Thursday, August 06, 2020

Death and Dying (2) Suicide

Christians have always been hostile to euthanasia and suicide, but I not certain that these issues are as clear as we assume. There is no specific command against suicide in the scriptures.

  • Saul – he fell on his sword after being defeated in war (1 Sam 31:1-6). That was normal practice in OT times, because a king who was captured would be tortured without mercy (Judges 1:5-7). When Zedekiah was captured by the Babylonians, they killed sons before his eyes and then put out his eyes, so it was the last thing that he saw (2 Kings 25:7).

  • The scriptures condemn Saul for rejecting the words of a prophet and for trying to contact the dead, but there is no condemnation of him for taking his own life.

  • Saul’s armour-bearer refused to kill Saul when he was critically wounded in battle, but that was part of his role (1 Sam 28:3-5).

  • Abimelech – This rebellious leader was mortally wounded when he was struck by a millstone that had been thrown by a woman. He ordered his armour-bearer to dispatch him to avoid the suggestion he had been slain by the woman who had thrown the stone (Judge 9:52-54). Abimelech is a warning of the dangers of violent revolution, but the scriptures mock his suicide rather than condemn it.

  • Samson took his own life when he destroyed the Philistines by pulling down the pillars that held up the building where they were celebrating (Judges 16:28). He is recorded as a hero in Hebrews 11. There were many aspects of his life that were wrong, but his suicide is portrayed a victory over the enemies of Israel.

  • King Zimri burned down his house around himself after military defeat (1 Kgs 16:18). His life is an illustration of the adage that those who live by the sword will often die by the sword.

  • The prophet Ahithophel hanged himself after betraying David (2 Sam 17:23). He had picked the wrong side in the struggle between David and Absalom. He had advised Absalom what to do, and when his advice failed, he was overcome by shame.

  • Judas killed himself after he realised that he had betrayed his Saviour and was overcome by shame (Matt 27:3-5). He is condemned for his thieving (John 12:6) and for his betrayal of Jesus, but his suicide is not condemned. Rather it was a natural response for a man who realised he helped kill the son of God. His shame would have been overwhelming.

There is nothing in any of these stories to suggest that these men who committed suicide were evil.

I believe that suicide makes God sad, because it cuts off a life before it was complete. However, I do not believe he angry with the victims. I think he is sad that he could not rescue the person from the shame and despair that caused them to take such a terrible action.

I don't judge them.

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