August 18, 2017

The Sixth Commandment

George Stiekes

Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13

Some people use this commandment to argue against going to war and capital punishment. We should note that the King James Version incorrectly uses the word kill. The newer translations including the New King James Version and the New American version correctly translates the Hebrew word murder.

The Hebrew word for kill (murder) is important. It means to dash in pieces which is to kill unlawfully, as in murder. If there are unlawful means to kill, then there must be lawful means to kill. These would include self-defense, capital punishment and just wars.

God provided six cities in the Promise Land as refuge cities. The Law provided for capital punishment (Exodus 21:14). However, if someone’s death was unintentional (accidental), the person who committed it could flee to one of the six cities and would be safe from his avenger (Numbers 36:19), at least until the matter could go to trial. If the murder was found to be accidental, the person could remain in the refuge city until the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the trial. If the person left the city prior to that time, the avenger would have the right to kill him (Numbers 35:24-28). The six cities of refuge were Kedesh, Shehem, Hebron, Bezer, Romath and Golan (Joshua 20:7, 8). They were located geographically so as to be accessible to those who needed to seek shelter (Joshua 20:3).

These cities are a type of Christ, in whom we, as sinners, find eternal refuge from the destroyer of our souls. We can flee to Him for refuge from sin (Hebrews 6:18). There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1).

Murder is only the end result of the sin of anger and hostility. Jesus said, But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosever shalls ay to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22). The word “raca” simply means “worthless,” while calling one a fool is an expression of the kind of anger that can lead to murder.

As Christians, we are to follow God’s Word by not allowing ourselves to come to the point where we might kill someone, but even more so, we are to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us and pray for those who spitefully use us or persecute us. Can you imagine what kind of world this would be if everyone responded this way?


George Stiekes held successful pastorates in churches in Michigan and Washington among other places. He currently resides in North Carolina and blogs at Reverent Reflections. We recommend his ministry and republish his material by permission.


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