Problem: Suicide is murder, and God said, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). There were many suicides in the Bible (see comments on 1 Sam. 31:4), and none of them received divine approval. Yet Samson committed suicide here with God’s apparent blessing.
Solution: Samson never took his life; he sacrificed it for his people. There is a big difference. Jonah prayed, “Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (Jonah 4:3) But he never took his own life. Suicide is acting “for one’s self.” What Samson did was to lay his life on the line for others—his people. Samson’s act was no more suicide than Christ’s, when He said, “I lay down my life,” for “the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 17). In fact, “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Of course, not every apparent death “for others” is really an act of love. Paul made this plain in his great love chapter: “though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3). Even a martyr may not be dying out of love, but in an obstinate commitment to his own self-centered cause. Saul took self-death “lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me” (1 Sam. 31:4). Abimelek sought death for himself “lest men say of me, `A woman killed him’ ” (Jud. 9:54). Samson by contrast asked God for permission to die, praying, “Let me die with the Philistines” (Jud. 16:30). God granted his request, “so the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life” (v. 30). Paul also was willing to be “accursed from Christ for my brethren” (Rom. 9:3). The soldier who falls on a hand grenade to save his buddies is not taking his life by suicide; he is giving his life for others. Likewise, Christ did not commit suicide when He came to “give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).