Skip to main content

Suicide

Suicide
Q: I was recently reading a book from a semi-famous evangelist that indicated that there are six (6) suicides recorded in Scripture. I can only recall four (4); 1.) Samson, 2.) Saul, 3.) Saul's armor bearer, and 4.) Judas Iscariot. Then he went on to say that the Bible did not necessarily condemn these men. Conversely, he wasn't suggesting that these men are saved either. I'm not sure about the others, but Samson is identified as one of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:32; so I assume I'll see him in heaven some day. The passage itself was oddly inserted as it did not have much relevance to the subject at hand, but it did bring up some thought provoking questions in me.

Do you know who the other two characters in Scripture were that may have committed suicide? And the more difficult question, Is suicide a forgivable sin? I had been raised with the theology that suicide condemns the soul as it is a sin that can never be repented of (assuming one is successful in the effort). Now that might make sense for a "sane" individual, but is a person that commits suicide sane? If a person is mentally incapacitated or unstable or distraught, will the Lord of the universe look at the last moments of a life and reject one who otherwise might have been a faithful servant?


A: A very interesting question!

Suicide is a very difficult subject to tackle for many reasons, not the least of which is the emotional pain that is associated with this act in the lives of anyone who has experienced loss in this life due to suicide. As with any potentially emotionally charged topic, it is wise for us to tread very carefully in order to not add to the burden of anyone who is walking with hurts caused by suicide.

That being said, it seems that there are many who would argue that there were seven suicides recorded in the Bible, not six. It is interesting that the above mentioned author didn't include a list to go along with his statement. To fill out the list from our Questioner we can add the following three:

1) Abimelech (Judges 9:54)
2) Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23)
3) Zimri (1 Kings 16:18)

To consider these all "suicides" is a bit of a stretch for me. Suicide is the act of taking one's own life. Abimelech more accurately asked to be euthanized by a (male) friend so as to not be dishonored by being killed by a woman (Judges 9:54). Samson seems to be more interested in killing Philistines than he is in ending his own life -- it just so happens that he is willing to die with them as more of a suicide attack. However, the primary intention of Samson's final act was not the ending of his own life but the infliction of vengeance upon his enemies.

If we were to classify this as the same as other cases of suicide, then I can see the difficulty. Not all actions that lead to a persons own death are the same. The Questioner is right that Samson is included in the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11. The author of Hebrews seems to point to Samson's actions as heroic and strong (based on Hebrews 11:33-34) towards his enemies. Samson is included even though his act of faith killed him in the process.

It may simply seem like semantics. But I don't believe Samson was "suicidal" in the way that term is usually meant. Unless we want to describe anyone who acts heroically and dies also as a "suicide."

Would we consider a police officer or firefighter to be "suicidal" simply because they lost their own life through their actions while on duty?

I think not.

It is important to point out, as a side note, that this inclusion of Samson in Hebrews 11 does not in any way validate other forms of "suicide attacks" like we see in our contemporary culture. Although the God of the New Testament and Old Testament is the same God, it is fairly clear that the Old Testament records far more instances of sanctioned bloodshed than the New Testament does. Although war and death are always ugly, Samson lived in a very different time and culture than we do. It is difficult to judge his actions by our own, contemporary, standards. What is clear in the New Testament is that we are no longer to wage war as the nation of Israel was once commanded to do. Our weapons are not fleshly, but spiritual. In no way, shape, or form do Samson's actions condone suicide killings in our own day.

Based on such a loose idea of suicide some argue that even Jesus himself committed suicide!

Perhaps I'm missing someone. But if we use the standard understanding of "suicide" as the intentional taking of your own life, there are five (5) examples recorded in Scripture that will form the basis of our biblical testimony for consideration in this answer:

1) Saul; 2) Saul's armor-bearer; 3) Ahithophel; 4) Zimri; and 5) Judas Iscariot.

To claim, as the Questioner mentioned was claimed in their question, that the Bible never condemns these men is a bit misleading.

The Scriptures tell us that Saul's death was a result of the judgment of God. It was not the product of him choosing to end his own life:

So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD, because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, and did not inquire of the LORD. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10:13-14, NASB)

Notice that verse 14 says that "He killed him"! God killed Saul for his trespass and his seeking a medium. God handed Saul and his army over to the Philistines. When seriously wounded in the battle, Saul did not want his enemies to get the glory for killing him or to capture him and abuse him (1 Samuel 31:3-4; 1 Chronicles 10:3-4). So, he sped up the process. But the Chronicler says that God killed Saul as an act of judgment.

This issue can get really complicated, really fast. We see divine sovereignty in the orchestration of events, leading to the Scriptures declaring that God killed Saul. We see human responsibility in Saul's own action and participation in the judgment by falling on his own sword and actually committing suicide. We also have a distinction to draw between judgment in the temporal sense and eternal judgment (i.e. condemnation). While Saul was clearly "condemned" to death in this life because of his actions (pre-suicide), the Scripture doesn't describe Saul as being condemned (eternally) as a result of his suicide (or other actions). At least, not explicitly.

Similarly, the account of Zimri's death by suicide is linked to the judgment of God for the sins he committed:

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 16:18-19, NASB)

Verse 19 tells us that Zimri's death was caused ("...and died, because...") by his sin. However, the condemnation upon Zimri results in his earthly death without any commentary on the eternal state of his soul as a result of his suicide.

Similarly, Judas is clearly condemned in the Scriptures. He is described as the "son of perdition" (or, "the one destined for destruction") who was lost (John 17:12). Of course, the reason for his condemnation is more complicated than simply the way in which his biological life ended here on earth.

Open Bible
After a closer examination, it seems that 60% of the individuals who are revealed in the Scriptures to have committed the act of suicide were under the condemnation of God even before their death. Two of the three examples actually had their death explicitly linked to the judgment of God! The other two individuals (Saul's armor-bearer and Ahithophel) deaths pass without much discussion in the Bible.

Going simply on the information presented by our Questioner (without knowing the book or the author of the comments in question), it seems like the conclusion is on the right track: it is difficult to make a case from the Bible that any of these men were condemned (eternally) as a result of their suicide. It seems like a case could be made in the opposite direction, however, that the condemnation upon these men ultimately led to their death -- even a death at their own hand (cf. Romans 1:18ff).

I, too, was raised to believe that suicide was an unpardonable sin. However, it seems clear to me that this view is not based on a clear teaching of the Scriptures. There is no passage that states it that way.

One of the aspects of the question above includes an inquiry into the sanity of someone who commits suicide. I'm not a mental health professional. I hesitate to wander into such foreign territory. I do feel safe in saying that the person who commits suicide (or even contemplates it) is in a dark and difficult place. As someone who has battled depression and suicidal thoughts in my past, I can honestly say that I don't ever believe I was "out of touch with reality" (which, of course, is usually what someone who is out of touch would say!), even though I was hopeless and desperate.

Being without hope and being desperate are not emotional states that are reserved for the person who is insane. I don't think that the sanity of Saul, his armor-bearer, or Judas should necessarily be in question. I don't think psychoanalysis would prove fruitful for our purposes. All of these men, however, were clearly in a dark place. They were being tormented and led by external (and sometimes internal; Luke 22:3) forces beyond their understanding and control.

The one the Son sets free is free indeed
Unfortunately, this describes most of us. Especially before we come to Christ.

It becomes a leap in logic and faith to connect the reality that suicide is outside of God's plan for His children and that it is, therefore, a sinful act to the conclusion that it is unforgivable.

According to my understanding of Scripture, there is only one unforgivable sin: blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Of all of the possible interpretations of this particular passage, I've never heard anyone attempt to link suicide to the blasphemy of the Spirit. That doesn't mean it hasn't been. I just don't see the connection.

The question above raises a different reason for this being unforgivable: the fact that repentance for this particular sin is impossible if the act itself succeeds. As I was growing up, this was the reasoning I remember receiving for the belief that suicide was a direct ticket to Hell. However, I now see that this theological reasoning isn't sound.

This brings us dangerously close to a works-based salvation. The Scripture clearly denies we can be saved by our works (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9). Also, Salvation is not something that can be "lost" on a technicality. I don't believe that this reasoning works any better than one I hear a Christian radio host use frequently:

"If I am driving down the road and see a billboard with an immodestly dressed woman on it selling some product and a fleeting lustful thought crosses my mind, and then I'm killed in a car accident without having the opportunity to repent, have I lost my salvation?"

I think that the answer to this question is clearly, No. Repentance is a gift from the Lord. All of His children should walk in a lifestyle of repentance in order to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us constantly and move freely in our lives without being hindered or quenched by our living in sin. However, each of us has more "sin" in our life than we even realize. You would be hard-pressed to convince me that anyone (aside from Jesus) ever passed into death without any un-repented-from sins on their account!

So, what reason would we have for believing that suicide is the exception? I suppose it could be argued that suicide is an act of apostasy. But you'll have a hard time making that case from Scripture.

In the end, I'm not sure that I can answer this question with certainty. The admonition of the Scripture is to endure until the end. God is faithful. His promises are for those who endure (Mark 13:13; 2 Timothy 2:12). I'm not sure that someone who commits suicide has fallen short of that goal or not.

Ultimately, entrance into relationship with the Living God and consequently, into His heaven, is based on a relationship with Jesus Christ. While it is difficult for me to understand how someone who is genuinely saved and walking as a child of light could be in such a dark place as to commit suicide, that doesn't mean it's impossible.

Many things that are hard to believe are nevertheless true.

My own depression has changed now that I'm a Christian. It didn't disappear completely. I no longer have suicidal thoughts. But my experience is just that - mine. I don't want to go beyond what the Bible teaches and think my experiences are true for everyone.

We have to trust in the One who judges all things impartially and who is always good to do what is right. And He will.

Every time.

Suicide isn't a good option. It is not the only option. My prayer is that all who are in darkness will come into the light of Jesus. That they will allow Him to be their source of victory and joy in this broken world.

For those who have endured the loss of a friend or a loved one through the act of suicide, my encouragement is that the Bible does not declare without a shadow of a doubt that this is clear evidence of their damnation for eternity. God will do what is right. We can rest in His goodness, even in such a difficult case.

Comments

P. Scott said…
Nicely done. As one who has been trained in "suicideology" and the ASIST method for suicide prevention, I fully agree with your argument against it being an "un-forgivable" sin. There are way too many factors involved in the study of the psychology of the suicidal mind to try and give a standard formula for helping those who are struggling or considering it. The best you can do is to offer them the hope that is only found in Christ, and seek to get them some professional help. Thanks for your answer, this was a tough question!

Popular Posts

Prayer vs. Petition

Q: What's the difference between prayer and petition? Phil 4:6 for example.

A: An excellent word study question! When attempting to study words from the text it is necessary to analyze the word being studied in the original language (in this case Greek) as attempting to look up the words in English will often produce erroneous results.

For example, in English the word petition has within its range of meanings things that are certainly not within the scope of meanings for the Greek word (i.e. “a sheet that is signed to demonstrate agreement with some principle or desire for some social action to be taken” is part of the range of “petition” but not of the Greek deesis from which “petition” is translated).

The word most commonly translated as “prayer” in our English Bibles is proseuche, which appears 36 times in the New Testament (NT) in one form or another (for the purposes of this study, we are only examining the usage of these words as nouns – the verbal forms will not be included…

10 Things An Evangelist Is Not

You've probably heard the term Evangelist before. Most people have. The term most likely brings something to mind. Sometimes positive. Often negative.

Does your idea match what other people think of when they hear the term evangelist?

More importantly, do any of these ideas match what the Bible tells us an evangelist is?
The truth is that most of the popular ideas about what an evangelist is and does are based on the culture, not the Bible. This is a problem.

The cultural idea of an evangelist is so popular that it is beginning to be used by companies. If you go to popular job sites and put the term evangelist into the search bar you will find many non-church jobs looking for evangelists. Many of these positions include the duties of spreading knowledge about a particular company, product, service, or idea.
The Bible tells us that Jesus gave some Evangelists for His church.And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Growing up, I said the Our Father prayer a lot.

A lot. Multiple times a day.It was part of my religious tradition. Most of the time, I mumbled it as quickly as I could.

For what it's worth, my Dad tried to help me understand that mumbling the prayer without understanding what it really meant wasn't the goal. He wanted me to understand it. He wanted me to mean it.

I remember sitting with him in the car one afternoon while we went through every phrase. He did his best to explain to me what the terms meant. Why we would say these things. Why it mattered.

It didn't take.

Although I became better equipped to describe the meaning of the phrases, I still mumbled them as fast as I could so I could move on to the next part of my day.

Fast forward many years. After being born-again by the grace of God I started to read my Bible. I desired to know God and His Word. I remember when I stumbled upon Jesus teaching the disciples to pray the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6. I was both excit…

Christianity Isn't Moralism

Do this. Don't do that.

Shop here. Don't shop there.

This is acceptable. That is an abomination.

Don't get me wrong. Christianity does have a moral code. That's undeniable.

And that moral code is not popular. Not by a long shot. The Bible is clear that the moral code is contrary to the flesh. By definition it goes against the grain of fallen human nature.

But Christianity isn't moralism.

The moral code is not the end. It's only a diagnostic. The Bible calls for rebels against the King of heaven and earth to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus the Christ. The Bible calls for people to turn from their rebellion and live for Him. This means that we stop pursuing the various lusts and impulses of our flesh. It means we start living in obedience to our King. We live for the glory of His name.

The diagnostic helps us to see that we are off track. But living according to some external sort of rules is not the end goal. That was the mistake the Pharisees made. Yo…

Christ Died For Our Sins

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
(1 Corinthians 15:3)
The truth of the gospel includes this important phrase: Christ died for our sins.

You've probably heard it before. Many times.

Sometimes familiarity leads to a diminished sense of importance. The more you hear about something the more ordinary it may seem. Common. Ho-hum. Boring.

But this truth is anything but common.

Another difficulty arises with this truth. Beyond being common. It may happen in your ears without you even realizing it.

When the truth is declared that Christ died for our sins, you may think you hear the truth. But what you really hear is a diminished version. A partial truth.

Instead of hearing that Christ died for our sins you may hear a slightly different version of this truth. You might hear this: Jesus died for your sins.

Do you see the difference? You should.


These statements are similar. Both may very well be true…