A very important episode of Five Minutes of Truth. Please consider sharing this episode with someone who needs to hear it.
Even though the Bible had 40 authors, mentioned about 1,300 people by name, covers a time period of thousands of years where there were hundreds of millions of people, that there are only three recorded suicides in all of Scripture? And of those three, only one of them fits the paradigm we are most familiar with today. Stick around, and we’ll talk about it here on 5 minutes of truth.
The scope of the Bible is immense. It begins with the creation of the universe and ends near 100 AD when the last book of the Bible was probably written. In these pages we see a myriad of events unique to humans played out on the pages under a variety of circumstances. Nearly every single happy, sad or in between thing that can happen to a person is seen in the Scriptures over and over again. Interestingly enough, however, one tragedy that is played out all too often in the world today is only mentioned three times in the entire Bible: suicide.
The one is probably most familiar to us because of its being linked to the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The other two, however, are probably forgotten by most folks familiar with the Bible. That’s because the reason for those suicides does not really resonate with us today due to its unusual circumstances. Who were the only three people recorded as having taken their life in the Bible? Judas Iscariot; Saul, the first king of Israel; and Saul’s armorbearer.
Be honest…did you remember that King Saul had taken his own life? You probably didn’t. But I believe that has more to do with the reasons for that suicide than as a testimony of our Bible knowledge. Saul’s death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 10:1-7. Israel was at war with the Philistines and at the culmination of the final battle, when all was lost, Saul ordered his armorbearer to kill him, “lest these uncircumcised men come and abuse me” (2 Chronicles 10:4a).
Unable to follow through on his King’s command. The Bible relates that, “Saul took a sword and fell on it” (2 Chronicles 10:4c). Immediately afterward, the armorbearer also threw himself on his sword rather than be taken captive by the Philistines. See what I mean about the impact this suicide may have had on us personally? Saul took his life in battle to avoid torture and humiliation at the hands of his enemies. In the long list of reasons people take their lives today, that one does not resonate with the average person considering suicide. As a result, we have a tendency to forget about that one. Judas is another case.
After Judas Iscariot realized that he had indeed betrayed “innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4a) when He orchestrated Jesus’ arrest which would lead to His crucifixion, Judas, overwhelmed by his actions, “threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5). This suicide has a ring of familiarity to us, doesn’t it? Tremendous regret over a decision or series of decisions that led to tragedy. Tremendous guilt for the actions and the results of those actions. Tremendous emotional isolation as a result of the choices made. Tremendous hopelessness that nothing will get better, and only death will ease the pain.
These are the reasons we are most familiar with an act that will, on average, take the lives of about 45,000 Americans every year and 1 million lives worldwide each year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US each year. But these numbers lack perspective. Let’s see if we can provide some.
There are on average 17,000 homicides in the US each year. That is less than half the number of suicides. Yet when have you ever heard a politician say: We have to do something about the suicide rate in this country. I have never heard that. Compare that with how often you hear a politician say something about curbing the rate of homicides each year. That is a staple political position despite the fact that more than twice as many people will die from suicide as homicide. There is a stigma and discomfort level with suicide that we have to get past if we are going to put a dent in these numbers.
There is one silver lining in the numbers, however. There are, on average, about a million suicide attempts in the US each year which tells me most people who do this do not want to die, they just want the pain to stop. They think suicide is the only way that happens. They are wrong.
While the Apostle Peter did not arrange for Jesus to be arrested, he did abandon Jesus when He needed Peter the most. Then when confronted by the crowd, Peter cursed and said he didn’t even know who Jesus was. This too was a betrayal of Jesus. We know this because the Scripture tells us Peter, after realizing his failure, “went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). He was experiencing what Judas was experiencing. He was hopeless. But Jesus, gave him hope.
Jesus had told Peter before he ever sinned that this was going to happen and He also told Peter that Peter would return to Jesus. We see this precious return at the end of John’s Gospel when Jesus not only forgave Peter, but also reiterated to him that he was still useful in God’s work. That’s the point. Judas wrongly thought there was no hope even in the midst of the worse thing he could have possibly imagined doing. Peter understood that even when we do terrible things with terrible consequences, there is hope in Jesus. When no one else cares, Jesus cares. When all is lost, Jesus will save us. And when we think we want to die, Jesus will help us live. He will never leave us nor forsake us…and He is with us always even until the ends of the age. How cool is that?
On behalf of myself, Robert Houghton and all of us here at Growth Project, keep reading God’s Word.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project with Robert Houghton after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in Winter Haven, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.