Ecclesiastes and the Acts of Healing and
What can we learn from the philosophical
scriptures in Ecclesiastes about the nature of life and death in this system? Let us have a look at a couple of relevant examples:
1 To every thing there
is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time
to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (Ecclesiastes 3)
The actions denoted above in Ecclesiastes 3 come in two types: those which
would normally be those under God's control and those which are within man's remit. Let us firstly look at a couple
of those that one would think are clearly within God's realm: ‘a time to plant' and ‘a time to pluck up'.
These are clearly referring to the normal seasonal schedule of sowing and harvesting. However, with what mankind is doing
to ruin our planet, even those planetary powers are being challenged by our incompetence at managing our earthly home.
We can look at those items that directly impact each man's stay on
this earth. ‘A time to be born' again used to be in God's realm but even this is now managed by mankind within
certain expanded limits. Foetuses that would not have been viable even a few short years ago are now capable, through advances
in medical science, to be born and survive as apparently normal human beings. So mankind now has the ability to enable births
that God would not have. Whilst this does seem like a good thing for mankind to be doing, since it is over and above God's
own actions is this territory that we just should not be in? If mankind is able to sustain life, in circumstances where ‘mere'
nature on its own is unable to, then I am certain that God would be pleased that we are interested in sustaining more living
souls than this system's imperfect nature can do unaided. Clearly this then spills over into the other actions of
‘a time to die' and ‘a time to heal'. Are they God's alone or did He give us the intelligence to affect
these outcomes to the benefit of mankind with His blessing? Thus far it is by no means clear to me except that, if man acts
with good intention, even if misguided, does God see this in a positive light? After all, if we are all children of God, He
must certainly hope to see some godly actions from us. Using our abilities and best intentions for a good outcome, particularly
where human life is concerned, could be argued to be a divine quality.
Certainly our Lord Jesus Christ performed many miracles of healing during his ministry on earth. This was
prior to His being made divine but His healing abilities, and those of His disciples, were courtesy of direct intervention
of the Holy Spirit, God's wife. It is by no means clear that the doctors on the pre- or post-natal wards or performing
life-saving operations or curtailing a terminally ill patient's suffering have the benefit of the direct influence of
God's Holy Spirit. However, it would be fair to say that the Holy Spirit's means of healing would be described as
non-Adamic (ref. JC Superdoc) whereas the healing actions of a human doctor, acting out of his own skills alone, would be providing a purely and
imperfect Adamic healing. Christ certainly put sufferers out of their misery by healing them; would it have been reasonable
for Him to do that without allowing mankind to follow suit albeit in a relatively imperfect way? It is also clear that Christ
caused no-one to die as a relief to their suffering thereby providing the example that only a healing to cure the sick was
enabled even for Him!
But what are we to make
of ‘a time to kill'? According to Strong's lexicon the Hebrew word ‘harag' means to kill or slay in
a general way. So, for example, it is used to describe Cain's murder of his brother Abel as well as the killing of the
enemies of the Sons of Israel. It also means to slaughter animals for food:
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass,
when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew [Heb. Harag]
him. (Genesis 4)
11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, [and] were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the
LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: [they were] more which died with hailstones
than [they] whom the children of Israel slew [Heb. Harag] with the sword. (Joshua 10)
13 And behold joy and gladness,
slaying [Heb. Harag] oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and
drink; for to morrow we shall die. (Isaiah 22)
So Harag is used to describe killing both in allowed and disallowed ways according to God's Laws. Clearly
the allowed killings would be catered for in the phrase ‘a time to kill'. So does unlawful homicide or euthanasia
somehow fit into the meaning of Ecclesiastes 3:3? Certainly an argument could be made for euthanasia having its time for any
one sufferer. The problem though is that this is highly circumspect and does not appear to be supported anywhere else in scripture
whereas a case can be made for the legal status of pretty much any other kind of homicide within God's Word. In my mind
this raises the question as to why has God made the legality of this particularly difficult type of killing so much more problematic
to interpret than all the others? Is this a cryptic clue in itself?
Ecclesiastes 9 continues the debate further:
11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is
not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor
yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are
taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time,
when it falleth suddenly upon them. (Ecclesiastes 9)
So the death of men is subject to time and chance and can occur without warning. What can we take from this?
Well it certainly tells us that death is outside man's control. But is this meant to include our own uncertain meddling
with man's life force or not? Well extending or saving a life of itself leaves no additional certainty as to when that
life will finally be taken back by our God but an act of humanely taking a life could be argued to be contravening God's
sovereignty in the matter. If this defines the ultimate difference between healing and humanely taking a life then we come
to the inescapable conclusion that euthanasia, no matter how laudable the intent, is taking away God's sovereignty in
the most precious of subject areas, that of human life itself.
So the above would seem to be arguing against the express taking of a human life even to prevent suffering.
At the same time, however, I do not believe that the Bible necessarily commands us to do everything we can to keep a person
alive. If a person is being kept alive only by machines or drugs, I do not think it immoral to turn off the machines or switch
off the supply of drugs and allow the person to die peacefully and, arguably, naturally as God intended. In fact from Ecclesiastes
it could be argued that a patient should not be put on a life support system in the first place unless there was the clear
prospect of recovery in the patient's condition. If a person has been in a persistent vegetative state for a prolonged
period of time, I do not think it would be an offense to God to remove whatever tubes/machines that are keeping the person's
body alive. Should God desire to keep a person alive, He is perfectly capable of doing so without the help of man-made feeding
tubes or machines.
Making a decision like this
one is very difficult and painful. It is never easy to tell a doctor to end the life support of a loved one. We should never
seek to prematurely end a life, but at the same time, neither do we have to go to extraordinary means to preserve a terminally
It may well prove instructive
to examine the scriptures for any references to the work of doctors. In the gospels the physical work of a doctor is used
by Christ in explaining His spiritual work to the Pharisees:
31 And Jesus answering said unto them, `They who are well have
no need of a physician, but they that are ill: (Luke 5)
I cannot think that Jesus would have used that as an example, in the way that He did, if he did not acknowledge
the work of a doctor to be beneficial to the patient. This would seem to continue the argument in favour of mankind being
allowed to cure the sick with God's blessing. The slam dunk on this, I think, is the fact that the gospel writer Luke
was not only a practising physician but was described by Paul to be a ‘beloved physician'. This description not
only seems to me to put a very favourable light on Luke as a human being but also seems to favour his chosen profession:
14 Luke, the beloved
physician, and Demas, greet you. (Colossians 4)
To my mind this can only demonstrate God's support for mankind's efforts to heal themselves. Whilst
Luke must have had the full spiritual healing abilities of a First New Covenant Saint, his days as a physician must have pre-dated
his baptism from Christ and, therefore also, his non-Adamic healing abilities.
To finish this part of the debate we need look no further than to refer back to my paper on the allowing
of blood transfusions in order to preserve life: The Blood Issue. This concluded that man-given blood transfusions were allowable in order to save life. I rest my case in favour of man's
ability to save life being allowed under the Law by our Lord.
My original quest for God's allowance of euthanasia started by my considering
what constitutes a ‘whole soul' in scriptural terms. Most of those scriptures do not seem to address the issue at
hand however there are some implications in the following relevant verses. Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian
congregation contains one small clue:
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole
spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Thessalonians 5)
This is interesting if we reasonably allocate the adjective ‘whole'
to the spirit and the soul and the body. Here Paul is praying that each whole soul is kept in its entirety from sin by each
congregation member. But what if a person does not have a whole and intact soul through sickness or disability? Is that person
excused at least in part? If so that could be the ‘loop hole' that would allow euthanasia to be performed without
fear of censure from our Lord. What do Mark and Luke
have to say on the matter of a ‘whole soul'?
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and
with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. (Mark 12)
33 And to love him with
all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his
neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12)
27 And he answering said,
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;
and thy neighbour as thyself. (Luke 10)
we are to love the Lord with all our soul and with all our strength. No need for subtle interpretation for ones who are healthy
in mind and in body but what does this mean for those who do not have a fully jntact soul through a sick or disabled body
with little or no strength? If we take the example of Job it would appear that the gospels require the sick ones to love God
despite their ailments. But how should we interpret these verses for the seriously and terminally ill? Whilst a deep faith
in God's saving ability is arguably no more urgent than for a terminally ill patient, one can easily imagine how difficult
this must be to maintain if one is so concerned about the immediate sheer difficulty of being alive. One is left wondering
whether it is mere chance that these ones have been selected for such a fate because of their strength of character. However
if that were the case then no-one would be requesting that euthanasia be carried out on them. This may, of course be as much
(if not more than) a test of faith for the close relatives or friends of such a one. On balance it does not look as if Mark
or Luke offer much alleviation on the legality of an act of euthanasia, particularly bearing in mind that Luke was a physician
so must have had a clear view of God's requirements on the sick. Then again we have Paul's epistle to the Roman congregation:
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that
loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal,
Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended
in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is
the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13)
one ‘murders' a loved one to put them out of their misery as an act of love does this excuse the act of murder?
I strongly suspect that if the heart condition of the relative committing the act were true then the judgement would not be
overly harsh. But what of the heart condition of the one that requested his relative or friend to commit the act? James also expounds on a similar sense of intent:
13 For he shall have judgment without
mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (James 2)
If euthanasia is considered to be an act of mercy by a loved one then will God not also show mercy to that
one? Again, though, this raises a question of what is in the heart of the patient in requesting his/her own death? Perhaps
if he understands it to be sinful but asks for God's mercy in the matter then I expect it will be given.
The Adamic Curse
God intended Adamic man to suffer into his old age:
17 and of the tree of knowledge of
good and evil, thou dost not eat of it, for in the day of thine eating of it -- dying thou dost die.(Genesis 2)
This death sentence entailed Adam's starting to die and age as soon as he received
God's curse for his sinning. This is the fate of all Adam's progeny so an easy release from that suffering was not
on God's agenda for Adamic mankind.
17 And to Adam he said: "Because you listened to your wife's voice and took
to eating from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,' cursed is the ground
on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life.
18 And thorns and thistles it will grow for you, and you
must eat the vegetation of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken.
For dust you are and to dust you will return."(Genesis 3)
So pain and suffering were to be our inheritance from Adam! This clearly looks like the very opposite of God's
approval for euthanasia. I do not think I need to further labour this point; check out my old age paper for all the gory details
plus lots more: Old Age in the Scriptures!
The Lessons from Job
Now whilst it is not quite the same as suffering physical illness one can
certainly suffer emotionally. Job lost all his children in a single incident and yet still showed the strength of character
to maintain his faith in God with no mention of his wishing to do away with himself:
18 While this other one was yet speaking, still another one came and
proceeded to say: "Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their brother the firstborn.
19 And, look! there came a great wind from the region of the wilderness, and it went striking
the four corners of the house, so that it fell upon the young people and they died. And I got to escape, only I by myself,
to tell you."
20 And Job proceeded to get up and rip his sleeveless coat apart and cut the hair off his head and fall to
the earth and bow down
and say: "Naked I came
out of my mother's belly, And naked shall I return there. Jehovah himself has given, and Jehovah himself has taken away.
Let the name of Jehovah continue to be blessed."
22 In all this Job did not sin or ascribe anything improper to God. (Job
Following on from this appalling
loss, God allowed Satan to curse Job with boils covering his entire body to further test his faith:
7 So Satan went out away from
the person of Jehovah and struck Job with a malignant boil from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
8 And he proceeded to take for himself a fragment of earthenware
with which to scrape himself; and he was sitting in among the ashes.
9 Finally his wife said to him: "Are you yet holding
fast your integrity? Curse God and die!"
10 But he said to her: "As one of the senseless women speaks, you speak also. Shall we accept merely
what is good from the [true] God and not accept also what is bad?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2)
As a ‘gift' from Satan you can bet that these boils presented a severe
ailment to poor Job. Job's wife was certainly prepared for her husband to throw in the towel suggesting that he should
end it all.
As an aside, the Hebrew word for
‘curse', in verse 9, is ‘barak' which literally means ‘bless'. However the definitive Ben Davidson
Hebrew lexicon says that this word can be used euphemistically to mean ‘curse', i.e. it is a nice way of saying
‘curse' without meaning to cause unnecessary offence. If one puts his wife's comments into proper context by
considering Job's aggressive response then it is clear that ‘curse' is the correct translation of ‘the
Heb. ‘barak' in this case. So Job's wife equates Job's death with his cursing of God. She must have meant
death by his own hand since God certainly had no intention of causing Job's death as He had clearly instructed Satan
not to kill Job in his suffering:
4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold,
he [is] in thine hand; but save his life. (Job 2)
If Job had just committed suicide
to relieve his suffering, as his wife had suggested, God would certainly have seen that as the worst possible outcome in Satan's
testing of Job's faith. Bear in mind we are not here just talking about Job's severe physical discomfort but also
the loss of his entire family in a single day. I can think of no worse fate for a parent. So this certainly looks like another
letter missive from God declaring that euthanasia is not a good idea. In fact this looks to me like the clearest possible
message to mankind that faith in God to deliver us into the Kingdom should prevent us from taking our own lives under any
circumstances. This frankly seems to me to be a very hard message to obey in extreme adversity but nonetheless I cannot think
that this is anything but the definitive position from our Lord on the subject of euthanasia.
The Human Body's Self-Protection Mechanism
For the first time in my life I recently suffered from a mild case of chilblains.
Alas a sign of my increasing years I think! As always I decided to read up on this new subject relevant to my health. Whilst
chilblains are a relatively minor disorder, likely caused by the cold in my case, I found myself reading about the rather
more serious condition of hypothermia or severe heat loss. The key point for the present discussion is that the human body
(the brain's hypothalamus in fact) is programmed to cut off the blood supply to its extremities, in cases of extreme cold, in
order to maintain the core body temperature to preserve the life of the soul albeit in an incapacitated state.
So the body will sacrifice body parts that are not essential to preserving the life of the soul if it cannot supply enough
heat and nutrients to keep the whole body intact. Check out the following web-site:
So it looks as if God designed the human soul to continue
living even when that soul is not physically ‘whole'. It would appear that God wants the spirit retained within
its body up to the point that body becomes completely non-viable. Again this looks like a further argument, albeit non-scriptural, acting
against the pro-euthanasia camp.
Finally, from a scriptural standpoint, I thank my brother in Christ Ian for reminding me of the story of Saul's alleged
but false means of death. Firstly the story of how Saul actually died by his own hand after asking his armour-bearer
to effectively commit euthansia which the latter refused causing Saul to take his own life:
3 And the fighting became heavy against Saul, and the shooters, the bowmen, finally found him, and he got
severely wounded by the shooters.
4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer: "Draw your sword and run me through with
it, that these uncircumcised men may not come and certainly run me through and deal abusively with me." And his armor-bearer
was unwilling, because he was very much afraid. So Saul took the sword and fell upon it.
5 When his armor-bearer saw
that Saul had died, then he too fell upon his own sword and died with him. (1Samuel 31)
The false allegation
of the means of Saul's death came a little later:
1 And it came about after Saul's death, and when David himself had returned
from striking down the A·mal´ek·ites, that David continued to dwell at Zik´lag two days.
2 And it came about on the third day that, look! a man was coming from the camp, from Saul, with his garments
ripped apart and dirt upon his head; and it came about that when he came to David, he at once fell down to the earth and prostrated
3 And David proceeded to say to him: "Where do you come from?" at which he said
to him: "From the camp of Israel I have escaped."
4 And David went on to say to him:
"How did the matter turn out? Tell me, please." To this he said: "The people have fled from the battle and
also many of the people have fallen so that they died, and even Saul and Jon´a·than his son have died."
5 Then David said to the young man that was telling him: "How do you really know that Saul
has died and also Jon´a·than his son?"
6 At this the young man that was telling
him said: "I unexpectedly chanced to be on Mount Gil·bo´a, and there was Saul supporting himself upon his
spear; and, look! the charioteers and the mounted men had caught up with him.
7 When he turned
back and saw me, then he called me, and I said, ‘Here I am!'
8 And he went on to say
to me, ‘Who are you?' at which I said to him, ‘I am an A·mal´ek·ite.'
9 Then he said, ‘Stand, please, over me and definitely put me to death, for the cramp has seized me,
because all my soul is yet in me.'
10 So I stood over him and definitely put him to death,
for I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. Then I took the diadem that was upon his head and the bracelet that
was upon his arm, that I might bring them to my lord here." (2 Samuel 1)
14 Then David said to him: "How was it that you did not
fear to thrust your hand out to bring the anointed of Jehovah to ruin?"
15 With that David
called one of the young men and said: "Go near. Smite him." Accordingly he struck him down so that he died.
16 David then said to him: "The bloodguilt for you be upon your own head, because your own mouth
has testified against you, saying, ‘I myself definitely put the anointed of Jehovah to death.'" (2 Samuel 1)
David clearly did not realise that the young man was lying and so took him at his word, after
all why would one lie about such an event? David's reaction was to have the young man summarily executed for his
apparent act of euthanasia upon the dying Saul. David's judgement made it very clear that the death of the dying Saul
was under God's sovereignty alone. This was, after all, the sentence that God had decreed for Adam and all his progeny.
I am not aware of any scriptures in which David was castigated by God for his act of summary justice in this matter.
If this is the judgement of both David and Jehovah then it is certainly good enough evidence for me. The act of euthanasia
is clearly, therefore, a capital sin in this system although I expect, in the judgement to come, extenuating circumstances
and a righteous heart condition may considerably ease the sentence passed.
Saul's death is also covered in
1Chronicles and contains a statement that is absent from the account in Samuel as far as I can tell:
13 Thus Saul died for his unfaithfulness with which he had acted faithlessly
against Jehovah concerning the word of Jehovah that he had not kept and also for asking of a spirit medium to make inquiry.
14 And he did not inquire of Jehovah. Consequently he put him to death and turned the kingship
over to David the son of Jes´se. (1Chronicles 10)
The key additional point here
is that the author of Chronicles (Ezra) was inspired to write that Jehovah 'put him (i.e. Saul) to death'. This could
have two (at least) wholly different implications as far as God's attitude to euthanasia is concerned. Firstly it could
indicate that, notwithstanding Saul's taking his own life, his death was the will of God given his sinful ways and that
it was, in effect, God that put Saul into his last dying breaths at the hands of the Philistines. This was, perhaps,
establishing beyond any further doubt that a man's death is effected under God's sovereignty, and God's alone,
regardless of the direct physical manner of death. In causing Saul's armour-bearer to be afraid of colluding
in Saul's death, perhaps God prevented the crime of euthanasia together with any blame directly attaching to the
armour-bearer. However this would then raise the question of the nature of a suicide; is this a sinful act? Up to this point
in my research I had always thought so, and the story of Job above would seem to support this view, but perhaps this should
to be the subject of a further research paper? Certainly God did not seem concerned that Saul had taken his own life; in fact
this may have ironically been the last act of Saul in which he obeyed the will of God!
A second, and diametrically opposed interpretation, could be that euthanasia or suicide would only normally be
conducted in circumstances of near-death or an intolerable life. For any person to be put in that position in itself
may be the will of God to effectively end that life. This argument would support the act of suicide not being a sin but, since
the armour-bearer did not collude in Saul's death, I do not think even this interpretation defends the act of euthanasia. Death
at your own hands may be acceptable but death at the hands of another regardless of circumstances is never acceptable.
So thanks Ian for giving me such a conundrum at the end of my writing of this already difficult piece. Looks
like a separate paper on suicide will be the net result of your late intervention! Perhaps this was the main purpose in the
Holy Spirit getting me to write about euthaasia. LOL.