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Was King David a Megalomaniac?
by Cate Russell-Cole
6/19/2015 / Bible Studies
Archaeologists have found tablets in the area where Moab was, which pretty much describe King David as a hated enemy. Even some Biblical scholars consider him to be a megalomaniac who slew nations, took territory and stopped at nothing to make Isra'el a powerful force to be reckoned with. Yes, he did those things, but in many instances those actions were in obedience to the instructions left by Moses in Deuteronomy 7. Also if you look at the diagnostic criteria for megalomania, and compare David to known leaders with that problem, Davids actions and behaviour doesnt even begin to resemble the condition.
Enemy nations were a threat to God's chosen people, Isra'el for two reasons:
1. There was always a danger of being taken as slaves again.
2. The influence of surrounding pagan nations, who pulled Isra'el away from the one true God and worshipped their gods using ritual prostitution, child sacrifice, self-mutilation and other atrocities. That influence had to be stopped for everyones safety. Religious tolerance would be grossly inappropriate.
So David dealt with them to stop the danger to the nation.
In this day and age, it is only acceptable, under the United Nations, to go to war if the country you are fighting has already assaulted you. King Davids behaviour now would be considered excessively aggressive, intolerant and reprehensible. He wouldn't be allowed to get away with it, which is fair. However, this was three thousand years ago. He was under the Law, not the grace which was later won by his great-grandson, Jesus Christ. It was a totally different world, which I would hate to step back into. It would be alien to me and very hard to cope with.
Today, he would be considered a tyrant, but by the Biblical standards of the time he did the right thing. He made the nation of Isra'el safe from foreign rule and foreign gods and he fulfilled his obligations as a king, to the letter. "So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people." [2 Samuel 8:15]
From Acts 13: "He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.' 1 Kings 11:34 "'But I will not take the entire kingdom from Solomon at this time. For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and decrees..." That is the final word of the Lord of all. Biblically, David's name is cleared of wrong doing.
In terms of mental health, if you compare King David to known megalomaniacs such as Joseph Stalin, Colonel Muammar Gadalfi, Idi Amin Dada and Adolf Hitler, his behaviour is actually a stark contrast to them. The accounts of David in the Bible show a humble man, with compassion for people, a solid adherence to Biblical laws, fair actions and a healthy respect for human life and suffering. These are not the traits of a megalomaniac.
Technically, megalomania is Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is characterised by extreme excesses in the areas of violence, controlling behaviours, flouting wealth, extolling accomplishments to an irrational level and being an unstoppable negative force in every way possible.
David made the kingdom of Israel safe, then the wars stopped. He did not try to build an extensive empire by conquering other nations such as Assyria, Babylon, the Philistines, or Egypt, which only a megalomaniac would seek to do. He did not bestow multiple titles upon himself, indulge in building monuments to himself, he only had one palace, neither did he torture, arrest, curse or demean his fellow citizens, even when they directly rebelled against him. No one was threatened into silence or compliant behaviour and David even hated bribes. When he was in trouble, he sought the Lord for deliverance. [Ref: Shimei 2 Samuel 16:5-13]
If you would like to read more to further understand Davids actions as a ruler and the intricacies of power in the ancient world, you are welcome to read these articles.
- How Gentle Kings Become Killers
- Does Absolute Power Absolutely Corrupt?
- Law and Disorder in the Life of King David
Psychological Resources of Megalomania / Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders http://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/practicas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder In-Depth | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-personality-disorder-in-depth//
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder-symptoms/
- Mental Health.com Narcissistic Personality Disorder http://www.mentalhealth.com/home/dx/narcissisticpersonality.html
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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