At Judges 16: 289-30 (NRSVCE) we see the account of death of Samson:

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “Lord God, remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” He strained with all his might; and the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed during his life.

One is inclined to refer to the death of Samson as one akin to death at wartime. But then, he was also aware that he would kill himself if he brought down the structure. My question therefore is: Does the Catholic Church put the death of Samson in the category of suicide ?

  • 2
    To bring down the structure did not necessitate Samson's death. He might not have died. But the crucial factor is that he prayed that he might die. As did Elijah pray in I Kings 19:4.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 21, 2019 at 4:36
  • 1
    He became a sacrifice for God. (Romans 12:1-2) and is a type of shadow of the son of God, Jesus Christ. Jun 21, 2019 at 20:51

1 Answer 1


St. Thomas Aquinas gives this precise objection in his question on "Whether it is lawful to kill oneself?" (Summa Theologica II-II q. 64 a. 5 arg 4):

Samson killed himself, as related in Judges 16:30, and yet he is numbered among the saints (Heb. 11:32). Therefore it is lawful for a man to kill himself.

To which he replies (ibid. ad 4):

As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i , 21*),

not even Samson is to be excused that he crushed himself together with his enemies under the ruins of the house, except the Holy Ghost, Who had wrought many wonders through him, had secretly commanded him to do this.

He assigns the same reason [De Civ. Dei i, 26**] in the case of certain holy women, who at the time of persecution took their own lives, and who are commemorated by the Church.

*"Of the Cases in Which We May Put Men to Death Without Incurring the Guilt of Murder"
**"That in Certain Peculiar Cases the Examples of the Saints are Not to Be Followed". He shows that if a soldier obeying his commander to kill does not commit murder, then a fortiori someone obeying God's command to kill himself does not murder himself.

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