By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Various I Samuel 18, 19, 20
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Books of Samuel in conjunction with this article.
Paranoia, the Destroyer1
While the title of the article may bring to your memory the song Destroyer, the reality is we do not often examine incidents in the scriptures with current terminology. Sometimes it is easy to observe a paranoid person, their actions give them away. Sometimes you might experience paranoia yourself. Watching horror and suspense movies do not help much either. What was that noise outside the window? Behind the house? Unfortunately, there are those who really think that others are truly out to get them.
Dictionary.com claims that paranoia2 is a psychiatric term referring to “a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.” But Dictionary.com also states that paranoia is a “baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.” It is from this dualistic perspective that we will examine Sha’ul, The Man Who Would Be King.
Sha’ul and Paranoia
What does paranoia have to do with Saul anyway? We live in a cultural that is saturated by things that are always challenging us: challenging our devotion and dedication to Jehovah. Saul was no different. He experienced situations that challenged his willingness to follow Jehovah. While it is a very brief verse, there is a tremendous situation that allows Saul to not just experience paranoia, but to travel into the depths of preoccupation. The verse, I Samuel 16.14:
“the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.”
As we enter into this discussion, let us keep I Samuel 16.14 in perspective. James tells us that good things3 come from Jehovah, but Saul demonstrates how God can abandon4 his people even when the man was chosen to be king.
Sha’ul the Paranoid
The depths of paranoia’s grip is witnessed through the life of Saul. The beginning of Saul’s paranoia comes when women are singing praises for David over Saul while comparing their kill ratio.5 To use a modern comparison: if a corporation polled the public about Saul and David; Saul’s numbers were down. While the King James uses the word “eyed” in verse nine, the Complete Jewish Bible better conveys Saul’s state of mind: “From that day on, Sha’ul viewed David with suspicion.” This translation fits well with Diciontary.com’s second definition; does it not? Additionally, verse twelve informs us that Saul became afraid of David.
From all of these references, we can see that God’s peace left Saul. He experienced a drop in his popularity. And he found himself fearing David, having recognized that David had what he used to have. It seems this is the beginning of sorrows for Saul. His personal situation is ready for paranoia: suspicion and aggression.
For Saul, his suspicion was only the beginning. By the time verse seventeen occurs, Saul had schemed a method to have David removed from the situation. But that scheme failed, and it appears that Saul developed a backup plan that he hoped would remove David. David would die while proving his worth for marriage.6 With both Plans A and B failing, Saul became even more afraid of David.7 Saul’s paranoia grew as his mental health deteriorated. He even conspired with his servants to assassinate David.8 And when the conspiracy failed, he became willing to murder David himself.9 All of which fit Dictionary.com’s first definition.
While Saul’s problem seems like it could be diagnosed as paranoia, his real problem is his unwillingness to listen to righteous instruction. We, as disciples, cannot underestimate the necessity of I Samuel 16.14. If we live our life similar to Saul, we too can experience his problem. One of the beautiful aspects of living for Jehovah is to experience peace. But if we make the choice to not obey,10 then peace can be removed. The terrible situation is that if that peace is removed, paranoia sets in. Make no mistake, our adversary will exploit the lack of peace, and paranoia will become his instrument. May we learn from Saul’s tragedy. May we always have the peace of God.
1. “Parnoia, the Destroyer.” The Kinks “Destroyer” Give the People Want They Want. Arista. 1982.
2. “paranoia.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 21 Aug. 2008. Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paranoia.
3. “good things.” James 1.16-17
4. “abandon.” Deuteronomy 31.16; II Chronicles 15.2; KJV uses the word “forsake” which means abandon.
5. “kill ratio.” I Samuel 18.6-9
6. “marriage dowry.” I Samuel 18.25
7. “increased fear.” I Samuel 18.29
8. “assignation conspiracy.” I Samuel 19.1
9. “attempted murder.” I Samuel 19.9-10, 15
10. “obey.” I Samuel 12.14-15