Summary: Suicide is almost always folly in our culture, for it is basically just a means of escape. It is usually based on ignorance of the future. People think their present situation is permanent, and they cannot stand to think of living with their present burden for the rest of their lives.

The book of Jonah gives a very favorable account of the

attitude and character of the pagans involved. In fact, they

are at points pictured on a higher level than Jonah himself.

At last, however, we see a change in Jonah, and some of his

good character breaks through. The sailors had all the

proof they needed to condemn Jonah, including his own

confusion, but they did not unmercifully attack him. They

approached him for advice. These pagans had a high

concept of the value of life. They did not take lightly the

idea of destroying a man's light, especially one who was the

servant of God.

The storm was getting worse, however, and time was at a

premium. Life was hanging in the balance, and a decision

had to be made immediately. In desperation the jury asks

the guilty convict for advice on what his punishment should

be. Such concern for justice on his behalf must have broken

down the wall of Jonah's prejudice. The scales of blindness

fall from his eyes, and sees his action as wicked and ungodly.

He was the cause for endangering their lives. He did not

want Gentiles to be saved, but they cared so much about his

safety, and the contrast made him realize there was only one

honest solution, and he would have to sacrifice his life to

save them. Most guilty men, if they had a choice of

punishment, would not select capital punishment, but Jonah

with the first sign of nobility in his character choose just


You are probably wondering what all this has to do with

suicide. The answer is, practically nothing, but since this is

true of the whole Bible, the subject can as well be considered

from this text as any. Note that Jonah said to them to take

him up and cast him over. Jonah knew nothing at that time

about God's plan to save him. He was asking them to take

his life. Why not just jump over yourself Jonah? If the

solution is your death, why wait for them to throw you over?

Just jump and end it yourself. Jonah's hesitation to do this

is considered by some to be an indication that

self-destruction is such a serious sin that Jonah did not dare

to do it. He could submit to death at the hands of others, but

he could not take his own life. I think all must agree that

this is an incidental observation, and that the account is not

written to convey any teaching on the subject of suicide.

The subject of suicide is, however, not incidental, and is

worthy of consideration to determine what Scripture does

teach on the subject.

It is a subject of gigantic proportions in the world. I

never realized until recently that there are literally

thousands of people doing research, writing books and

articles, and in many ways dealing with this major problem.

It is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.

Over half a million attempt suicide every year, but with only

a 5 per cent being successful. If we count those listed as

accidents such as overdose of drugs, and car accidents, the

figure comes to about 50 thousand a year. Anything of such

major proportions demands that Christians have some

biblical basis for an attitude towards it. I want to examine

what the Bible has to say first in the Old Testament.


The first impression one gets from a study of the Bible is

the lack of information. There are laws against almost

everything, but none against suicide. The Bible has a high

view of life and the recognition of God as the author of all

life, and so the assumption is that suicide is evil. The lack of

any stated condemnation, however, has led many to

conclude that it comes under the command thou shalt not

kill. It does not say thou shalt not kill others leaving

self-destruction as legitimate. Self-murder is certainly as

evil as murder of another. But since there is no penalty for

attempted suicides which fail, it seems that the only

conclusion we can draw is that suicide was not a social

problem among the Israelites.

The few cases recorded in the Old Testament have some

very definite characteristics that make it clear it was not

then the kind of problem it is today. We do not have records

of that period as we do today. Every nation has statistics

going back over a hundred years that lists suicides according

to sex, age, religion, occupation, etc. But the Bible only gives

us a few examples that we want to examine.

1. Ahithophel in II Sam. 17:23 we see that he hung himself.

The parallel with his experience and Judus in the New

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