The Ten Commandments Series- 6th Commandment

Exodus 20:13
You shall not murder

This commandment is dealing with murder. It is commonly translated into, “You shall not kill”. This, however, is a common misinterpretation of the commandment. It does not state that one shall not kill, in terms of killing accidentally. It speaks in terms of murder. How is murder defined? Murder is defined as killing someone with malice aforethought. In other words, killing someone deliberately, intentionally, and/or premeditation. If someone kills another person unintentionally, or accidentally, that person has not broken this commandment.

In Deuteronomy 19:1-7, it says, “When the Lord your God has destroyed the nations whose land he is giving you, and when you have driven them out and settled in their towns and houses, then set aside for yourselves three cities in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess. Determine the distances involved and divide into three parts the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, so that a person who kills someone may flee for refuge to one of these cities.

 This is the rule concerning anyone who kills a person and flees there for safety—anyone who kills a neighbor unintentionally, without malice aforethought. For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life. Otherwise, the avenger of blood might pursue him in a rage, overtake him if the distance is too great, and kill him even though he is not deserving of death, since he did it to his neighbor without malice aforethought. This is why I command you to set aside for yourselves three cities.”

God tells the people, Israel, to set aside land for those that have killed unintentionally so that they will have a safe please to retreat. Then God gives us an example of what accidental killing is. Do I think that someone that decides to drive drunk, gets into an accident and kills an innocent person is an accidental killing? No, I do not. There is a degree of responsible decision making involved in that. No one should be acquitted for being irresponsible. But that is another discussion for another time. The point I am trying to make is the commandment is, “You shall not murder”, and that “killing” and “murdering” are not one in the same.

Let’s take a look at this commandment from the New Testament and Jesus’ point of view on murder. In Matthew 5:21-24, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you; leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Jesus took this commandment a little further. As he fulfilled the law, Jesus stated that if you should even be so much as angry with your brother, let alone commit murder, you are subject to judgement. Jesus warns us that anyone that is angry with his or her brother or sister and does not settle it and make it right is in danger of hell fire.

The last idea that we should draw from this commandment is the fact that life is precious in the sight of God. He has created each human being in His image and therefore all human life should be treated as such precious creation. If we live with this attitude in our hearts about our fellow human beings, we would not dare to think about destroying what God has created. In Romans 12:18, Paul says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” If we would all take this approach, the world would be more humble, less prideful, and more peaceful. God bless!


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