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God's Sixth Commandment

"You shall not kill." (Exodus 20:13 RSV)

What Does The Commandment Actually Prohibit?

The Ten Commandments 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)

"Thus says The Lord of hosts, 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling" (1 Samuel 15:2-3 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)

"Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him treacherously, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die. Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. Whoever steals a man, whether he sells him or is found in possession of him, shall be put to death. Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:12-17 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)

"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8 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?
Mark 15:7-11, Acts 3:14


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