Do Not Murder

Exodus 20:13

All killing is not murder! Hebrew, like English, has different words for kill and murder. Most modern versions more accurately render the Sixth Commandment—Exodus 20:13— YOU SHALL NOT MURDER.

Xur (raw-tsakh’) is legal term translated murder, slay, kill. A different word is used for the slaughter, both in battle and after the battle. There is another word for the killing of animals for food. The non-legal term is used in the first murder of the Bible, when Cain kills Abel.

The first time xur is used in the Bible is with THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT. This legal term is used in the OT of one who causes a death that is premeditated or accidental. In addition, it is used of an avenger or intentional slayer.

Xur is used when Elijah is told to deliver Yahweh’s indictment of murder to King Ahab in 1 Kings 21:19—

Say to him, `This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, `This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!'”

Blood for blood is idea behind justice in the legal term.

Xur occurs many times in Numbers 35, which deals with the organization of THE SIX CITIES OF REFUGE to which manslayer who killed a person accidentally could flee. Numbers 35:11 makes completely clear that the refuge was for those guilty of unpremeditated, accidental killings—

Select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee.

This makes clear that xur applies equally to both cases of premeditated murder and killings because of any other circumstances, what English Common Law has called MANSLAUGHTER.

When the cities of refuge were established, a clear distinction was made between accidental and deliberate murder. In both cases, the murderer could seek asylum at the altar of the sanctuary. If an investigation revealed deliberate murder, he was put to death. The congregation had judgment over the murderer, and they were limited by the regulations of Numbers 35:9-15.

This power of life and death in the hands of men, therefore, is believed by many to be the necessary foundation of human government in all of its fuller aspects. From this simple mandate, history has witnessed the development of the concept of dealing with insurrection against the state by capital punishment. In other words, if the state has not the right to resist those who defy its laws to the death, then it fails before those who would so dare.

The Apostle Paul recognizes that man has a God-given responsibility through government to execute capital punishment in Romans 13:1-4—

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

THE SWORD is a metaphor for capital punishment. Clearly, the Scriptures recognize the need for the sword as a due process of law in order to control the sinful tendencies in man to degrade society. The government is God’s agent, literally AVENGER OF WRATH. In other words, capital punishment represents retributive justice pure and simple, because it cannot have any corrective benefits to one put to death, at least as far as this life is concerned.

Capital punishment does not make the nation the final arbiter of a man’s destiny. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28—

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Under the Mosaic Law, seven types of offenses were punishable by capital punishment:

1. Premeditated murder
2. Forms of homicide—child sacrifice, manslaughter, if avenger caught the slayer outside the city of refuge
3. Bearing false witness on a capital charge
4. Kidnapping
5. Insult or injury to parents
6. Forms of sexual immorality—incest, unchastity, fornication on the part of a priest’s daughter, adultery, fornication on part of a betrothed woman
7. Various religious offenses—witchcraft, magic, and so on; false claim to be a prophet; intrusion of alien into sacred place or office; Sabbath breaking

A scrutiny of the list of capital offenses reveals a mandate that entered into the civil, moral, and religious realms. Such controls were evidently considered expedient for the maintenance of law and order, religious purity and family unity.

Perhaps the Sixth Commandment is best seen to function in Numbers 21:12 and Numbers 35:20-21—

Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death . . . If anyone with malice aforethought pushes another or throws something at him intentionally so that he dies or if in hostility he hits him with his fist so that he dies, that person shall be put to death; he is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

Xur is any act of violence against an individual out of hatred, anger, malice, deceit, or for personal gain, in whatever circumstances and by whatever method, that might result in death (even if killing was not the intention). MURDER does not sufficiently capture this sense for the world.

The more general word KILL severs the community of faith best, forcing continual reflection on the meaning of the Commandment and reminding all that in the taking of human life for any reason one acts in God’s place, in the face of which there should be a lengthy pause filled with careful soul-searching and the absence of vengefulness and arrogance. As a result, taking a human life should be very rare indeed.

The basis of this command is that all life belongs to God according to Leviticus 17:11—

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

The divine intention in creation is that no life be taken. Life is thus not for human beings to do with as they will; they are not God. It is up to God to determine what shall be done with life. Human beings are never to kill on their own authority; they are only agents of God. Israel’s limited use of capital punishment, as specified in certain God-given laws, had to do with violations of God’s created order.

The issue became a matter of world restoration. Similar arguments were used in ancient Israel for divine support in wars. The development of nuclear weapons, however, constitutes a threat to God’s world order unparalleled in human history. This should prompt new reflections on war and peace and hence give a new meaning to the word xur—TO KILL.

God established capital punishment after the flood in the Noahic Covenant. The LORD said, “Murder is killing God in effigy” in Genesis 9:6—

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

This is the simplest statement of the mandate for man to punish his fellow man for the crime of murder. Martin Luther wrote—

In this passage . . . the LORD establishes a new law and wants murderers to be ruled by men. This was something that had not been customary in the world until now, for God had reserved all judgment for Himself. It was for this reason that He Himself finally exacted punishment from the wicked world by the means of the Flood when He saw that the world was daily becoming more and more corrupt. Here, however, God shares His power with man and grants him power over life and death among men, provided that the person is guilty of shedding blood.

The oldest record of a murder trial dates back nearly 4,000 years. A two-by-four foot clay tablet found in Iraq in 1950 describes how three men killed another. Brought before the king, the three mean along with the victim’s wife were tried for murder. The wife was declared innocent, but the three men were executed. This was in 1850 B.C.—about 400 years before God gave the Ten Commandments.

God’s reason for capital punishment for murder is that MAN is made IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. This fact is not believed in the United States. The proof is our actions, not our words.

Many objections against capital punishment are based on abuse and miscarriage of justice. Many believe capital punishment to be cruel and unusual treatment for a murderer. Yet, the majority of people who vote in the United States believe that abortion—the murder of an unborn baby made in the image of God is a cruel and unusual act. Presently, there is a movement to persuade Americans that euthanasia—the killing of elderly people is a merciful act. The probability is that within a decade, doctor assisted suicide will become as commonplace as abortion.

We live in an immoral and confused society today. How did the murderous slaughter of the innocent happen? Were did this idea of “survival of the fittest” come from? Its roots reach to Evolutionary Darwinism, which has man evolving without a Designer. Evolutionary teaching that regards the human spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter are incompatible with the truth about man.

Darwin evolutionary theory has failed to solve the puzzle of life’s origin and development. Darwin’s theory of life developing from a single cell is absurd. The high level of complexity in cell life is strong evidence the cell itself is designed.

Unlike the complexity of a snowflake (which derives its structure from the nature of the materials it is made from), the complexity of genetic information is independent of the nature of amino acids that record it. An evolutionary college professor can stand up and declare to his students that there is no designer, but he does so on faith of Darwinism, not on empirical evidence. For the evidence shows that there is design and therefore, a Designer is a necessary hypothesis.

If Charles Darwin, were to present his 100 year old theories to bio-chemists for the first time today, they would ridicule him to no end. But since science and society has been so influenced and shaped by his writings, ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES and THE DESCENT OF MAN, the evidence is basically ignored.

Modern science consists of two essentially contradictory definitions. On the one hand, science is empirical research, following the evidence wherever it leads. EMPIRICAL means that knowledge and understanding originates in, relying on, or based on factual information, observation, or direct sense experience. On the other hand, modern science is APPLIED MATERIALIST PHILOSOPHY, which starts with the assumption that “in the beginning were the particles, and impersonal natural law, and nothing else. This kind of science rules out of order any question of design or creation. But the Bible asserts in Genesis 3:26-27—

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Recently, Pope John Paul II condemned any theory of evolution that misses an “essential point” previously articulated by Pope Pious XII, who said, “If the origin of the human body comes through living matter which existed previously, the spiritual soul is created directly by God.” Genesis 2:7, however, rules out evolution—

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

All this happen on the sixth day of creation according to God’s Word. Certainly, the Pope’s great concern—and—ours—is not simply to achieve an accurate picture of human origins, but to preserve a basis for human rights. In the past, evolutionary teaching resulted in social theories that down-played the worth of every individual and justified the subjugation and even the elimination of the weak by the powerful, even to celebrating the qualities of a master race.

If the human soul is nothing more than a highly evolved form of what animates monkeys or mules, there is no compelling reason not to treat people as laboratory animals or workhorses—or to eliminate them when they become inconvenient. And that’s exactly where Darwin, Marx and Freud have brought society. When human life becomes a matter of inconvenience, kill it—after all—it is survival of the fittest!

These three men sought in their own ways to liberate human beings from God and religion. In each case, their views of reality came to dominate the lives of millions. And their pseudo-explanatory power dominated the imaginations of many more. The theories of Marx and Freud are now dead as they are, but the philosophical wounds they inflicted on civilization still suppurate. Indeed, Darwin may also be replaced, as we gain new and better understandings of the mechanisms of life. But the wound he inflicted may take a long time to heal. Especially if the most prominent spokespersons for evolution keep up their ideological assault on the belief in God.

When God is the Creator of human life is life valuable and meaningful. Otherwise, it is by accident— here today and gone tomorrow!

In the Covenant with Noah, God gave man the responsibility of punishing the murderer.

Xur is used once of an animal killing a man, but never of a man killing an animal.

However, creatures, other than humans, may be killed for the food and nourishment of men, and others for man’s safety and preservation; but rational creatures, men, women, and children, any of the human species, of every age, sex, condition, or nation; no man has a right to take away his own life, or the life of another.

What is forbidden by the Sixth Commandment?

Suicide, which is self-murder.
Homicide, which is premeditated murder of another human being.

In the area of suicide, judgment should be minimal and sympathy maximum, for often a suicide is not in complete control of his mind. In any event, the taking of one’s own life is a prerogative, which belongs not to us but to God.

There is a difference between MERCY-KILLING and MERCY-DYING! If a doctor gives medication to speed death, that’s murder. But if a doctor withdraws medication or machine from a terminal patient to permit natural death, this need not be morally wrong. When a person is kept alive only by machine, pulling the plug may be an act of mercy, for it lessens suffering by allowing earlier death. Letting the patient die naturally is not wrong, but taking a life is! God is responsible for the natural death; man is guilty is the death is unnatural!

Killing of men in lawful war, or in defense of self, when one’s own life is in danger, or the execution of criminals by the hands or order of the civil government, and killing a man unexpectedly, without any design, are not to be reckoned breaches of the Sixth Commandment.

But the taking away the life of another through private malice and revenge, and even stabbing of a man’s character, and so all things tending to or designed for the taking away of life, and all plots, conspiracies, and devices for that purpose, even all sinful anger, undue wrath, envy, rancor, malice in thought, word, or deed, are contrary to this precept. Jesus declared in Matthew 5:21-22—

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Clearly, Jesus validates capital punishment for murder. But the teachers of the law implied that the sum total of the Sixth Commandment rested in the outward act only. Jesus stripped away the tendency to mere external obedience and carried the law to the attitudes of the inner man. Anger and name-calling are murder. One may not receive physical death for unrepentant murderous attitudes, but eternal death awaits!

Above all, Christ expresses the concern that reconciliation (in the next verses) among those estranged from one another be given a high priority, even above religious practice—

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Paul wrote in Romans 13:9—

The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

John 7:19—

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

Murder is Forgivable! Three important characters were, in a sense, murderers. Moses with premeditation killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. When word got out, Moses had to flee to Midian. King David, after committing adultery with Bathsheba, ordered her husband, Uriah, placed in a spot in battle where he would surely be killed. The Apostle Paul confessed in Acts 26:10—

On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.

Yet, these three murders wrote large sections of the Bible. Moses wrote the first five books. David, called a man after God’s own heart, wrote many psalms, which have been the devotional literature for both Israel and the church. Paul wrote thirteen books of the NT. Even murder, as heinous a crime as it is, is forgivable through the grace of God, the blood of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, there will be murderers in heaven! Those who are described by 1 John 1:7-9—

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

But there will be murderers who are excluded from heaven according to Revelation 21:8—

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.

The BLOOD OF CHRIST makes the difference! Paul, who describes himself as “the Worst of Sinners,” is the Bible’s great example of Hebrews 9:14—

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Even a murder, convicted or unconvicted, cleansed by the blood of Christ can serve the living God. Like Moses, David and Paul, the God who forgives is able to use a person in His service, whether in prison or free.

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