God has not written a specific command about suicide in His Holy Word. Some scholars believe that the command “you shall not murder” covers suicide as well, while others believe that the command directly refers to murdering others. The later justify this by saying that the verb “murder” is in the active form and not reflexive, as in “murder yourself”. Even though there is no specific command regarding suicide, in the entirety of Scripture, we do see God dealing with the subject of suicide. In this article I will limit myself to just 7 examples of people who have committed suicide. We will see who they are, why they did what they did, and the results. I will not share what the church’s position is or theological opinions because I only want to analyze the Biblical text.
Case 1- Abimelec
He lived during the period of the Judges, when there was not yet a king in Israel, and “everyone did what he thought was right in his own eyes”. Being the son of the Judge Gideon, after his father’s death, Abimelec began manipulating the people in Sihem, offering to help them, then turning on them and killing his 70 brothers, becoming a cruel dictator. God sent an evil spirit between Abimelec and the inhabitants of Sihem so Abimelec went to go to war against them. Abimelec won and set Sihem on fire, then the following happened.
Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and he camped against Thebez and captured it. But there was a strong tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the leaders of the city fled there and shut themselves in; and they went up on the roof of the tower. So Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire. But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. Then he called quickly to the young man, his armor bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that it will not be said of me, ‘A woman slew him.'” So the young man pierced him through, and he died. (Judges 9:50-54)
Case 2 – Samson
Samson’s life was a tragic one. God chose Samson and gave him special strength to free his people from oppression by the Philistines. Samson was blessed yet he decided to try and serve the Lord and live an immoral lifestyle at the same time. Because of his choices he was captured and enslaved by the Philistines also having his eyes plucked out. In order to taunt Samson even more the Philistines held a celebration in their temple for their god Dagon. The temple was full of men and women, including all of the leaders and rulers of the Philistines, numbering about 3,000. They were all making fun of Samson. Samson cried out to the Lord,
“O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. (Judges 16:27-30)
I do not know if this is an example of pure suicide. Samson’s main motive was to repay the Philistines for plucking out his eyes and the only way to repay them was by losing his life in the process. If Samson would have been contemplating suicide he could have easily done it while in prison, like so many others who become depressed and take their lives.
Eusebias from Cezarea writes in “Church History” about an older Christian woman who was captured and given the chance to renounce Christ or be thrown into the fire. She decided to show her dedication to Christ jumped into the fire willingly. Her testimony had a great impact in the furtherance of the Gospel at the time.
“Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua the sons of Saul. The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it.” (1 Samuel 31:1-4)
This is a clear case of suicide. Saul is in despair because he does not want to be captured and he is already wounded so he sees his only escape being death. He was afraid that the Philistines were going to abuse him and he did not want to face the event. Even though he was dead the Philistines still made sport of his body.
“It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.” (1 Samuel 31:8-10)
I remember the end of the movie “Brave heart” with Mel Gibson, when he was awaiting torture and the queen to be came to him and offered him a potion to kill himself so he would not have to suffer the torture to come. He had the courage to face the future and decided not to take his life. Suicide is for the weak and not for those who are courageous enough to face the future with the help of the Lord though faith.
Case 4 – Saul’s armor bearer
God does not mention the person by name but we do learn something about him,
Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. (1 Samuel 31:4-5)
This man chose suicide over carrying out his duty. If Saul decided to commit suicide the duty of the armor bearer was to remove his lifeless body from the field of battle so that the body of his king would not be mocked by the enemy. If he would have been brave he may have died trying to do his duty, dying with some honor and dignity but instead he chose to run away from his responsibilities by taking his own life and allowing the body of his king to be mocked. Do not be like this man. When difficult times come do not try to run away from your responsibilities, but instead seek to carry out your task and if you die then you will die with a clear conscious knowing that you did your part. God is on the side of those who are courageous and fight until the end.
Case 5 –Ahithophel
Ahithophel was an adviser to king David but he proved himself to be fearful, not wanting to face the future. When Absalom, the son of David, decided to rise up against his father, the king, Ahithophel advised Absalom to do a terrible thing. He told Absalom that he would go and surprise David and kill him and bring his body back to Absalom. Absalom liked the plan and wanted to put it in motion but God had other plans.
For the LORD had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring calamity on Absalom. (2 Samuel 17:14)
Here is how Ahithophel responded,
Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled himself; thus he died and was buried in the grave of his father. (2 Samuel 17:23)
We do not know why he killed himself but possibly he did not want to face the punishment from king David because of his plan. Even if he escaped David’s punishment what about God’s punishment for those who wanted to kill the chosen king, a king who was chosen by God? Repentance and forgiveness is the answer because suicide only makes it worse.
Case 6 – Zimri
Zimri was a servant of king Ela in Israel. Zimri revolted against the king, killed him, and made himself king. Here is how his days end,
Now the people were camped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines. The people who were camped heard it said, “Zimri has conspired and has also struck down the king.” Therefore all Israel made Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that day in the camp. Then Omri and all Israel with him went up from Gibbethon and besieged Tirzah. When Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king’s house and burned the king’s house over him with fire, and died, because of his sins which he sinned, doing evil in the sight of the LORD, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, making Israel sin. (1 Kings 16:15-19)
Zimri’s suicide is very similar to Ahithophel’s, the only thing is that Zimri’s punishment was coming much quicker that Ahithophel’s. The people had come to repay this man for his crimes. He was a fearful person and he died as a fearful person. His suicide was proof of his fear.
Case 7 – Judas Iscariot
He is one of the most well known people in the Bible especially for his terrible choices. He sold the Lord Jesus Christ for only 30 pieces of silver. After Jesus Christ was arrested and taken to Pilot, we learn the following,
Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)
Judas was a victim of his own bad choices. Just imagine if he would have come to Jesus Christ in repentance, what would have happened? The same thing that happened to Peter after he had denied Jesus Christ 3 times, he came to Jesus Christ and asked for forgiveness and was forgiven.
All 7 of these examples of suicide from the Bible show us the reality of suicide. It is a choice made by people weak in faith who do not have the courage to face the future or the courage to face the consequences of their mistakes. Suicide never has been and never will be a solution. The solution is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Through suicide some people sign their own condemnation slip for eternity (those who commit suicide before accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior), never having a chance to be reconciled with God or people.
Suicide is a phenomenon that is becoming more and more frequent unfortunately, especially for teenagers and adolescents. That is why it is very important that we share the truth about suicide with others.
Original Author: Vasile Filat