One of the earliest characters to commit suicide in the Bible is Abimelech. He was an Old Testament patriarch and a “son of Abraham.” Tensions between Abimelech and Sarah, Abraham’s wife had brought problems in their extended family, that could not have been resolved in this life. To solve the disputes, Abimelech offered Sarah in marriage to Abraham. However, when Sarah refused the proposal, Abimelech decided to end his life by falling upon his own sword. It was in his dying moments that God provided him a refuge and a promise of a better hereafter.
Another Old Testament patriarch known to have committed suicide was Saul. He was a king of Israel and the first to take over the kingdom. His downfall happened as a result of recurring episodes of depression. As reported in 1 Samuel 31:1-6, Saul was urged by his armor-bearer to kill himself. In Saul’s last moments, he refused, fell on his own sword, and took his own life.
Despite the apparent failures of some of the Old Testament patriarchs to find solutions to life’s issues, there are some instances of triumph in the Bible. The most prominent example of this is Solomon, who was the wisest king Israel ever had. According to 1 Kings 11:9-10, Solomon made the wise decision to stay in God’s presence and ask for wisdom. Thanks to this wise decision, he was granted an understanding of the world that enabled him to find peace in life.
As it happened in the case of Abimelech, Solomon found refuge in God’s presence even when his own life was filled with misfortune, including death threats and his own sins. In the end, he was able to make peace with his conscience and reign in peace.
As one of the Twelve Apostles, Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus and was ultimately one of the most well-known suicides in the Bible. As recorded in Matthew 27:4-5, Judas was so consumed with guilt and fear of being found out that he decided to hang himself in an act of penitence. His suicide caused some among the people to attribute it to his “bad luck” rather than his own guilt and that God had punished him due to his betrayal.
The implication here is that those who repent are still open to God’s mercy and understanding, regardless of how their guilt has led them to their ultimate downfall. In Judas’ case, the Biblical writers showed that he at least had the courage to take responsibility for his own actions instead of going down with the weight of his own sins.
Ahithophel was an advisor to King David and an esteemed chief in the country. He was a convincing counselor and a man of integrity, but he was eventually won over by the wicked Absalom and joined his conspiracy against King David. In 2 Samuel 17:23, it is reported that Ahithophel, upon seeing the plans of Absalom crumble, entered his own home, put his house in order, and hanged himself.
This is another important case in the Bible, where suicide was seen as an act of repentance. Ahithophel was a man of good standing, who chose to take his own life rather than endure the shame of his betrayal of David, thus exhibiting penitence in his last moments.
Samson, the judge of Israel and hero in the Book of Judges, is another significant figure in the Bible, who took his own life. When Samson’s strength was taken away by Delilah, he was eventually coerced into revealing the source of his strength. Instead of surrendering, he chose to fight against the Philistines even though death was imminent. In Judges 16:30, it is written that Samson “killed them” in his last act, choosing to die rather than submit.
This is an important episode in the Bible, where suicide is seen as a way to go out with victory rather than with submission. Samson faced the knowledge that he had been tricked and his strength taken away and still, he was unafraid to take his own life in victory rather than by submission.
The Roman Centurion
The last name to be counted among those who committed suicide in the Bible is a Roman Centurion. As reported in Matthew 27:50, this unnamed Roman centurion could not bear to be the one to execute Jesus and decided to take his own life instead. This story is also a testament to the power of faith in God, even in the face of death. Even in his dying moments, the centurion was able to find the courage to seek God’s presence.
It is through these acts of bravery and faith that the Bible’s testament to its characters to willingly take their own lives in order to remain faithful in their relationship to God. The Bible is also a reminder of our human mortality and the power of faith, even when faced with the prospect of death.
The story of Jonah is one of the most well-known episodes of suicide in the Bible. When the prophet Jonah had been sent by God to take the message of repentance to the people of Nineveh, Jonah chose instead to flee from his mission. He took a boat for himself and tried to run away from God. However, God eventually found Jonah and had him thrown overboard. It was during this moment of despair that Jonah decided to take his own life by drowning, instead of staying afloat and awaiting God’s intervention.
This episode is significant because it serves as a reminder of our tendency to choose death over life. It has been argued by Biblical scholars that perhaps what Jonah was trying to do by his act was draw attention to his plight, to give an impression that this was an act of protest against a mission that he was not keen on completing. Regardless, it stands out as one of the Bible’s instances of suicide.
Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, is another well-known character in the Bible who committed suicide. According to Genesis 38:6-10, Judah had sexual relations with a “harlot” in the hopes that she would bear him a son. To his surprise, the woman had a son, who wasn’t his. When he came to know this, he felt disgraced and decided to end his own life. So he had the harlot burnt alive, as per the custom.
Although this story is presented differently in the Bible, it is another reminder of how the sacred text highlights the desperate measures of those who are looking for resolution of their conflicts. Judah’s death was an attempt to find solace from the shame that befell him and take his own life instead of facing the consequences.
Sapphira is one of the most curious cases in the Bible. Along with her husband, Ananias, who was a follower of Jesus, Sapphira took part in a lie that began with their decision to claim that they had given all their money to the church. As recorded in Acts 5:5-10, when the truth was revealed, it was too much for Sapphira and she chose to die, in order to protect her husband and the rest of the party, who was also present in that same lie.
This story serves as an example of how sacrificing oneself can help protect those who are significant in one’s life. It also implies that while an act of suicide can be considered selfish, in some cases, choosing death over life can also be an act of loyalty, faith, and self-sacrifice.
The Bible is a rich source of stories about the people and events of the past, and the circumstance that led them to those events. As we explored in this article, characters of the Old Testament, Jesus’ apostles, and other characters weren’t immune to feelings of guilt, despair, and eventual suicide. It serves as a reminder that the Bible records complete stories, and the struggles of the characters weren’t always external ones. Most importantly, it offers a solid testament of people who found refuge in God even in the darkest moments of their lives.