2010-07-11 - The Sixth Commandment
The Ten Commandments ~ Part 34
What is encompassed in the Command not to Kill?
If there was ever a case of needing to get a definition of a word, this is it. The problem is, this command has been used to teach not only against murder, but also against the carrying out of capital punishment and defending ones country in time of war. The question is just what in included in the command not to kill.
The word in the Hebrew is rasah; a prime root meaning to murder, slay. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says:
The initial use of the root appears in the Ten Commandments. In that important text it appears in the simple Qal stem with the negative adverb, You shall not murder, being a more precise reading than the too-general KJV Thou Shalt not Kill. rasah applies equally to both cases of premeditated murder and killings as a result of any other circumstances, what English Common Law has called, man slaughter. The root also describes killing for revenge, (Numbers 35:27, 30) and assassination (2 Kings 6:32).
The underlying idea is to break or dash to pieces. Based on all this, we should hae a clear understanding of the commandment. It should be seen as relating to the slaying of one individual by another, either murder or manslaughter. It has nothing to do with killing in war or through the actions of the legal system, execution. Here the NIV, with its You shall not murder, is a more accurate translation, then, found in the Authorized Version. What are some examples that you can think of that would fall under this commandment?
Now notice in 21:12-14 God establishes the death penalty for those that commit murder.
Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death. However, if he does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen, he is to flee to a place I will designate. But if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death.
In Numbers, we read the account of how God established the Cities of Refuge for those that accidentally killed someone.
Then the LORD said to Moses: Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee. They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that a person accused of murder may not die before he stands trial before the assembly. These six towns you give will be your cities of refuge. Give three on this side of the Jordan, and three in Canaan, as cities of refuge. These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there(Numbers 35:9-15).
One other way of committing murder, and therefore covered by the commandment, would be self-murder, suicide. Grammatically, this is possible, because there is no object specified by the language of the command.
To be continued.
Comments or Questions?