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“And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the Lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭16:30‬ ‭

Would Samson’s death qualify as suicide?

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No! John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends." Here Jesus is stating the measure and degree of love He has for believers. It is also the stimulus for the disciple's love. In short, no love is greater.

I can also see how this verse relates to the God Shepherd teaching at John 10:11-17. One may sacrifice much for the sake of a friend, but to give one's life for a friend is rare.

If you think about it Jesus surpassed one who might rarely die for his friends. He died in behalf of and for His enemies as well. The Lord mentioned only friends here because He was speaking to His friends. He was well aware that in a few hours His sufferings and crucifixion would occur.

The following is what a Ukraine military soldier blew himself up on a bridge to halt a Russian advance. https://www.wavy.com/news/world/ukraine-military-soldier-blew-himself-up-on-bridge-to-halt-russian-advance/ Would classify that as a suicide?

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This is (understandably) disputed. Some might call this a great self-sacrifice in order to achieve a greater goal which is stated in the quoted text of Judges 16:30,

" ... So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life."

Note that Samson's main objective was to kill Philistines and not himself but was not afraid to die. God could have miraculously saved Samson but allowed him to die.

Benson offers these insights:

Jdg 16:30. Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines — That is, I am content to die, so I can but contribute to the vindication of God’s glory, and the deliverance of God’s people. This is no encouragement to those who wickedly murder themselves: for Samson did not desire or procure his own death voluntarily, but by mere necessity; he was by his office obliged to seek the destruction of these enemies and blasphemers of God, and oppressors of his people; which in these circumstances he could not effect without his own death. Moreover, Samson did this by divine direction, as God’s answer to his prayer manifests, and that he might be a type of Christ, who, by voluntarily undergoing death, destroyed the enemies of God and of his people. They died just when they were insulting over an Israelite, persecuting him whom God had smitten. Nothing fills up the measure of the iniquity of any person or people faster than mocking or misusing the servants of God; yea, though it is by their own folly that they are brought low. Those know not what they do, nor whom they affront, that make sport with the Lord’s servants.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary is more to the point:

  1. Samson called unto the Lord—His penitent and prayerful spirit seems clearly to indicate that this meditated act was not that of a vindictive suicide, and that he regarded himself as putting forth his strength in his capacity of a public magistrate. He must be considered, in fact, as dying for his country's cause. His death was not designed or sought, except as it might be the inevitable consequence of his great effort. His prayer must have been a silent ejaculation, and, from its being revealed to the historian, approved and accepted of God.

APPENDIX 1 - Cambridge commentary

  1. Let me die lit. ‘let my soul die.’ In the O.T. the soul is not the immortal, but the mortal, element in man: it is that which breathes, the principle of life. When a person dies the soul goes out (Genesis 35:18, cf. Jeremiah 15:9) and exists no more.

APPENDIX 2 - Psychology of Suicide

I cannot resist the urge to make a few important comments about what occurs in the mind a person that contemplates suicide.

Paul in 1 Cor 13:13, Col 1:5, 1 Thess 1:3 & 5:8 talks about the centrality of thre three great Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Love (with the greatest being love). I have become convinced that without any one of these, humans cease to be human.

In the specific case of "Hope", the absence of this this virtue always makes people suicidal. There are many things that can lead to this but the lack of hope is always the immediate and proximate cause of suicide. A number of well-known Bible characters appear to have suffered from depression so severely that they were suicidal.

  • Saul: 1 Sam 16:14-16
  • David: Ps 38:4, 42:5, 6, 11 (see also Acts 13:22)
  • Elijah: 1 Kings 19:4
  • Jonah: Jonah 4:3, 9
  • Job: Job 3:11, 26, 10:1, 30:15-17
  • Moses: Ex 32:32
  • Jeremiah: Jer 20:14, 18
  • Jesus: Mark 14:34-36, Luke 22:44. See also Isa 53:3.
  • Paul: 2 Cor 1:8-10

We should pause to note that while a variety of things lead up to each of these depressive and suicidal episodes, the final ideas about suicide are always triggered by a loss of hope. People feel overwhelmed, crushed and at a complete loss; but in the end, each results in a loss of hope. There are a number of very important things to note about these honest records about Bible heroes including Jesus Himself! Even Godly people suffer from bad thoughts and, at times, become suicidal! Some were even angry with God and were not rebuked for this.

The cure for depression always involves getting help to restore hope by dealing with whatever has caused the loss of hope. Such causes are numerous and diverse such as overwork, delusions of grandeur, exhaustion, chronic sickness and/or pain, abuse (whether sexual, pharmacological, emotional or financial, etc), acute disappointment, biochemical imbalance, poor diet, lack of exercise, etc, etc. For some this will require professional (medical) help to treat the underlying cause. For Christians this will also involve the three great virtues of Faith, Hope and Love (1 Cor 13:13). The order is important. It is our faith that enables a trust in Christ our Great Hope (1 Tim 1:1) who always encourages us to love others .

In all the cases listed above, each person found comfort in the Lord and His promises, but the cure involved several other things as well.

  • David often needed to confess (Ps 38, 51) to relieve guilt.
  • Elijah needed rest and food and the comfort of an angel of heaven (1 Kings 19:5, 7) followed by a job to get his mind off himself (1 Kings 19:15-18)
  • Jonah needed to be re-acquainted with grace (Jonah 4:9-11)
  • Job needed a sense of proportion (Job 38-42)
  • Moses needed to understand that he could not take responsibility for others’ problems (he was overly compassionate??) (Ex 32:33-35)
  • Jeremiah needed a listening ear and the Lord was the only one left to provide this. That is Jeremiah turned to the Lord and complained! (Jer 20:7-17)
  • Jesus also found comfort in prayer (Ps 34:18) but in His extreme case, He was also comforted by an angel from heaven (Luke 22:43)
  • Paul took comfort in the resurrection and the support from the prayers of his friends (2 Cor 1:9-11)

Thus, each person’s need was met in a different way; but all involved receiving help from outside the person in order to restore hope.

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  • Appreciate your conscientious treatment of the topic of mental health (here & elsewhere); this is clearly a matter about which you have dedicated great thought. Feb 28, 2022 at 0:47
  • I have some close friends who suffer terribly with mental health - so sad; it breaks my heart. The greatest tragedy is when these people refuse treatment of any kind or buy "snake-oil" treatments that make matters worse.
    – Dottard
    Feb 28, 2022 at 1:17
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Did Samson commit suicide?

By the strict definition of the word, yes. But as is pointed out in Dottard's "Appendix 2 - Psychology of Suicide", the act of suicide is due to a negative mental state.

Samson's willingness to forgo his life was not due to pity or despair but because of faith in Jehovah God. Two articles from The Watchtower help to understand this better:

Another example of faith from the days of Israel’s judges was Samson, mighty enemy of the Philistines. True, he eventually became their blinded captive. But Samson brought death to many of them when he pulled down the pillars of the house in which they were presenting a great sacrifice to their false god Dagon. Yes, Samson died with those Philistines but not as a despairing suicide. In faith he relied upon Jehovah and prayed to him for the strength needed to wreak vengeance upon those foes of God and His people. (Judges 16:18-30) Jephthah, to whom Jehovah granted victory over the Ammonites, also displayed faith that gave evidence of his complete reliance upon Jehovah. Only with such faith could he have fulfilled his vow to God by devoting his daughter to Jehovah’s service as a perpetual virgin.​—Judges 11:29-40. [bold mine] (Source: "The World Was Not Worthy of Them")

Then, too, there was Samson, mighty foe of the Philistines. Though he finally became their blinded captive, he brought destruction to many of them at the time of his own death, by pulling down the pillars of the house where they had assembled to sacrifice to the false god Dagon. But Samson was no cowering, morbid-minded suicide. He did not cause the collapse of the house in despair, wishing thereby to end a miserable life and thinking he was a complete failure. No. It took faith for him to petition God for sufficient strength to wreak vengeance upon the assembled Philistines, enemies of Jehovah and His people.​—Judg. 16:18-30. [bold mine] (Source: "Do You Have 'Faith to the Preserving Alive of the Soul'?")

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I've appreciated the points pointed (pun wanted) by Agarza's and Dottard's answers, but I believe they have omitted a pivotal topic: the 'joint witness' by God. What this means?

First of all, according God's own forma mentis, we may conclude that, before God started to use Samson as an instrument of His vengeance, against his foes (the Philistines), he was - as regards his physical power - a normal man, like me and you (I hope not like me, nevertheless...). Once, apostle Paul related what God said him in an occasion "...my strength is made perfect in (human) weakness" (2 Cor 12:9, Webster) So, also if we are - about Samson physical appearance - accustomed to see him, in a lot of pictures or movies, as an ante litteram Schwarzy - it is more probable that he seemed a normal man. When the spirit of God empowered him, he was able to perform the astonishing actions we know (without to undergo a Hulk-like transformation, necessarily).

God always avoids his servants come to confuse God's power with man's power.

There are - in the Bible - a lot of situations in which God enhanced this principle of him. One of this was the famous occasion of the 'Gideon's 300' (Judges 7). We remember that original amount of Gideon's army (ready to fight against the Midianites) was 32,000 men. But God arranged things so that that army was reduced to only 300 men. What was the reason behind that divine decision? The Bible account reports: "... lest Israel boast to Me saying, 'My own hand mad me victorious'." (Judges 7:2, Alter).

So, getting back to the point, we know that Samson prayed God to have a super-human (namely, 'miraculous') power (Judges 16:28) but nothing indicates that God was obliged to hear this prayer (as an example, God did not hear Paul's prayer about a miraculous healing for his sake, 2 Cor 12:7-9).

This is why I speak about the 'joint witness' of God. This isn't an expression ideated by me, it is biblical.

In the letter of Hebrew, the inspired writer recalled the many occasions in which God gave this witness "such as [...] healing the sick, causing the lame to walk, and raising the dead, and casting out devils, and the like; all which were for the confirmation of the Gospel preached by them: a sign, wonder, or miracle, for these signify the same thing, is a marvellous work done before men, by the power of God, to confirm a divine truth; God is the sole author of miracles [...]." (John Gill, at Heb 2:4).

Note that the pivotal long Greek term is a derivative of the verb σινεπιμαρτυρεω (sinepimartureo), that means "to unite in adding evidence" (Strong). Knowing this, read now the verse: "God bearing, besides, witness with them to it , both by signs and wonders, and various acts of power, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will?" (Heb 2:4, Darby)

It is clear, that this God's way of doing things has as purpose to make men to know two points: (1) God is the sole author of miracles (as Gill said); and (2) the human performers have His approval (as instruments of Him).

Then, if Samson did commit suicide, God so was approving his action (giving him the miraculous power to perform the temple collapse), aiding and abeting Samson in his transgression (suicide).

We may safely conclude - then - the Samson's action was not a suicide, but instead the acknowledgement of the seriousness of his sin (the disregard of Nazirite's vow of him) against God. He put his life in the hand of God, hoping He decided to forgive, whether he were spared or he were died in the attempt.

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