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The Sixth Commandment
by Wayne Blank
What Does The Commandment Actually Prohibit?
Many over the centuries have used "thou shalt not kill" to justify pacifism, or "conscientious objectors" in the military, or opposition to capital punishment for those who committed heinous crimes. And yet, if they read all of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, they would see that there were occasions when God not only permitted the taking of human lives, but commanded it. Examples:
"Thus says The Lord God of Israel, 'Put every man his sword on his side, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.'" (Exodus 32:27 RSV)
God is not a hypocrite. He means what He says, and says what He means - consistently. When the Israelites were given the Sixth Commandment, they knew from everyday life that it prohibited murder, not lawful killing, such as in self-defense, or in defense of one's nation, within legally-prescribed rules. In matters of criminal law, the guilty were punished in kind - in ancient times, prisons were merely places where accused people were held until trial and punishment - prisons were not the punishment itself. Murderers were put to death, not, ironically, sentenced to life:
"the murderer shall be put to death." (Numbers 35:17 RSV)
What is the Christian view, according to the Scriptures, on murderers?
"Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." (1 John 3:15 RSV)
Fact Finder: The greatest miscarriage of justice that ever occurred was when the completely innocent Jesus Christ was executed. As part of that miscarriage of justice, was a murderer set free?