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Is Mental Illness in the Bible? Part II

Updated on August 9, 2009
"Death of King Saul", 1848 Elie Marcuse (Germany and France) 1817-1902
"Death of King Saul", 1848 Elie Marcuse (Germany and France) 1817-1902

In my first Hub "Is Mental Health in the Bible?" Examples of faithful men were listed and you learned about their times of deep depression however situational. in this second hub the discussed characters are those that suffer from the most serious forms of mental illness. Some fell away or committed suicide and others came back to know God? Lets look at these extreme mentally ill candidates and cross parallels.

1. Nebuchadnezzar (reigned 605-562 B.C.) was a king of Babylon during a long and eventful reign the Neo-Babylonian Empire attained its peak and the city of Babylon its greatest glory under his reign. After seeing Daniel come out of the Lions Dens this King respected and acknowledged God almighty. Later we see his life takes many wild twists and in Daniel 4: 30-33 Attributes of an insane man – Then look at 34 –37 he had hit rock bottom (family killed, God sending vengience) and we see the King in a dire mad state . Quickly look at 34-37 We see Nebuchadnezzar's recovery from his mental issues. This King had a purpose he became a monument of God's justice and a trophy of his victory over the children of pride, Nebechadnezzar was humbled quicker by becoming insane than if he had been in an instant struck dead with a thunderbolt; here we see in our God’s mercy he was kept alive he still hit rock bottom yet in these scriptures he praises God (When he comes to his right mind King James says " At the end of the days" (he even says), "I praise the King of Heaven" Verse 37 However take note a key word that shows up 36 states when my reason returned to me. In these few words it is obvious that he was suffering from severe mental illness.

2. SAUL- The most certain case of mental illness in the Bible, in my opinion, is Saul. I Samuel 7:1 - 31:13 King Saul started out as a superior person, who became shows unstable thinking over a period of time, due to a number of unfortunate encounters in his life. 1 Samuel 9:17 The biblical description of King Saul is one of anxiety, depression, and severe bouts of manic behavior. In Saul’s encounters with David we find many of the causes for anxiety and depression and later suicide.  1 Samuel 31: 4 Saul’s behavior is consistent with manic depression or similar emotional conditions according to some scholars. The Biblical writer interprets this in the language of his understanding, but this does not change a major point: God was still dealing with Saul, even as a mentally ill person. Saul was a mentally ill King. God never told him to step aside, but to do what was right. In Saul, we are reminded that this message from God is our best advise to those out of touch with reality.

We see God’s dealings with Saul in two ways: the compassion and forgiveness of David, and the tragic consequences of Saul’s actions. In both of these, we see these two Biblical truths. Saul was a fully human person while he was mentally ill, and his actions were actions of moral responsibility. David, however, incarnates God’s mercy toward Saul, and shows us God’s compassion for the mentally ill.

I would suggest that to see all mentally ill persons- which includes many of us at some point in life- as purely victims is dehumanizing to an extent that compromises human dignity. God addresses Saul as responsible throughout this episode. Saul never ceases to be a human person to whom God’s commands can be addressed.

Yet, at the same time, David deals with Saul as one afflicted. He respects not only God’s choice of Saul, but Saul’s suffering with the “evil spirit.” This leaves us in an uncomfortable place. Many would want the mentally ill to be removed from responsibility. I believe this is the wrong way to view most mentally ill persons. Yet, we must also view them truthfully, fully taking into account what we can know about their condition, and treating them with caution with full awareness of their affliction. 

When he came to himself- I will end with passages I found in the new testament that come to mind about my chosen subject in Luke  /Luke 5:5 a man was demon possed (I do believe it was real demons) however this man was showing signs of severe mental problems and issues by acting out on himself and cutting himself with sharp stones. When he came to his right ming the bible state. I also noticed in the parable of the lost son in Luke 15:17 When he came to himself… What could this imply? Obviously sin had sent these mens in an altered state and he came out of it when he hit rock bottom. We need to pray for the mentally ill not condemn them.

Please think about these men and their unique mental states next time you read your Bible it will add a new spin to your studies.


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      franken_stein 6 years ago

      how about Ishmael's mental state? Will he qualify as autistic should today's experts on developmental psychology examine him?

    • profile image

      sceptical and maybe about to report you? 6 years ago

      have you visited http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-... by micheal spencer.

      ONe of you is a liar - Spencer or you. Judging by the english on this site, i suspect it's you whom has stolen major parts of Micheal Spencer's speech. tut tut

    • profile image

      stephanie 7 years ago

      Nebakanezer suffered from lycanthropy.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great hub. I was just looking through a psychology text book and there is a name for the mental illness of Nebukeezer. I will right back and give it to you. It is very rare.

    • profile image

      Ken Thomas 8 years ago

      You've done a good job with a challenging subject. Good insights! :)

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