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Was King David Diabetic?
by Cate Russell-Cole
6/16/2015 / Bible Studies
I once searched for opinions on King David's (Daviyd's) cause of death and couldn't find one. All we know from 1 Kings 1 that was that he was so cold, he couldn't get warm, no matter what was done. For a hot climate, that's extreme.
I researched 'disease caused hypothermia,' and came across a list of 123 causes. That list was way too large to search through, so I gave up. Then I found people online talking about the 'venereal disease psalm.' They were quoting Psalm 38:7 "For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh." That got me searching into probable causes for that symptom. They include ecenzma, which is likely in a hot climate; and also, bacterial folliculitis, which is where the hair follicles, in areas of the body that don't get much ventilation, become infected. These kinds of skin problems are also common with diabetes.
The Better Health Channel says: Some types of diabetes have no symptoms, and can go undiagnosed for a long time, but some common symptoms can include:
- Being more thirsty than usual;
- passing more urine;
- feeling tired and lethargic; (2 Samuel 21:15-17, Psalm 6:2, Psalm 31:9 and 38:10)
- slow-healing wounds; (Psalm 31 and 38, causing people to avoid him. Psalm 38 mentions infection.)
- itching and skin infections, particularly around the genitals; (Psalm 38:7)
- blurred vision; (Mentioned in Psalm 38)
- nausea and vomiting; (This could, perhaps, explain his being bent over in pain.)
- weight loss; (Psalm 31:9 and 102:5 which is also an unmarked Psalm of David whose wording matches Psalm 6.)
- mood swings. (These could have accompanied diabetic heart disease and his mood is obvious in Psalms 6, 41, 30, 31, 38, 55.)
Psalms 6 and 69 also mention unrelenting pain which would accompany Daviyd's symptoms (and possibly could also be caused by wear and tear plus the injuries he incurred on the battlefields); and in Psalm 41 he indicates that he has been on his sickbed again. So the Psalms that tell of illness are Psalm 6, 30, 38, 41 and 55; plus 102 talks about sickness coming upon him in midlife, which is consistent with what I am saying here.
Psalm 69 does also refer to pain, but it is unclear as to whether it is physical or emotional in cause. The Psalm laments treasonous persecution by a close friend, which broke the King's heart. It is noteable that his illness is recorded in correlation with traumatic life events. This is typical of diabetes and chronic illness. Stress exacerbates symptoms and causes worsening, or relapses.
The treatment for diabetes involves getting insulin levels back to normal. In Daviyd's time, that would have been no easy achievement. The healers of the day used a local plant named Sharp varthemia (Chiliadenus iphionoides), whose properties are now being formally researched. By the grace of God, that could have been enough to keep him going. In Psalms 56:5 and 103:3 Daviyd talks about the Lord rescuing him from all his diseases and death. All denotes multiple health issues and linking death with these events, certainly spells out how serious they were. Having friends with diabetes and researching this topic has left me astounded that Daviyd survived to the age of 70, with only the most basic treatment. It's Godly providence in action!
Another symptom worth noting, is his heart palpitations, which Daviyd writes of in Psalms 38 and 55. Diabetic heart disease is a common complication of diabetes. It can cause coronary heart disease (CHD), heart failure, and/or diabetic cardiomyopathy. Those who have diabetes have the same risk of heart disease, as someone who has already suffered a heart attack. It is made worse by stress, creates a feeling of depression and doom and occurs at a younger age, than when heart disease normally affects people. It fits in with what Daviyd has described.
While David certainly was no angel, there is a common criticism of David's actionswhich could have also been attributed to diabetic health problems and heart issues, rather than sinful behaviour. "In the spring of the year,a when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites." 2 Samuel 11:1 The argument is that if he had gone to war, he never would have fallen into bed with BathSheba.Because David stayed in Jerusalem while his men went out to battle,I have often see it presumed that he was being lazy or indulgent. Many *scholars believe that that reference may only be a time marker, not a judgement. Kings in David's time were caught up in a heavy load of administrative, diplomatic and judicial duties and unless he was needed for morale or strategy, his time may have been better used in Jerusalem and he may have been more derelict of duty to go to war than keep the country in order. Or could this have been because because he was too ill and thus,too greater liability on the battlefield at that time? Several years later,his men force him off the battlefield permanently, as he is weak and tired.[Ref:2 Samuel 21:15-17]
It was not King David's custom to attend to smaller battles, as was evident from when he first took the kingship of Judah. David knew that the Lord had always won Isra'el's battles and thus, he most probably wasn't obsessed with the notion that the success of every military campaign was dependent on him. In modern terms, his delegation is an attribute of wise and successful leadership.
Arealistic view of David's involvements in battle as a king is presented in the introduction to Psalm 60. At times, Joab and the army went out without David to begin or finish a battle, and this was normal and acceptable. "...and Joab returned and killed 12,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt." Again, in 2 Samuel 2:12-17, Joab takes the army of Judah (David's forces) into battle against Ishbosheth and Isra'el without David. There is no Biblical criticism of these actions.
The Jewish Population and Diabetes
There is long standing statistical evidence, that diabetes is a major health problem within Jewish communities, particularly as Jews typically marry other Jews, so health issues can develop from less variety being present in the gene pool. *The Jewish Encyclopedia addresses diabetes and interestingly, says: "Sudden emotional excitement, grief, terror, worry, and anxiety may each and all be followed so closely by diabetes that there is no room for doubt as to their having occasioned it. It is well known as a result of commercial disaster. "When stocks fall, diabetes rises in Wall Street," says Dr. Kleen." The worst symptoms appear to occur after the deaths of Daviyd's sons Amnon and Absalom. It is after he has had to deal with the famine and is over thirty years into a stressful reign as king. This seems plausible.
The article goes on to state: "It has been observed by many clinicians that the Jews bear diabetes better than other races; thus, Van Noorden (l.c. p. 176) states that it is remarkable how some patients will endure glycosuria for years without much discomfort, succumbing at lastperhaps after decadesto what is supposed to be heart-failure. This peculiar type of diabetes, and this remarkable endurance by the human body of the anomalous metabolism of diabetes, are more frequently met with among women than among men, and almost exclusively among Jews.
Dr. Stern has pointed out another peculiarity; viz., that Jews dying of diabetes succumb through coma more frequently than non-Jews. Thus, while the ratio of fatal coma cases occurring in New York city in 1899 to the total mortality from diabetes was as 60 to 202, or 29 per cent, coma occurred in 43 per cent of the cases of diabetes among Jews."
If you think you may have diabetes, please see a doctor.
* For more historically based information on why David didn't go to war, please see this article: http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=34662
Hypothermia is a frequent sign of severe hypoglycaemia in patients with diabetes. http://www.diabet-metabolism.com/article/S1262-3636(12)00053-5/abstract?cc=y=
Hypothermia and Diabetes http://www.biologyguide.net/hbio4/7_homeostasis.htm
Hypothermia WebMD Diabetes is listed as the first cause. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-hypothermia?page=1#1
*The 1906 Jewish Encyclopaedia, Diabetes Mellitus http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5161-diabetes-mellitus
Diabetic Heart Disease as a Complication of Diabetes http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/heart-disease/
What is Diabetic Heart Disease? Causes, Symptoms etc. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dhd
For more information on King David, please have a meander through the King David Project Facebook page, our web site and our blog, Masada Rain. The blog houses many useful resources on studying, David plus bits and pieces of information which dont neatly fit into article form. Please ignore dates and use the search feature to find what you want. The web site has resources on Davids family tree, life and the Psalms. All content is creative commons and non-profit. Sharing of the projects work would be deeply appreciated.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fromdespairtodeliverance
Masada Rain Blog: https://masadarain.wordpress.com
The project web site: http://cateartios.wix.com/kingdavidproject
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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