Jezebel = Narcissist
If you’ve ever heard a woman called this, she was likely thought to be a whore. “Slut” is a more familiar but less powerful word used almost in jest nowadays. Whore is the Biblical term and still carries a punch. Every now and then, the name refers to someone who is mean or has some other unfavorable characteristic.
If you’ve heard this term, especially recently, some politicians or overly self-absorbed people may come to mind. This word is used often to describe people who think they’re greater than they are. “Egotistical” is a milder word often used to describe someone who is stuck on himself. Usually, we associate it with people who are obsessed with their physical appearance.
Would you be surprised to find out that narcissist is the secular word for Jezebel or a person with a Jezebel spirit? It took me a while to connect the two. I knew the story of Narcissus and the account of Jezebel, but having a sterile and almost primary understanding of how narcissism is defined, I didn’t connect the dots for a long time, which is why I didn’t think much of it even when I saw strong traits in people. Although my degree is in psychology, we spent very little time discussing narcissism. Basically, I walked away with the idea that narcissists overexaggerate things and believe themselves to be much bigger than they are – much like a fun house mirror. They are extremely self-absorbed, and they long to have others agree with them on how important they are.
I wish we’d had more detailed information about it.
The problem was that, although it had a clinical name and was one of the personality disorders we learned, I was under the impression that it was mild. I thought delusions of grandeur were just confined to their thoughts and dismissed by people who would hear the narcissist speak. It came across as easy to detect and almost benign. We were more worried about the “aggressive” disorders or the ones that made it almost impossible for people to function normally in society. When I worked with individuals with behavioral challenges, narcissism was never a concern. I might work with someone suffering from schizophrenia, oppositional defiant disorder, or bipolar disorder, but I was never concerned that someone might “think too highly of himself.” In fact, we were trying to rebuild self-confidence and self-esteem. It was a welcome relief to see people toot their own horns after completing a hard school assignment or after scoring a point. I never had any reason to suspect that narcissistic behavior would be anything more than mildly annoying.
If I had known then what I know now, my whole life might have been changed.
We have a lot of information and stories coming forward now about what narcissism is. We also have people that are teaching on the evil spirit of Jezebel and how it looks in our lives today. What I haven’t seen yet is someone explaining the details of Jezebel’s life and how her actions compare to the narcissists we often encounter. I will attempt to walk through the account to show what behaviors we can expect from narcissists, examples of tactics they might use, the impact they can have on others, damage done to generations, and what the Bible says we should do regarding them. To reduce confusion on what level of narcissism I mean, I will discuss them as if they are full-blown, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, cancerous to the core, “malignant narcissists.”
Let’s first review the account of Narcissus
Depending on which account you take, Narcissus was the extraordinarily beautiful child of a god and a nymph. As a young man, he broke the heart of someone who fell in love with him and was punished by the gods. He looked upon his reflection in the water and fell so in love with himself he eventually died of a broken heart for not being able to be with himself. Eventually, he was changed into a beautiful flower or a beautiful flower took his place – the narcissus flower.
As you can see, it’s easy to walk away from this myth believing the worst that a narcissist could be is vain (ex. Vanity Smurf). They love only themselves and are practically oblivious to the rest of the world. If only vanity was the only problem.
Now, let’s review the Biblical account of Jezebel
We first hear of Jezebel in I Kings 16. She is a Zidonian princess, daughter of King Ethbaal, and is married to King Ahab, ruler of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Ahab and Jezebel are the most notorious ruling couple of all the kings and queens of Israel – both kingdoms considered (the kingdom split after Solomon’s rule ended). Ahab set up high places to worship the idols Jezebel wanted and allowed her pagan priests to serve in those temples. She began killing off the prophets of the Lord in Israel to wipe out worship to the Lord.
Sometime during their reign, the prophet Elijah declares there will be a drought until he gives word again, which would be three and a half years later. When Elijah returns, he challenges Ahab to a standoff of Divine proportions. The nation gathered for a showdown at Mt. Carmel, which resulted in the Lord raining down fire from Heaven and the death of Jezebel’s prophets. Jezebel vowed revenge, Elijah went into hiding, and God told Elijah his plan and gave him the names of the men who would carry it out.
Ahab saw a vineyard he desired near his property and tried to buy it from the owner, Naboth. When Naboth refused, Ahab went home and sulked. Jezebel took matters into her own hands, had Naboth and his sons killed, and told Ahab the vineyard was his. Elijah prophesied to Ahab that since he had allowed Jezebel to commit murder to steal, he, his sons, and Jezebel would be killed. Moreover, his lineage would end.
All of this takes place over approximately a 20-year period. Ahab dies from battle wounds and his son reigns in his place. When we last see Jezebel, we see a captain of the Israelite army, Jehu, furiously riding toward her. He kills the son and heads to kill Jezebel. She paints her face and yells out the window to him. He asks those inside with her which of them is on his side, and three eunuchs hurl Jezebel out of the window to her death.
This seems to be a totally different personality from someone who is just fascinated with his own image. In fact, a summary of Jezebel’s life makes you wonder why people associate whoring with her. She just seems like a mean opportunist.
The differences between the superficial description of the narcissist and the outline we get from Jezebel’s story are vast. It’s no wonder we have difficulty seeing they’re the same person. As Christians, we are to look at the whole Bible to learn. We can miss important lessons by not doing a character study. Lessons from the account are important, but understanding the motivation, behavior, or heart (where Scripture gives us insight) of the people doing the actions can help us see what is displayed by others or even ourselves. It allows us the opportunity to check our own actions to see what fruit we’re producing, also.