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(Assisting) Suicide to Avoid Lethal Torture
Finch Wrote:I have read commentary that is was acceptable for King Saul to commit suicide given the circumstances immediately prior to his death (i.e. he faced torture by the Philistines).

That being the case, would it have been acceptable for his sword bearer to kill him as Saul initially requested of him (1 Samuel 31:4)?

This entire issue has been explained by Rabbi Moshe Weiner in his book (in Hebrew), "Sheva Mitzvot HaShem," Volume 2, in the section on the Prohibition of Murder and Injury. Briefly, there are differences of opinion among the Torah Sages as to whether or not King Saul was permitted to commit suicide in the specific circumstances he faced (I Samuel 31:4). The majority opinion seems to be that because he was terrified that he would be tortured

- to death, AND
- at the hand of the Philistines,
- and/or that the Philistines would use him (as the king of Israel) to disgrace and humiliate the office of the kingship of the Jewish nation,

he was permitted to take the action that he did.

Finch Wrote:If not, my next question: His sword bearer killed himself immediately in the same manner following Saul's suicide. I don't see the difference in the sword bearer's actions. My understanding is that it was acceptable for the sword bearer to kill himself to avoid torture, but it would have been murder for him to kill Saul as an act of mercy. Is this correct?

According to the apparent majority opinion that King Saul was permitted to do so on his own, then he was also permitted to ask someone else to kill him before he was captured and tortured to death, and the person he asked would be permitted to do so, BUT ONLY FOR THAT REASON. It would not have been permitted for someone else to take advantage of this situation to kill King Saul with murderous (malicious) intent.

Finch Wrote:This reminds me of the passage in 'The Last of the Mohicans' where Duncan Heyward is about to be burned at the Stake by the Indian tribe, and Hawkeye shoots him with a rifle from a distance to save him from the torture of the fire. Although this is a fictional account obviously, would it have been an acceptable move for him to save his friend from this fate even though he was facing certain death regardless?

According to the Torah point of view, it would only have been permitted for Hawkeye to do this if Duncan Heyward begged him to do, or explicitly gave him permission to do so, under those circumstances. HOWEVER, this does not address the constraints of the Law of the Land. A ruling government might impose additional restrictions and penalties for such actions.

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RE: (Assisting) Suicide to Avoid Lethal Torture - by Director Michael - 04-08-2010, 06:04 PM

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