A colleague approached me yesterday and said, “I have a good one for you. What’s a Biblical parallel to suicide bombers?” He answered, “Samson.”
Intentionally committing suicide to kill those who are your enemies in recent decades has been almost exclusively associated with Islam. Many are arguing that all forms of terroism have no role or place in true Islam, thus those who claim to be killing themselves to kill others in the name of Allah are not true Muslims. I don’t want to address that topic, right now. I did find a very good article post from Middle East Forum entitled, “The Religious Foundations of Suicide Bombers”, that I believe has done a very fine job of citing early Islamic theologians, the Qur’an, and the Hadiths to demonstrate why we are witnessing suicide attacks in the name of Allah. I want to take the time to find all the citations and then write a post afterwards to show if I agree with the article after reading the citations. Without looking up all of the citations first hand, I think the Middle East Forum presents authoritative Islamic texts that Muslims can use to support terrorism and violent acts against non-Muslims. But that’s not the intent of this blog post. I want to address the point that Samson is a Biblical example that parallels Islamic suicide bombers. Is it justifiable to kill yourself if it is to kill those who are enemies of God? If the Christian says no, how could we respond if someone raises the objection of Samson?
If you are unfamiliar with Samson’s life and death, it can be found in Judges 13-16.
Samson was the product of a miraculous conception. (Judges 13:3) His mother was told that he should be a Nazarite from birth! (Judges 13:5) A Nazarite vow entailed no drinking of alcohol or cutting of your hair from the time the vow was taken, hence, Samson never had his hair cut. Samson is known for his superman strength. Samson attributes his great strength to having been a Nazarite from birth. (Judges 16:17) Once his hair is cut, he loses his strength and is captured by the Philistines. They gouged out his eyes! (Judges 16:21) The Philistines then gathered to offer a sacrifice to their god, Dagon. They had Samson shackled and were entertained by his failure and misery. Samson requested to be able to rest against the pillars that held up the roof of the courtyard. 3,000 Philistines were gathered, men, women, and children. (Judges 16:27) Samson then said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” He then tore down the building by pushing on the two pillars that held up the roof. Scripture says that he died there with them and that he killed more Philistines in his death than during his life. (Judges 16:30)
This passage of Scripture can certainly be troubling. It means that God empowered Samson to kill not only himself, but also women and children. He wasn’t just killing the men who captured him and took his eyes. There are answers to this moral conflict that fit within the Biblical worldview that can ease the tension we sense over this horrible calamity, but outside of the Christian worldview they likely won’t satisfy, and even within the Christian worldview, we may not be satisfied. There are also some very clear ways in which this event is far different from God giving his approval on such acts as suicide bombing!
1st – Samson was a judge over Israel, the people of God. The position he had was appointed by God. Justice needed to be served. The false god and the temple of the Philistines should not prevail against the real God of the universe. Samson prayed to the Lord and asked for vindication against the enemies of God, and he was willing to offer his own life in the process. His death was not a self-righteous vindication either. He was laying his life down for the good of God’s people, that they might be spared from their enemies, even if it cost him his own life.
2nd – Samson’s strength always came from God. He attributed it to his long hair and vow, but in his final prayer, he is acknowledging that his strength was from the Lord. Scripture says that the Philistines were entertained by the spectacle of their enemy, Samson, captured and blinded. How were they entertained, unless they were laughing and mocking him? They likely were calling on him to save himself, to perform a great act of strength as he had done before, many times in his life. Since he was a judge, a representative of God, the Philistines in the house of Dagon were thus mocking and challenging the one true God. Foreshadowing and pointing to Jesus’ death, Samson gave his life to put an end to the enemies of God. Jesus Christ, when he was mocked, delivered a death blow to sin, death, and the devil, and reconciled all of humanity back into a relight relationship with God through the shedding of his own blood.
3rd – Samson’s death was far different from that of a suicide bomber. Samson was captured, his eyes had been taken, he was shackled, and he was likely going to be put death. The taking of his own life was clearly done through supernatural powers given by the Lord that he directly prayed to for help for vengeance against his enemies. A suicide bomber on the other hand is not doing anything supernatural. Bombs are not supernatural, thus cannot be confirmed to be approved by God. Suicide bombers have not been captured, they have not been tortured, and they are not being held captive and mocked in an act of worship towards the god of their enemies. Suicide bombers are not God’s chosen representatives of his judgment amongst his people.
4th – From the Biblical worldview, all life comes from God and it is his to give or take. All humans die as punishment for our sin (man, woman, or child). When and how death shall come is a matter left to God. When suicide bombers take their own lives and the lives of the innocent, it means that God has allowed the evil action to occur. It does not mean that he ordains it to be good. Samson’s sacrificial death brought glory to God and confirmed to all the remaining Philistines that the God of Israel is real and he is not to be mocked! The death of the Philistines quite possibly led to others in their community to repent and be brought to saving faith in the one true Lord, turning from Dagon The hope that we have from the Bible is that no matter what occurs, God will work through all situations for the good of his people who love him. (Romans 8:28)