Does the Bible Condone Suicide in Samson’s Story?

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In the Bible, God gave Samson back his power, and Samson used that power to kill himself. Does this mean that sometimes it’s OK to commit suicide?

Few would dispute that the creators or originators of a given thing or person have some right or claim—even if it’s limited—over the thing produced or created. For example, as the author of The Guardians, John Grisham has some claim on that novel—a claim he can relinquish or sell, but still a claim he has or had. Likewise, parents have a right to say how they’d like their children to be educated—which is why there is the occasional outburst among parents over things taught in schools.

Because God created human beings, God has some right to guide how they act and are acted upon. Unlike inanimate things, such as books, human beings have been given free will, but the free will of a creature is still partly bound to its Creator. Therefore, because humans have an obligation to God, they can’t kill themselves out of purely selfish reasons and expect this to be morally OK. In such a case, God’s right or claim over the individual will have been ignored, which is unjust or sinful (this would be an instance of unjust killing or murder—something forbidden by the sixth commandment). While Paul’s the-body-is-the-temple-of-the-Holy-Spirit line of argument (1 Cor. 3:16-17) isn’t entirely appropriate here (i.e., it’s not about suicide), we can still see that what is set apart for God is something that God has a claim on, and God will be justly angry if that claim is disregarded.      

Nevertheless, is there such a thing as the just or right killing of oneself? In The Republic, Socrates argues that it is possible that a good man could kill himself for the sake of others. Is it possible that Samson’s moral duty to oppose the enemies of God (a duty he was consecrated for) was morally more significant than the general moral duty not to kill oneself? I think it is plausible. Indeed, if the distinction between “killing oneself’ and “allowing oneself to be killed” is not as clear as some have suggested it is, then in some ways, Jesus himself does this very thing: he could have prevented his own death, but still chose death to save us.

About the Author

Adam Barkman is a professor of philosophy at Redeemer University College.

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Comments

I was appalled when I read this article. It implies that suicide, if done or considered in any other circumstances than saving others' lives, is both purely selfish and sinful and will incur God's anger. Was there no consideration of how this judgement would affect those struggling with suicidal thoughts because of severe mental illness? It will only add to their suffering. This article is not only devoid of anything that could be considered informative or instructive, it is harmful.

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