One of the most common questions that someone serious about the Bible will ask has to do with one of the Ten Commandments; namely the sixth commandment that seem to prohibit the act of “killing”. Putting aside for a moment the question about taking the life of an animal, the case of homicide (taking the life of a human) seems to be closed. Upon further examination of the underlying Hebrew original, however, a different, more nuanced picture emerges. Please, allow me to explain.

Most English Bibles, especially the monumental KJV version, inaccurately (or rather not accurately enough) translate the sixth commandment simply as “Do Not Kill” (Exo. 20:13). But the Hebrew under the English translation justifies a much better alternative: “Do Not Murder”. To put this intense ethical matter into simple terms, every murder is killing, but not every killing is murder. (Murder is killing without a just cause.)

The Hebrew verb להרוג (to kill) can include unjustified homicide, but the Hebrew verb לרצח (to murder) is never used to describe a justified killing, such as killing in self-defense or court-ordered capital punishment. (This “justified killing” can also be translated by a different Hebrew verb להמית that is best translated as “to put to death”).

Keeping these insights in mind, the question then becomes simple. Which Hebrew verb is used in the Decalogue? The answer is לרצח – the verb that must be more accurately translated not with the broad meaning–“to kill”, but with a more particular definition–“to murder”.

So, does God forbid homicide? The answer is yes, but he does allow it under some exceptional conditions.

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86 COMMENTS

  1. I am puzzled why i read Jews, The chosen people of GOD do not believe in The Resurrected Christ. Can you enlighten me. Thanks. Praise GOD.
    • That is Correct. That is why the Tribulation is mainly for the Jews, they will then have seen that Jesus does exist and they will have the chance to be saved if they accepts Jesus as their savior. The Church (Christians) are the ones who will be raptured already.

      + More answers (8)
    • But dig a little deeper. Is capital punishment acceptable, or self defense? Is accidental manslaughter punishable by death? There is a difference between these and premeditated murder fueled by hate and malice.

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    • From my early childhood, I was taught that the sixth commandment was referring to the blatant killing of another human.
    • I understand that killing is murder when there is malice or hatred in the heart. So for examples: If a civil authority, a combat soldier, or a game hunter kills wantonly or maliciously murder should resonate in the conscience.
  2. The end results of mental anguish on the part of the one taking a life is still a reality. If it was justified or accidental.
  3. Until I studied the Bible using the New American Standard Bible, I saw the difference between general killing and murder. It has to be so, considering the fact that the Bible is replete with the wars of Israel in the Bible especially in the TANAKH ( The Old Testament ). It would make God look like a hypocrite if he commanded, "You shall not kill" and yet ordered Israel to kill in times of war. There are fundamentalist churches that prohibit their members from bearing arms in the military, adhering to the literal reading of the King James Version.
  4. Giving numbers to God's commandments looks for me as not the best idea. Is it fifth or sixth commandment could be discussed long time.
    But the main question of that lesson is to know that God not forbid us killing, what peple relaying on national translations of the Hebrew original usually not know. It is a greate job to explain and recollect it.
    But the greate question is to know in theory and in our life when killing is not murder. Where is the border?
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  5. Excellent definition Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, among the Hebrew verbs: להרוג (to kill) the verb לרצח (to murder), and the verb להמית , to end answering with לרצח.

    I do not know Hebrew, but I like to read this definitions from the experts.

    Thank you and may God bless.

    Rev. Alfonso M Suárez.
    Frankfort, Indiana. USA
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