What does THOU SHALT NOT KILL mean?
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Question: What does "thou shalt not kill" MEAN in the Ten Commandments?
Answer: The commandment in question is restated in Deuteronomy 5:17, which also states (in the King James Version Bible) - "Thou shalt not kill." The meaning of this verse becomes a little clearer when we read other Bible translations, which have instead "You shall not murder." Jesus, in his well-known message called the Sermon on the Mount, repeated the commandment when he taught: "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying . . . Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: '" (Matthew 5:1-2, 21)
Murder is the unlawful taking of a human life. According to the Bible not all killing is murder. God allowed the Israelites, under the Old Covenant, to kill other humans under very special circumstances (Numbers 35:16-19). The command forbidding murder applies to human beings only. Although God gave animals to us for our use (Genesis 1:26-30; 9:1-4) we should not mistreat them or take for granted the environment (Genesis 2:15; Deuteronomy 22:6-7; 25:4; Proverbs 12:10). God also allowed the Israelites to engage in warfare and even gave them instructions about waging war (Deuteronomy 20:1-20). God also recognized that humans might accidentally kill other humans and therefore made provisions for this (Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 19:1-13).
The primary reason God hates murder is that out of all creation, only human are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:4-6). Even before the codification of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai the murder of other human beings was wrong (Genesis 4:8-12; 4:23-24; 9:4-6; Exodus 1:16-17). While on earth, Jesus spoke out against murder (Matthew 5:21-26; Mark 10:17-19). We also see in the writings of Paul the same teaching:
"Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," . . . and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." " (Romans 13:8-9, see also Romans 1:18, 29-32; Galatians 5:19-21)
In Matthew 5:21-26 previously referenced, Jesus amplified and taught the full meaning of the sixth commandment. He brought out that to commit murder means more than breaking the commandment "thou shalt not kill" - it means having an angry and unforgiving attitude towards them:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment . . .
"Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny." (Matthew 5:21-26)
The apostle John elaborates on this by writing that to hate someone is the same as murdering him or her: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1John 3:15). Murder, like all sin, begins in the human mind (Matthew 15:18-19; Mark 7:20-23). It starts as a thought, in this case hatred, which leads to the action of murder (James 1:13-15; 4:1-3). The opposite of hating someone is to love them and not seeking revenge, but looking for ways to help them (Romans 12:17-21).
As we have seen, under the Old Covenant God allowed humans to kill their fellow man under certain circumstances. However, what about today, and those who are now under the New Covenant, should we participate in the execution of a murder or an adulterer? Should Christians involve themselves in warfare? They should not participate in such activities because the New Covenant is a covenant of life rather than death (2Corinthians 3:4-11). Under the New Covenant, Christians do not execute people for sinning. The most drastic steps anyone can take against an unrepentant Christian are withholding brotherly fellowship from him until he repents (1Corinthians 5:9-13; 2Thessalonians 3:14-15); and delivering or handing him over to Satan for spiritual correction (1Corinthians 5:1-5; 1Timothy 1:18-20). It is unclear from the scriptures exactly what it means to turn someone over to Satan.
Under the New Covenant a change occurred. Christians are not to execute sinners. Although they should not wage carnal war they should engage in spiritual warfare (John 18:36; 2Corinthians 10:1-6; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1Timothy 1:18-20; 6:11-14; 2Timothy 2:3-5; 4:6-8). Christians must be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9, Romans 14:19), forgiving those who do them harm (Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 3:12-14; Matthew 6:9-15; Mark 11:25-26) and treating their enemies with love (Luke 6:27-36). Hatred which is the same as murder (1John 3:15), is unforgiving, vengeful and hostile towards one's enemies. I hope this brief answer helps you understanding of the Bible.
Written by: Calvin Lashway