Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia from approximately 605 BC until approximately 562 BC. He is considered the greatest king of the Babylonian Empire. Secular history records Nebuchadnezzar as a brutal, powerful, and ambitious king, and the Bible, for the most part, agrees.
He was a contemporary of Daniel and is one of the main characters in the prophet’s writing. Because of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, unwillingness to acknowledge God’s reign, mistreatment of the poor, and stiff necked refusal to repent, God drove him to lunacy and deminished him to feral sub-humanness. To be more specific, he was suffering from a psychosis which some would call boanthropy, the delusion that he was an ox.
The question as to whether or not God made him insane directly or if Nebuchadnezzar just suffered the consequences of his own choices can be a difficult one. What we do know, is that insanity drove him from others, including those offering wise counsel, into a self-absorbed cyclical & cynical madness, he chewed the grass off of the earth like an ox for about 7 years, his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle, and his finger and toe nails became like that of bird’s. (Daniel 4:33) It’s not hard to imagine a person’s descent into this kind of abyss, and I’m sure many of us have had it occur ‘to close’ to home.
There’s a lot more to the story and you can read the details in the book of Daniel, but the underlying assumption of many who relay, preach, and try to apply it, is that God will do the same to the prideful, unjust, and unrepentant today. Ultimately, this was an act of grace by God regardless how harsh it may have seemed. The end result was Nebuchadnezzar’s ‘salvation,’ so to speak. In his own words he recounts;
“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”
If this story is both analogous and applicable for us living today, then there are some important questions;
- Does God still ‘Nebuchadnezzar-ize’ people?
- Is it possible that many who suffer from insanity today are being ‘Nebuchadnezzar-ized?’
- Is the ‘Nebuchadnezzar-izing’ of people contrary to the character and nature of God?