Exodus 20: 12 & Deuteronomy 5: 17 You shall not kill
This blog is a bit more difficult for me to write. It is easy to write that Jesus never killed, or murdered anyone. Lifting the lid on what the commandment means is much more difficult.
Since it seems that mankind is allowed to kill to eat, the commandment perhaps should be read as it some versions translate… ‘you shall not commit murder’.
The Hebrew verb רצח (r-ṣ-ḥ, also transliterated retzach, ratzákh, ratsakh etc.) has a wider range of meanings, generally describing destructive activity, including meanings “to break, to dash to pieces” as well as “to slay, kill, murder”.
According to the Priestly Code of the Book of Numbers, killing anyone outside the context of war with a weapon, or in unarmed combat, is considered retzach, even if the killing is accidental. The Bible never uses the word retzach in conjunction with war.
The act of slaying itself, regardless of questions of bloodguilt, is expressed with the verb n-k-h “to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill”. This verb is used of both an Egyptian slaying an Israelite slave and of Moses slaying the Egyptian in retaliation in Exodus 2:11-12. The Covenant Code and Holiness Code both prescribe the death penalty for people that commit n-k-h.
Another verb meaning “to kill, slay, murder, destroy, ruin” is h-r-g, used of Cain slaying Abel in Genesis 4:8. When Cain is driven into exile, complaining that “every one that findeth me shall slay me” in Genesis 4:14, he uses the same verb.
The commandment against murder can be viewed as a legal issue governing human relationships, noting that the first five commandments relate strongly to man’s duty to God and that the latter five commandments describe duties toward humans. The commandment against murder can also be viewed as based in respect for God himself. Since man is made in God’s image, the shedding of innocent blood is viewed as a direct offense against the Creator.
This brings to mind the current ‘debate’ on gun control in the USA. At this point, I have to disqualify myself on the grounds of knowing I am writing to a largely American audience. It is a puzzle to me how Christians would use guns in self defence, but I do not understand the culture of the country. My husband and I have often wondered if, in some American minds, the 6th commandment is being overruled by the 2nd amendment. (Sorry, an ‘outsider looking in’ point of view.)
Growing up in the UK, people (other than criminals) were not armed. It is my recollection as a young person that not even policemen were armed. They had to obtain permission to ‘draw weapons’ for particular situations. When I moved to Australia I soon noticed that the police wore guns. It fascinated me. “Wow, the police are wearing guns”.
However, committing murder does not relate only to killing people with guns. Here in Australia there are many killings… stabbings, beatings, knifings, even attacking people with broken bottles and deliberately running people down.
This is a ‘huge’ subject, and even with my limited understanding, it would take several posts to ‘scratch the surface’ of such an issue. So I choose to focus on other ways of ‘killing’.
The power of the tongue
Proverbs 18: 31a Death and life are in the power of the tongue…
Proverbs 12a:18, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts…
Matthew 5:22a But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:
Gal 5.15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other
So the tongue is a weapon we often discount. A simple search for Bible verses about the tongue will show how many there are… and how important it is to keep this weapon sheathed… or holstered.
Many people are ‘destroyed’ by gossip.
How much gossip and verbal cruelty goes under the name of “constructive criticism”? It does not even need to be a direct “Did you hear about…” It can be a subtle, and dangerous, hint that can be ‘picked up’ and spread like the forest fire the Apostle James refers to in James 3:1
Would removing guns from the community stop people breaking the sixth commandment?
Murder starts in the mind and the heart. This is where prevention should be.
For myself, I will do what I can to control my life, my tongue and my deeds… with the help of God’s Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 2:1 – Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings