The Beastly “I” and “My”
R.K. Harrison taught Old Testament at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, from 1960 till he retired in 1986. His Introduction to the Old Testamentis still worth plowing through—all 1277 pages, and when it comes to Nebuchadnezzar’s mental illness, a condition called boanthropy, Dr. Harrison describes a personal encounter with the disease at a British mental hospital in 1946.
“The patient was a man in his early twenties, who reportedly had been hospitalized for about five years. His symptoms were well developed on admission, and diagnosis was immediate and conclusive…His daily routine consisted of wandering around the magnificent lawns with which the otherwise dingy hospital was graced, and it was his custom to pluck up and eat handfuls of the grass as he went along…. The writer was able to examine him cursorily, and the only physical abnormality noted consisted of a lengthening of the hair and a coarse, thickened condition of the finger nails.” Dr. Harrison concludes, “Without institutional care the patient would have manifested precisely the same physical conditions as those mentioned in Daniel 4:33.” (R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 1116).
“All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. At the conclusion of twelve months, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is this not the great Babylon that I have built as the royal residence by mymighty power for the honor of mymajesty?’
The words were still in the mouth of the king when a voice from heaven fell upon the king and said, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, your kingdom is taken away from you. You will be driven away from people and you will live with the beasts of the field. You will eat grass like an ox. Seven times will pass over upon you until you know that the Most High is mighty, and he gives kingdoms to anyone he desires.’
In that very moment the decree was put into effect against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven away from people. He ate grass like an ox, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his fingernails like the claws of a bird.”
The young man R. K. Harrison observed was suffering from the trauma experienced in the horrors of World War II. King Nebuchadnezzar’s boanthropy came because of the horror of using far too many “I’s” and ‘My’s.” Like Pharaoh in the Exodus account, the King of Babylon made the foolish mistake of pridefully believing he was greater than the great I AM and that he could go head to head against him.
Whenever we forget that we are made in God’s image and believe we have done it all on our own, we don’t discover our true freedom and humanity. We become like dumb oxen, and grass is a tough diet. How long will it take us to look up?
LORD, obviously, Nebuchadnezzar had a serious case of arrogance and a fixation on his own self-importance. Today I humbly bow before you as the source of all true greatness and the One who does decide who gets which positions and for how long.
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