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Our readers asked:

Who committed suicide in the Bible and does the church deem them to be in hell?

Joe Paprocki Answers:

In the ancient world, suicide was sometimes accepted as an appropriate response to escape evil, avoid shame, express grief over a tragic death, or avoid capture or dishonor in battle. Overall, however, suicide was condemned. In the Old Testament, there are 6 examples of suicide:

  • Abimelech (Judges 9:54) – to avoid the shame of death at the hands of a woman
  • Samson (Judges 16:28-31) – to defeat those who imprisoned him
  • Saul (1Samuel 31:1-4) – to avoid the dishonor of being captured after he was wounded
  • Saul’s armor-bearer (1Samuel 31:5) – to atone for killing a king
  • Ahitophel (2Samuel 17:23) – in despair over deception being perpetrated around him
  • Zimri (1Kings 16:18) – to avoid capture by the army

Scripture does not write about these 6 in any condemning manner however. While some are not missed, others are actually praised as heroes. Of course the Book of Job suggests that Job contemplates suicide, however, he does not do so and instead places his trust in God. In the New Testament, the only suicide mentioned is that of Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:3-5, Acts of the Apostles 1:18-20) who betrayed Jesus and proceeded to hang himself. Scripture suggests that this act is shameful. The infrequency of suicide in the Bible suggests that it was indeed frowned upon. In general, Scripture does not paint suicide as a viable option in times of despair but rather teaches us to place our trust in God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that suicide is “gravely contrary to the just love of self” (CCC, 2281) and is “forbidden by the fifth commandment” (CCC, 2325). The Church does not condemn them to hell, however. In fact, the Catechism states, “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” (CCC, 2283)

 
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The Author : Joe Paprocki
Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • DA

    @Amanda & others. I don’t see it. I don’t see where the Bible deems suicide a shameful act, but often those who do it (in the Bible) are in shameful situations. Often at a funeral, it is said of the deceased, “He/she is at peace now…he/she has no more pain.” I’d like to stop hearing Christians AND Catholics say that if they want to discourage suicide. The phrase, “gravely contrary to the just love of self” sounds SO un-biblical….where did they come up with that? The same place many of the other assumptions & twistings of the Catholic church?

  • Amanda

    This article will help out alot! I am teaching my youth group about suicide on Thursday! Now I can give them homework and they can research like I did on suicide! Thanks!!

  • Amanda

    @ Joy I pray to God that I’m not to late and you will see this message! Please don’t take your own life! God loves you to much and does care about you along with your kids and grandkids! I’m sure life is hard right now, I totally understand! Life is hard right now for me and my family of 7! My husband lost his job in January and we have been living on faith only while he tries to finish college and look for work! God knows your sadness and troubles you are facing! I hope that you stay strong and it this doesn’t come to you to late! Just know people care and love you much even strangers! Please go get the help you need! Life will get better you just have to believe!! God bless you Joy!!

  • SimplySadie

    Joy please don’t do this to yourself, your children, your grandchildren. I urge you to talk to someone you trust about this. Don’t give up on you, don’t give up on God.

  • JP

    Suicide is not acceptable to GOD. He created life in HIS image and does not take lightly those who destroy HIS creation. Remember, we are HIS, HE knows the pains and stuggles we experience. Focus on Christ and not the pain of this world.

  • joy hill

    I have reach the end I cannot take any more. I know that Christ died on the cross and he rose in 3 days. I love the Lord with all my heart. I cant handle this life anymore. I have told people about My Jesus.I pray my kids and grandkids are saved and go to heaven. I cant take this life anymore. Life is not worth what I have to go through the way anymore . When you love God so much and he seems to never help you. God knows my heart and my love for him.I will always love him but I dont want to live !!

    • Michelle

      Joy, I happened upon this and I can only pray that through God’s strength and mercy you are still living to go on here on Earth and fight the good fight and finish the race when it is God’s choice for your race on Earth to be complete. I am earnestly praying for you!

  • Mike Hayes

    Thanks Mary Ann…I hope this brought you some comfort in that regard.

  • mary ann

    Thank you for this article. I have wondered for many years if persons who commit suicide were condemned to hell. But I should have realized that we have a loving God, Who would provide a way for those in deepest despair to attain salvation.

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