by Tad Lindley
Call it hate speech if you want, but I think long fingernails are creepy, especially on a man. I realize that maybe a guy is so filthy rich that he can pay somebody to cut and split his wood for him and pull his nets for him, and a guy like that wouldn’t need to worry about snagging his fingernail while he’s doing hard work, and he would probably have a wife to whoop the akutaq for him, but it still causes me to look away when I see it. How bout you? Have you ever seen a case where a person gave up on their hygiene all together and quit cutting their nails for years? It is beyond creepy; they begin to curl over on themselves.
Truth is stranger than fiction
The Bible actually records the personal testimony of just such a man. What makes it so strange is that he wasn’t a disenfranchised psychopath on the fringes of society, but he was possibly the most powerful man on planet earth in his day. And through a strange twist of pride, he was plunged into the depths of mental illness and literally went seven years without personal hygiene.
The King had a dream
If you are able to, I urge you to get your Bible and open it to Daniel 4. In it, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon records a strange dream that he had (4:4-18), Daniel’s interpretation of the dream (4:19-27), the fulfillment of the dream (4:28-33), and his powerful deliverance from mental illness by God (4:34-37). In the dream the king saw a great and mighty tree that could be seen from even the far ends of the earth. Then an angel came down and declared, “Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit…nevertheless, leave the stump of his roots in the earth…let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from a man’s heart, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.” (Daniel 4:14-16) Since all of the wise men of Babylon were unable to interpret the dream, the King called for Daniel.
Daniel interprets the nightmare
What at first appeared as a dream, under interpretation might better be called a nightmare. The tree it turns out was none other than Nebuchadnezzar himself. He was going to fall from his position of power. He would become utterly insane. For seven years he would sleep on the ground and be wet with the dew, eating grass like cattle. At the end of seven years, according to the interpretation, he would acknowledge that God is in charge and be restored.
Daniel’s advice: skip the nightmare
After Daniel interpreted the dream for the king, he gives the king a plan to avoid the fulfillment of the dream: Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that your prosperity may continue. (4:27 NIV) This seems like a no-brainer doesn’t it? Seven years of complete insanity or repent and help the oppressed. Unfortunately Nebuchadnezzar did not heed the advice.
Here come the fingernails
At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, “Is not this the great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?”
While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee until thou know that the most high ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. (4:29-33)
The thick fog of his madness
For seven long years the king was crazy, and yet somehow he was content to live as he lived. To any of us looking in on his life we would look at his dreadlocks and his grotesque fingernails and toenails and say, “King, you need help bad!” And yet he continued on, eating grass and sleeping on the ground like an ox.
The fog lifts
And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most high…at the same time my reason returned unto me… (4:34,36) Not until Nebuchanezzar acknowledged God as all powerful did the fog in his life lift, but at that same instant that he turned to God, his mental illness was miraculously lifted, and praised the one true God, and presumably got a haircut and trimmed his nails!
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.