People with PTSD in the Tanakh (Old Testament)


By: William Jackson

Advances in surgeries, medicines and triage can all be attributed to war (1). Therefore, although war is not something we want, it’s byproducts certainly help society as a whole. This can be said for the diagnoses and treatment of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As we will discus, PTSD is not a 21 century disease. There are signs of it throughout our history and as we look into Tanakh we will see our first patience and remedies.

First lets look at the clinical definition;

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event, (2) By Mayo Clinic Staff.

Many realize that PTSD is not just about Soldiers in combat. Civilians can get it for terrifying events that are non-combat related. The National Center for PTSD reports between 7 percent to 8 percent of the general population possesses PTSD (3).

Job’s life serves as a perfect PTSD blueprint:

Job would be the best example of this. He lost his family, property, cattle, wealth, (Job 1:13-19) and health (Job 2:7) all in two days. This would meet the “terrifying event(s)” outlined by the Mayo Clinic. But without symptoms (flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety…etc) one could not consider Job to be afflicted by PTSD. So did he have these symptoms?

In Job 3:24-25 we read For the thing I feared has befallen me, and what I dreaded is coming upon me. I was not at ease, neither was I quiet, and I did not rest, yet trouble came.”

This would certainly be the “severe anxiety as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event” symptoms.

Also, Job 7:13-14Should I say that my bed shall comfort me, that my couch shall bear my speech. You terrify me with dreams, and You frighten me with visions,…”

This could be easily defined as nightmares and flashbacks

At the close of “The Book of Job” we see that because of Job’s relationship with “The Almighty” Job’s life is restored (Job 42:12)

Conversely we have King David:

We know that King David was a mighty warrior. Many of his Psalms dealt with emotional fear and anxiety. It is possible that David could have had PTSD but I was not able to find the same level of evidence as with Job. Maybe David dealing openly with his anxiety through prayer and meditation to HaShem allowing him to cope. Here are a couple examples of David’s many Psalms that focused on targeting anxiety and depression;

A Great Prayer for PTSD

Psalm 31:9,10,14-16: Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. . . . But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let Your face shine on Your servant; save me in Your unfailing love.

Also there are two key verses in his Psalms 91;

You will not fear the fright of night, the arrow that flies by day; Pestilence that prowls in darkness, destruction that ravages at noon. (Verses 5-6)

SOLUTION, “So what can we do…”

In the book of Job, we see Job spending over 80% (Job 2:11-37:24) of the book ruminating about his problems. This self pity party is interrupted by two scathing speeches given by HaShem, (Job 38:1-40:2, 40:6-41:34, 42:7-8). Conversely, King David did not have the same level of depression as Job. As we read the Tanakh we also see that David’s life was full of combat and tragedy. Yet King David was a poet and many believe that David wrote the Book of Psalms, or at least edited it (4). As we know the Psalms are poetic poems that praise HaShem and expose the writers most inner feelings, good and bad. The difference between these two significant people is that Job had a relationship with HaShem but turned to his friends, whereas David had a relationship with friends but turned to HaShem.

The PTSD victim needs to use both horizontal and vertical strategies in the quest for healing;

– Therapy (horizontal relief)

– YHVH (vertical relief)


We saw with both David and Job their relationship with HaShem was the key piece in their recovery. If you think you might have PTSD here is a simple 6 question PTSD Screening Quiz to give you some insight. If you might have PTSD or are interested in this topic please read Doctor Tim Clinton’s article On The Biblical Ways to Overcome a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (December 6, 2013), it’s very insightful.


(1) By Chris Trueman, Medicine and World War Two, History Learning Site

(2) By Mayo Clinic Staff, (April, 15, 2014), Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Maya Clinic

(3) By Sue Vorenberg, (August 26, 2012), Living with PTSD, The Columbian

(4) King David, Jewish Virtual Library