Biblical Answers To Suicide (BATS)
PART ONE: Bible-based Questions on Suicide
The following questions may only make sense to a Bible believer. These questions set the stage for a biblical view of suicide. I do not have any definite, correct answers to all of these questions. But we don’t need to have all the answers in life for life to be worth living.
1. Can a true Christian commit suicide? What happens to the soul of a Christian who commits suicide? Can someone commit suicide and go to Heaven, or is suicide a one-way ticket to Hell?
2. If suicide is sin, can the sin of suicide be forgiven since the suicide victim is not around to confess and ask God to forgive him/her?
3. Is there any situation in life where suicide can be justified as the right thing to do? What if you are going through unbearable PHYSICAL pain and suffering in a terminal situation due to an accident, injury, illness, disease or torture?
4. Is suicide a lesser evil than murder? If suicide is self-murder, does it violate the commandment, “Thou shall not kill”, or “You shall not murder”? (Exodus 20:13)
5. Is a suicide attempt a sinful act?
PART TWO: An Overview of Suicide in the Bible
The following Scriptures on suicidal persons in the Bible reveal some of the root causes of suicide.
If you are familiar with the Bible, some of these names will be very much familiar to you. It may even surprise to see who’s on the list of suicidal persons, because they include some of most respected people of faith.
Numbers 11:12-15: Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? 13 Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
- Problems caused by others. Moses felt forced to take on other people’s problems. What other people do may cause you to become suicidal.
- The feeling of running out of options. Moses didn’t know what else to do. When you feel like you’ve run out of answers and options
- Complainers. Moses was tired of hearing people complain and make demands on his life. When you feel like you just can’t be good enough or do enough to please someone or everyone, you may be tempted to wish you were dead.
- Feeling Overwhelmed. Moses felt overwhelmed, and he wanted to end the hardship. He thought the only way to do that was to die. When you feel like you’re drowning beneath your issues – that’s a good time to talk to someone before the death wish sets in and starts to drown out your will to live.
I Kings 19:4: Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
- Loneliness: Elijah was “alone”; he had gone to a “solitary” place. He went into isolation. When you are all by yourself and feel all alone, you become weak, and you become an easy prey for the spirit of death. Being actively connected to other human beings is one of your best defenses against suicide. Withdrawing from people, removing yourself from healthy relationships is an open invitation to the spirit of death, which leads to thoughts of suicide. Join a small group of well-meaning people who are encouraging one another, and soon you will feel encouraged, strong and ready to live again.
- Worthlessness: Elijah felt he was “no better than” his dead ancestors. When dead people are the people you want to compare yourself to, you are standing on the brink of death, ready to join the deceased that have become your super heroes. Resist the temptation of making dead people your significant other? Think of at least one person who is living well, especially someone who has faced, endured or overcome a crisis or severe hardship. Look up to that person. Contact that person if you can, and let him or her know how you feel.
Jonah 4:1-3: This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3 Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
- Misplaced Anger. Jonah was upset because the bad things he wished on the Assyrians did not happen to them. Did Jonah have a reason to be angry? He thought he did, but really he did not. Beware of angry feelings! They can blind you from seeing people the way God sees them. Never entertain the thought of taking your life, because someone made you angry. How will your death punish the person who made you mad?
- Complaining: Once Jonah started to complain about those he didn’t like, he began to see his death as a better option than seeing his “enemies” do well. Complaining leads you to the dark and leaves you there. The way out of that darkness goes through gratitude. Find at least one thing you can be thankful for, and you may begin to see the light of hope. Do you have food to eat? Be thankful for that; somewhere near you someone will go to bed hungry. Do you have a place to sleep? Be thankful; somewhere near you, someone will sleep in the street, under a bridge, or under a tree. Are you in health? Be thankful; around the world or in your town, hospitals are filled with sick people, some of them in severe pain. If you just can’t see anything in your life worth giving thanks about, look at the life of someone else – you can be thankful for something good in the life of someone you care about. Thanksgiving is the only weapon that destroys complaining, and the suicidal emotions that discontent generates.
- Wrong Expectation. Jonah was expecting an act of God to kill a vast number of Assyrians in the city of Nineveh. When that did not happen, he lost his will to life. When you feel like killing yourself it is time to adjust your expectations in certain areas of life. Perhaps you have unrealistic expectations about your appearance, about your health, about a particular relationship, about your income, about your family, about your work or career. Only you can examine your heart to find what wrong expectations you may have.
- Faulty Thinking. Jonah stopped thinking clearly. His twisted thoughts got him to believe that he should die simply because his enemies were doing well. How ridiculous is that! Why should something good happening to someone else mean death for you? Jonah could have straightened his thinking by choosing to rejoice with the Assyrians.
PART THREE: The Suicide Hall of Shame; List of Seven Suicides of the Bible
What kind of people died from suicide, assisted suicide or murder-suicide in the Bible? Why did these individuals commit suicide?
To my knowledge, the Bible records seven instances of suicide. These were actual suicides, not suicide attempts. Prayerfully read each Scripture and ask God to help you understand why suicide is such a terrible choice.
(1) Abimelech, the warrior-king. Read about his suicide in Judges 9:52-54.
(2) Samson, the strongest man ever. Read about his suicide in Judges 16:29-30.
(3) King Saul, the first king of Israel. Read about his suicide in 1 Samuel 31:4-6.
(4) King Saul’s Bodyguard. Read about his suicide in 1 Samuel 31:4-6.
(5) Ahithophel, adviser to Absalom. Read about his suicide in 2 Samuel 17:1-7,23.
(6) Zimri, king of Tirzah. Read about his suicide in 1 King 16:17-20.
(7) Judas Iscariot, betrayer of Jesus. Read about his suicide in Matthew 27:5.
Observations on the Seven People who Committed Suicide in the Bible
- All the people on this list were men. More men than women commit suicide, though the rate of suicide among women is increasing.
- There is no one on this list who was known for his strong faith in the God of the Bible. In fact, most of these men were wicked and very selfish men. Why would you want to be on the same list with these guys? Why would you want to do something that was the final act of Judas, the man who sold Jesus for money?
- Suicide may become the one thing that dominates people’s memory of the person who chose to die that way. People usually remember each of us for the longest time for the last thing we said or did before dying. If you kill yourself, ti will be difficult for anyone to remember any other thing you achieved in life. Regardless of whatever good thing you had done in the past or have been known for, you will primarily be remembered as the person who committed suicide.
PART FOUR: The King Who Killed Himself, Part 1
A growing number of teenagers are finding it cool to take their own lives. The April 18, 1994 issue of Newsweek Magazine reported that for every 100,000 people between ages 15-19, eleven of them commit suicide.
The number has climbed even higher since the 1990s. A Wikipedia entry states, “Teenage suicide in the United States remains comparatively high in the 15 to 24 age group with 4,000 suicides in this age range in 2004, making it the third leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24. By comparison, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death for all those age 10 and over, with 33,289 suicides for all US citizens in 2006.”
The Story Behind King Saul’s Suicide
Behind every suicide is the life story of the one who took his own life. Walk with me through the life story of Saul, the first king of Israel. He was the high profile celebrity of the Bible whose life ended in suicide.
When the people Israel ask the prophet Samuel for a king, he gives them Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel chapters 8 and 9). King Saul is a married man, and he is the father of five children – three sons and two daughters (1 Samuel 14:49-50).
As king, Saul’s main task is to defend and deliver Israel from their mortal, ancient enemies, the Philistines, and he somewhat succeeds in this task (1 Samuel 9:16; 13:19-22).
Upon instruction from God, the prophet Samuel sends King Saul on special assignment, which is to defeat the Amalekites for their violence and murder of some weary Israelites back in the day when the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, from Egypt to Canaan, the Promised Land (1 Samuel 15:1-3). Saul obeys God’s orders halfway; he keeps the best of the Amalekites’ livestock. Saul even spares the king of the Amalekites, Agag, who was an idolater and a murderer. Because of this act of disobedience, Saul tastes the pain of rejection by God and by Samuel (1 Samuel 15:19-23).
After Saul is rejected, God sends Samuel to anoint a shepherd named David to replace Saul as the new king of Israel, though it would be some twenty years down the road before David is actually crowned king (1 Samuel 16:1-13). But in the spirit realm, David is recognized in the court of Heaven as the real king of Israel, and Saul as a mere figurehead driven by his fleshly desires. The sign of this spiritual transfer of power is the Holy Spirit who departs from King Saul and rests on David. As a result of losing this vital connection to God’s Spirit, King Saul becomes depressed. By God’s design, King Saul hires David to provide music therapy to treat his chronic depression (1 Samuel 16:14-23).
Of course, Saul does not yet know that his personal, anointed musician is the new king in waiting. Meanwhile, Israel faces a national security situation, as Goliath, a Philistine giant and champion, challenges the people of Israel to put a man forward to face him in a one-on-one, hand-to-hand combat. Each man will represent his entire nation, and nation of the fighter who loses the fight will become slaves to the nation of the winner (1 Samuel 17:1-11). The stakes are high. Panic strikes every Israelite man, including King Saul, as the nine-feet-tall Goliath bellows his daring words above the airwaves.
Driven by righteous anger, David accepts Goliath’s challenge and takes the giant down as he drills one divinely guided slingshot into the forehead of the Philistine warrior. David becomes an instant super hero and wins the hearts of Israelite women, who dance to new tune they composed just for the young national hero: “Saul has killed thousands, but David has killed tens of thousands (1 Samuel 17:14-58).
This day of national salvation and celebration also marks the moment that King Saul begins to eye David as his enemy who must be put to death before he can take the throne as the majority of the people want (1 Samuel 18:1-11). Finding out that he is on the king’s most-wanted list, David flees for his life, and will dodge death at the hand of King Saul for well over a period of 20 years. During this cat-and-rat chase, David spares Saul’s life several times, and every time the king apologizes only to resume hunting David’s blood (1 Samuel 24). Finally, David crosses the border from Israel to the land of the Philistines. And that sets the stage for the final days of King Saul’s life, which ends in suicide on the battlefield.
PART FIVE: The King Who Killed Himself, Part 2
The Final Battle: Saul’s Suicide. 1 Samuel 31:1-5: Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. 3 The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armorbearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. 5 And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him.
Lessons from a Royal Suicide
1. Suicide is No Respecter of Status. Suicide is an equal opportunity fate. Saul was married. He was a father. He was tall and good-looking. He was the king, rich, royal, popular and famous. Saul was a national celebrity. Yet he killed himself. Suicide doesn’t care about your background, achievement, position, status or title. Suicide can make you its victim regardless of who you, where you live, whom you know, or who knows you.
2. Every Suicide has Immediate Causes. Here are some overt or obvious causes of Saul’s suicide.
(a) Pressure. Philistine fighters “followed hard after Saul”. The leader was under pressure, and the stress became too much for him.
(b) Long, Major Battle: Saul was locked into an all-day fight with his enemies. A prolonged fight can takes its toll, wear you out and break you down to where suicide begins to look like a good break from the constant struggle.
(c) Intense Situation: Saul got no relief. He got no time to rest, recover and regroup.
(d) Immense Grief: Saul suffered too many losses in a very short time. In one day he watched all three of his sons die. Double or triple deaths in your family can make your susceptible to thoughts of suicide.
(e) Deep Wound: Philistine fighters had hit Saul with several arrows. The king thought he just couldn’t live with such deep wounds. The grief was just too much to bear any longer.
3. Every Suicide has Root Causes. Here are some covert or hidden causes of Saul’s suicide.
(a) Jealousy plus Envy. There is a fine difference between “jealousy” and “envy”. Jealousy is when you are afraid someone may take what you have. Envy is when you are angry or have an attitude about what someone has. King Saul was guilty of both jealousy and envy. Saul was jealous of David, because he was afraid David would take his throne, and Saul was envious because David had favor with the people of Israel. In particular, David was accepted by the beautiful girls and women of Israel, and Saul craved that acceptance for himself. Saul wanted the presence of God that David was enjoying. Saul wanted the dynasty that he knew would transfer to David. Envy poisoned Saul’s heart, soul, mind, attitude, and spirit. Jealousy poisoned Saul’s entire being and darkened his outlook on life. Such darkness began to cast a shadow of death on the man until he became blind to the light of life.
(b) Grudge, bitterness, resentment. King Saul’s envy towards David turned into bitterness and resentment that brewed Saul’s hatred towards David. Get rid of grudge before it becomes a poison to your soul.
(c) Hatred. Saul’s resentment turned into hatred against David. He so hated David that he attempted to kill him several times. Never wish anyone were dead, because if the person continues to live, you may start feeling like the earth is not big enough for both of you to live on it at the same time.
(d) Anger that lingers. That intense hatred which Saul directed against David kindled the fire and flame of anger and rage in Saul’s heart towards David. Put an expiration date on your anger so it doesn’t linger to eat you alive. The lifespan of your anger should never exceed 24 hours (Ephesians 4:26-27). If you’ve been angry with the same person for the same reason for more than a day, you have wandered into the graveyard, where dead people hangout.
(e) Immoral behavior: Saul began to compromise his morals. He started making excuses for his bad behavior. When the prophet Samuel confronted Saul for disobeying God’s command, he blamed it on the people, then he claimed that all he wanted to do was save the best for God. Not taking responsibility for your actions one action at a time may set you up to one day take too much responsibility for everything at one time, and that load of guilt may thrust you into the cruel, open arms of death.
(f) Anxiety; worry. Saul worried over his position. Knowing that David would become the next king, what would happen to his dynasty? Would the next king kill off Saul’s entire family as was the custom in the ancient world? You can literally worry yourself to death, even death at your own hand.
(g) The spiritual cause: Saul became spiritually empty, and he did not seek personal revival. To prevent or overcome the feelings of depression and defeat that may lead to thoughts of suicide, empower your spirit by reading the Bible, meditating on Scripture, praying, and worshiping. It is impossible to be filled with the Word and Spirit of God and give serious thought to suicide at the same time. God’s Word is “living” (Hebrews 4:12), and God’s Spirit “gives life” (John 6:63). The Word and the Spirit are the tag team of life that drives death far away.
4. A Homicide Attempt may lead to a Suicide Act: King Saul attempted to murder David. By harboring thoughts of killing someone else, he may have considered taking his own life as a lesser evil. Saul wanted to exercise the power of life and death. He thought he had the power and the right to take life, whether the life of another or his own life. In that, he was playing God. Only the Creator, who is the Life Giver, has the right to take life. When you commit suicide, you are playing God and overthrowing God. In that sense, suicide is the most arrogant thing you can do. It takes a humble person to walk away from the power-grab that is suicide.
5. Depression that Lingers may Trigger Suicide: “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him” (1 Samuel 16:14). You will be controlled by one of two spirits: the spirit of life or the spirit of death. The spirit of death whispers into your ears, “What does it matter? Your life stings. What’s there to live for? Your life is not worth living. Just get it over with. End it all…right now!” That’s the voice of the same “distressing spirit” that haunted King Saul until he murdered himself. Tell that messenger of death to shut up! Better yet, resist him with the voice of the life-giving Spirit by saying, “Yes, my life is still a gift, no matter how bad things get. Better days are ahead for me. This darkness will pass. Seasons change. This may be my rainy season, my winter season, but my spring is coming, summer is on the way. I will hang in there. God still has a plan for my life. I still have an assignment to complete. I will live and not die. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Depart from me, you wicked spirit of death. I receive the power to keep on living! I am alive, and I will keep it that way!”
6. Suicide is contagious: When King Saul’s armorbearer saw his master falling on his own sword, the armorbearer also chose to commit suicide. When you commit suicide, you leave a legacy, a fatal one. You become an example to someone close to you. Suicide will make you a deadly role model to a family or friend who may do like you. This is even more likely when, like King Saul, you are someone important, someone others look up to. As they have admired you in life, so they will admire you in death, even death by suicide. In reality, as a suicide perpetrator, you are a big loser – your final act was giving up, throwing in the towel, preferring to lose the game and walk off before the final whistle has sounded. But to those who admire you, your suicide will appear as the honorable, respectable thing to do, and that is deception of the worst and most cruel kind. Why would you want to mislead anyone you care about into ever making suicide an attractive option?
PART SIX: Sample Article on Suicide
The follow is an excerpt from an article by a woman named Elsabe Smit, a contributor to Search Warp, an Internet article website. The title of her article is Can We Stop the Suicides in Bridgend? (I have done some minor editing of Elsabe’s original article.)
There is a village in Wales in the UK, between Cardiff and Swansea, where 17 young people have committed suicides. The facts are not consistent – when did this start? If Natasha Randall was the twelfth victim in thirteen years, as one newspaper claims, who was the first, and exactly when did the first suicide occur? Did seven more people from the area commit suicide since 2006, or was it closer to twelve more?
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fascinating book called The Tipping Point in which he describes social epidemics… Gladwell says that an epidemic has three key attributes. The first is that it is contagious – like yawning. Have you ever yawned and then noticed people around you yawning as well, for no reason? An epidemic does the same – it just spreads for no particular reason.
It may be that this is what happened in Bridgend. One person was in such despair that suicide seemed the only option. The community was shocked, the facts stuck in the mind of another person who then also took his/her own life and so on, until it became a practice that people could associate with and regard as an option out of their misery.
One of the residents of Bridgend was quoted as saying “It’s become like a bit of an everyday thing. When the first one happened I was shocked but now it just seems normal, fashionable almost.”
The book The Tipping Point describes a fascinating study on suicide that was done by David Phillips, a sociologist at the University of California in San Diego, USA. He found a definite correlation between the number and timing of newspaper reports on suicides, and increased numbers of similar suicides in the area. His theory is that the newspapers contributed significantly to the contagious effect of the suicides, simply by reporting on the details so regularly.
When people that are living with pain read these media reports, they, in a way, get “permission” to consider suicide as an option to relieve the pain. And the more “instructions” the media provide by means of detailed and regular reporting, the more people that are vulnerable to suggestion accept the “instructions” and take their own lives. Especially when the media reports are about someone the community looked up to. The reasoning is that “if suicide is good enough for that person who is worth so much more than I am, then suicide is good enough for me. I will imitate the important person and get the same relief.”