You shall not murder.
Today we will look at the Sixth Commandment: “You shall not murder.” As we will see, there is more than one way to destroy another human being. We’re going to look at the various ways we destroy other people who are of great value to God.
Remember, the Ten Commandments can be divided into two sections. The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God. The other six commandments deal with our relationships to other people. The first of the commands dealing with people is a positive one: Honor your father and your mother. But the next three commands are very short in the Hebrew text, only two words: no killing, no adultery, and no theft. This week we’ll look at the short command we find in Exodus 20:13: no killing.
Interestingly, the word translated as “kill” in the King James Version is a rare word in the Hebrew text. It implies the violent killing of a personal enemy. This is the idea of a premeditated, angry killing as opposed to accidental killing. The New American Standard Bible correctly translates this word as “murder.”
Scripture differentiates between accidental killing and premeditated killing. In the Old Testament, accidental killings carried a stiff penalty because God values all human life. For example, in Numbers 35, the Israelites were commanded to have “cities of refuge” for those who were guilty of an accidental killing. If you accidentally killed someone, as opposed to premeditatedly killing him, you could go to a city of refuge, where you would be safe from an avenging relative. But you had to remain there. You forfeited your personal liberty until the high priest had died.
However, God said clearly that no one guilty of a deliberate killing could go to a city of refuge. In other words, God distinguishes between accidental and deliberate killing. That’s why in Exodus 20:13, God says, “You shall not murder.”
Perhaps you have heard this argument about the Bible. People say, “There are all kinds of contradictions in the Bible. The Bible says, ‘Thou shall not kill.’ Yet killing is sanctioned by God throughout the Old Testament in many wars. That’s an obvious contradiction of Scripture.” The truth is, the Bible distinguishes between sanctioned killings and the deliberate, cold-blooded taking of life of a personal enemy. The correct translation of the Sixth Commandment is: “You shall not murder.” You shall not take someone’s life out of anger or out of convenience.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Murder He Wrote,” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.