Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
Is the Daniel 4 story of King Nebuchadnezzar's mental illness true, or pious fiction? Many details mark it as authentic history: another powerful king changing his religion is Amenhotep IV of Egypt; the literary formula of Nebuchadnezzar's decree is proper for the 6th century B.C.; there are actual stone inscriptions from Nebuchadnezzar that confirm Daniel's details; the insanity of lycanthropy (thinking one is an animal) is verified historically.
Even today there are examples of human pride leading to mental instability ("those who walk in pride [God] is able to abase," vs. 37). The higher one goes the more dismal is the fall when unconscious inner guilt torments. In his proud building accomplishments the Babylonian king had oppressed myriads of laboring people and he couldn't help realizing it ("break off your ... iniquities by showing mercy to the poor," Daniel urged, vs. 27).
Proud tyrants do have a conscience! Unresolved guilt not only makes the weakest organ of one's body break down (consider the dread skin disease that came upon Simon the Pharisee who knew he had ruined a woman's life, Mark 14:3); guilt can also poison the mind.
But the Daniel 4 story also contains gospel truth that marks it as inspired: the disciplinary punishment that God sent to Nebuchadnezzar was mixed with divine compassion, for the great "tree" that was felled was left to sprout again (vs. 26). The humiliated king was mercifully restored as an encouragement to us that God can heal our mental disorders. His mental disease left him with a measure of reality that finally after 7 years of a slow healing process enabled him to "lift up [his] eyes to heaven" and know that "understanding" was restored to him (vs. 34). Mentality returned when he could get his mind off the "grass" below and see the stars above.
When our vision is fixed on worldly entertainment and prosperity, we are "foolish and ignorant, ... like a beast before You," says Psalm 73:22. Yet still we are "held" by His "right hand" (vs. 23)! The same Savior who was kind to King Nebuchadnezzar is kind to us.
--Robert J. Wieland
From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: November 2, 2000.
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