a dozen different books published between 1996 and 2023. Their authors promise that their books will help “unmask” and reveal that sneaky Jezebel spirit, then free TRUE CHRISTIANS™ and even churches of its control. A 2016 book even claims there are three degrees of the Jezebel spirit: Extreme, Moderate, and Lesser!

And as we saw the last time we met up, Mark Driscoll has just published one as well: New Days, Old Demons. This time around, the Jezebel spirit is “masquerading as Progressive Christianity,” which the nearly-illiterate Mark Driscoll is certain is just “a rebranding of ancient paganism.” Yes, while Driscoll himself masquerades—this time as a respectable scholar of ancient history and theology.

Who the Jezebel spirit afflicts, according to evangelicals

I probably don’t need to say this, but evangelicals don’t think the Jezebel spirit is the ghost of the actual Queen Jezebel. Instead, they think it’s a demon, which is obviously much, much more sensible. Also, in their folklore it isn’t specifically female or female-targeted, which means it can affect anybody.

Well, usually. One evangelical, Phillip Kayser, thinks that mostly “modern Christian women” (archive) harbor it. His misogynistic outrage at uppity women is hilarious and 10/10 reading. In his fifth listicle point, we see that he’s especially angry about women winning arguments against King Him.

Every single evangelical source I consulted claimed that too much “love,” along with too much “compromise,” allows the Jezebel spirit to gain a foothold. Kayser himself says “When compromise is tolerated in the church, we can expect Jesus to care about it.”

Compromise is one of the dirtiest words in evangelical Christianese. It means being less judgmental, openly critical, and controlling than the judging Christian thinks is okay. Any Christian who compromises is guaranteed an eternity in Hell.

Perhaps that’s why Bible Knowledge.com claims that the Jezebel spirit is one of Satan’s most powerful, most intelligent, most evil, and most seductive demons. Nothing casts out the fear evangelicals stoke quite like perfect love (archive)!

The signs of the Jezebel spirit

Around the second half of the 19th century, we start seeing references to “a Jezebel spirit” and “the Jezebel spirit” in Christian writings. It’s only gained more popularity as a concept with time.

Despite all these feverish descriptions, however, the Jezebel spirit is just as imaginary as everything else evangelicals claim about the supposed supernatural realm. It ties into their equally imaginary concept of spiritual warfare. As evangelical huckster Larry Sparks asserts on his Facebook page:

There is an age-old war going on between the prophets of God and invisible forces of wickedness. One such demonic spirit is referred to as “Jezebel.”

I suppose Larry Sparks knows far more than the Bible does. As one progressive Christian noted in 2013 (archive):

It is unfortunate that there are those who have added to Scripture to claim that an evil woman of the Old Testament is now a female demon going about influencing mostly women to be like her in Christian churches.

There is no biblical ‘spirit of Jezebel.’

Sparks is not alone in making this mistake, though.

A 2016 sermon from Philip Harrelson (archive) claims to help people understand “the great reality of spiritual warfare that is involved in every work that God does. Elijah had to battle against the spirit of Jezebel.” Overall, Harrelson tells us, the Jezebel spirit influences Christians by making them proud, sensual, self-righteous, deceptive, arrogant, manipulative, and lax about following their own rules. (An old site called Jezebelspirit.net asserted much the same in 2014.)

Among other signs to watch for, Harrelson claims that someone who doesn’t take criticism well or doesn’t like to pray for others might be influenced by this dread spirit.

Oops. All of that sure sounds like evangelicals as a group.

Detecting the Jezebel spirit with Jesus Power

You’d think anybody could tell when a Christian behaves in exceptionally arrogant or manipulative ways, or when one doesn’t take criticism well or refuses to pray for others.

But you’d be wrong. Detecting the Jezebel spirit is not a job for amateurs!

From His Presence.com warns us in the most dire language possible that sometimes advice comes from demons, not Jesus! To figure out if the advice is divine in source, Christians must find Bible verses to support it. They don’t realize that Bible verses can be found to support literally anything.

Jezebelspirit.net (relink) tells us something different, though. There, we see that Christians absolutely must possess the imaginary Gift of Discernment even to tell when the Jezebel spirit is active nearby.

That’s a capital-G Gift of the Spirit from Jesus himself. Evangelicals think it allows them to accurately see into the imaginary realm of the supernatural and identify if an imaginary spirit is friend or foe. But not all of them have it. Only a few very special people do. Even then, it is easily misused (archive).

Once someone detects the Jezebel spirit, however that happens, then the next phase of battle involves spiritual warfare.

SPEERCHUL WARFARE, Y’ALL

Dealing with the Jezebel spirit requires more than simply resolving to Jesus better. Very obviously, Jesusing doesn’t protect anybody from the Jezebel spirit. No, this task requires spiritual warfare. This is an imaginary fight that evangelicals wage in their minds against imaginary opponents on an imaginary battlefield.

Not many evangelicals ever offer concrete descriptions of fighting the Jezebel spirit. Almost nobody in evangelicalism wants to define the processes involved. That’s probably because they all look really silly to those who aren’t immersed deeply in the worldview. So let me describe spiritual warfare from my time as a Pentecostal:

To wage spiritual warfare, evangelicals might kneel and pray intensely, or perhaps gesture and speak sharply. They might even walk around waving their arms and speaking in tongues—babbling in an imaginary language—as my Evil Ex Biff preferred. That last method gets someone all sweaty and tuckered-out, so it feels way more real.

After some time of doing this, the psychic combatant declares flawless victory.

Whatever their mode of battle, evangelicals abjure and rebuke their imaginary foe. Those Christianese words just mean telling the imaginary foe to go away and stop bothering people. It is about as effective as commanding a unicorn to kneel before you: It works only insofar as the person casting the magic spell can imagine success.

Then everything runs perfectly again. Hooray Team Jesus!

Sidebar: The magic spells these folks come up with, OMG

When I was Pentecostal, officially the tribe opposed what we called “canned prayers.” In Matthew 6:7, Jesus criticized them. Translators rendered these sorts of prayers as “babbling,” “vain repetitions, as the heathen do,” “empty phrases,” and suchlike. Jesus ordered us, we thought, to come up with our own original prayers.

But unofficially, we all offered up canned prayers at particular times. Often, these rose to the level of important magical rituals that we felt compelled to perform. If we forgot, then we felt vulnerable and alone. The most important one I remember was the one we all seemed to use before driving or riding in a car, something like this: “Jesus, please get us to our destination safely and on time.”

Well, one evangelical preacher, Mike Connell, offers us another ritual prayer as a way to “resist the Jezebel spirit” (archive). First, the spiritual warrior must repent and take back the faith. Then, they must say this:

I stand in my office, I take authority and bind all Jezebel spirit. I decree confusion in the enemy’s kingdom. May the light of Jehovah shine. I unleash the blood of Jesus and take all authority.

Because obviously, that’s what Jehu did. I’m not kidding. Connell actually compares his battle plan to the way Jehu took Israel back from Jezebel and her son.

But other sources don’t offer any concrete suggestions at all, so Connell’s really ahead of the game. Here’s a few more that promise to offer real-world tactics, but don’t: Mike Signorelli; Destiny Image; Sylvia Lee. Interestingly, Bible-knowledge.com offers (archive) a couple of practical suggestions that would likely work fine in secular settings. Otherwise, their writer’s got nothin’!

It’s interesting as well that I could find nowhere any description of what things look like after defeating this powerful demon.

Mark Driscoll’s version of the Jezebel spirit

As I mentioned earlier, Mark Driscoll published a book last year called New Days, Old Demons. For now at least, an entire PDF of it can be found on his website. Get a load of his subtitle for it:

A study of Elijah, Sex, Gender, Ancient Paganism Masquerading as Progressive Christianity, Victims of Nothing, Woke Politics, the Transgender Jezebel Spirit that Castrates Men, and the Passive Ahab Soft Woke Christian Beta-male Spirit Leading the Conga Line to Sheol Carrying a Rainbow Flag

WOW. Talk about being over-the-top tryhard! That kind of screechy, sneering rhetoric might have done well in Driscoll’s glory days in the late 1990s to early 2000s. It’s more or less how he actually talked on his church’s anonymous message board at the time, back when he sockpuppeted as “William Wallace II” (archive). However, it’s hard to imagine Zoomer Calvinists taking it seriously, much less Alphas.

He’s not talking to them, though. He’s talking to Millennials.

In his book, Driscoll creates a messy extended metaphor using the myth of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel. This time around, weak, passive men controlled by the Ahab spirit allow domineering women controlled by the Jezebel spirit to wreck TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ with woke liberal feminism.

And it’s up to big strong rough-and-tough evangelical manly-men—as Mark Driscoll clearly identifies—to adopt the Elijah spirit to take Christianity back from all those ickie poseurs!

The Jezebel spirit as a stand-in for what evangelical men hate most

Mark Driscoll is right about my age. And it is painfully clear, looking over his book, that he really wishes he were still living in those glory days when he was a rising star and Millennial men thought he hung the moon and stars. His book represents an excruciating cry of nostalgia.

Mark Driscoll doesn’t feel at home in the new normal. Nor does he like it. He wants to go back to the days when nobody stopped him from hassling and abusing effeminate men and strong women. When he felt free to criticize anyone not living according to his gender stereotypical rules. When he could point a finger and bark an order and see people hopping to it.

Indeed, this is how he ends the last chapter, which concerns Elijah’s return to Earth in the Endtimes:

Be encouraged. Your chariot is coming, and you will be riding off into the sunset. Until then, repent of sin, be filled with the Holy Spirit of Elijah, and publicly take your stand for your Lord despite the battles that will come from the old demons working in new days.

As always, his theology is a hopelessly confused mess. It’s all the usual shoehorned blahblah evangelicals do to try to make the Endtimes sound imminent. Mark Driscoll’s manhandled the entire myth of Jezebel to make her stand for all the social progress he despises—the social progress that has robbed him of his rightful crown. And if enough evangelicals do what he commands in his book, he’ll become the Sheriff of Calvinism County again at last!

What a sad demotion for this accomplished, educated, intelligent queen from eons past: To be reduced to the pawn of a misogynistic, control-hungry pastor seeking a return to his former power.

Evangelicals do love their Low Christianity beliefs

Evangelicals’ entire concept of the Jezebel spirit falls under Low Christianity. They can blame all sorts of group and relationship dysfunction on it. Anyone who isn’t a sweet, true-blue, utterly-fervent Christian could be accused of being influenced by it.

And not a single person will ever ask them to demonstrate that it’s even real.

No wonder they’ve always liked Jezebel so much!

Nobody wants to think about the real causes of all that dysfunction. No no, nobody wants to consider that evangelical groups are filled with terrible people who are not turning into better people with Jesus Power.

Nobody wants to think about Jesus not actually doing anything at all to help their groups run smoothly. If it’s down to just them learning how to behave themselves in group settings, without any gods to help them, that’s just too daunting of an idea.

But they’ll never defeat the Jezebel spirit

The only way to square a totes-for-realsies god with what’s actually happening on the ground in way too many evangelical groups is to assume that there are also totes-for-realsies demons hindering everything. Yes, that must be it! Luckily, their totes-for-realsies god can vanquish those demons—with the right rituals and rites, of course!

And yet Jezebel’s ghost rises from the dust of thousands of years to laugh at and mock these pretenses.

Evangelicals never talk about what things look like after vanquishing the Jezebel spirit because it is never vanquished. It can’t be. They don’t have the ability or the power to defeat it. They never will, either. But it serves such an important purpose in evangelicalism that they don’t mind. It lets them blame all discord and divisiveness on demons!

And that way, nobody has to focus too much on evangelicals’ dysfunctional authoritarian system.

That way, nothing has to change.

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Captain Cassidy

Captain Cassidy is a Gen-X ex-Christian and writer. She writes about how people engage with science, religion, art, and each other. She lives in Idaho with her husband, Mr. Captain, and their squawky orange tabby cat, Princess Bother Pretty Toes. And at any given time, she is running out of bookcase space.

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