What Does Thou Shall Not Kill Mean?

Ask a Question!   -   Newsletter
Question: What does "thou shall not kill" mean in the Ten Commandments?

Answer: The commandment "thou shalt not kill" (found in the KJV Bible translation of Exodus 20:13), also listed as "thou shall not kill" is better understood in the New King James Version Bible.

You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13, NKJV throughout).

Most modern translations of the Bible render Exodus 20:13 like the New King James Bible.

To kill someone is not the same as murdering them according to the Bible. Murder is the unlawful taking of a human life. The command not to murder applies to human beings and not to animals. God gave animals to mankind for his use (Genesis 1:26 - 30, 9:1 - 4). This does not mean, however, that humans have the right to mistreat animals and the environment (Genesis 2:15, Deuteronomy 22:6 - 7, 25:4, Proverbs 12:10).

Ancient Israelites, under the Old Covenant, were allowed to kill other humans under very special circumstances such as punishment for certain sins, for example, murder (Exodus 21:12 - 14, Leviticus 24:17, 21) and adultery (Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22 - 24). God also allowed the Israelites to engage in warfare and even gave them instructions about waging war (Deuteronomy 20:1 - 20). He also recognized that humans might accidentally kill each other, and he made provisions for this (Numbers 35:9 - 34, Deuteronomy 19:1 - 13).

God hates murder

The primary reason God hates murder is that out of all creation, only human are made in his image and likeness (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 (Romans 1:18, 29 - 32, 13:8 - 10, Galatians 5:19 - 21), James (James 2:8 - 11, 4:1 - 3), Peter (1 Peter 4:15 - 16) and John (Revelation 9:20 - 21, 21:7 - 8, 22:14 - 15) that murder is wrong.

In Matthew 5:21 - 26 Jesus amplified the meaning of the sixth commandment "thou shall not kill." He revealed that to commit murder is more than killing someone, it means having an angry and unforgiving attitude towards them (Matthew 5:21 - 26).

The apostle John elaborates on this by writing that to hate someone is the same as murdering them. He states, "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1John 3:15, NKJV).


Where does it take root?

Murder, like all sin, has its beginnings 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). God wants us to replace hate with loving even our enemies (Matthew 5:43 - 48). Instead of pursuing revenge, we ought to seek ways to help them (Romans 12:17 - 21).

Another change took place under the New Covenant that altered the meaning of 'thou shalt not kill.' Christians, unlike ancient Israel, are not allowed to execute sinners. They are not to indulge in carnal warfare but rather fight spiritual battles (John 18:36, 2 Corinthians 10:1 - 6, Ephesians 6:10 - 18, 1Timothy 1:18 - 20, 6:11 - 14, 2 Timothy 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), treating their enemies with love (Luke 6:27 - 36) and not seeking revenge (Romans 12:17 - 21, 1Peter 3:8 - 12).

Hatred, which is the same as murder (1John 3:15), is unforgiving, vengeful and hostile towards one's enemies. The more we walk with God and do his will, the more we will fulfill "Thou Shall not Kill."

Recommended Articles
Why Did God Want to Kill Moses?
Can We Kill in Self-Defense?
Who has God Personally Killed?
Where Are Old Testament People Buried?
Is It Wrong to Eat Meat?
What Is the Unpardonable Sin?
Mass Murder in the Bible!
Why Was Someone Killed for Touching the Ark?

© Bible Study