Exodus 20:13 (ESV)
13 “You shall not murder.
1. What the Sixth Commandment Forbids
The sixth commandment in the original Hebrew is only two words…Lo Ratzach or Don’t Kill. So, don’t kill, in English is somewhat confusing. Does the commandment forbid the death penalty? War? Hunting? Eating meat?
If you were to read this verse in the King James Version, you would find that it says, “Thou shalt not kill.” And so, many people – taking their cue from the broad meaning of the word “kill” – believe that this is a prohibition against killing of any kind. On the basis of that translation, they oppose all forms of war, or oppose capital punishment, or even of taking a life in self-defense. Some take it to even prohibit the killing of animals for sport, or clothing, or for food. Based on the translation “kill”, this verse would seem to prohibit the killing of not only any human being, but also of any other living thing.
Now, if that’s the case, then the Bible obviously contradicts itself; because there are many cases in which it presents God as commanding actions that involve “killing”. Just before the people of Israel entered the promised land, for example, God commanded that the Israelites go to war against the people groups of that land. He said,
Deuteronomy 20:16–18 (ESV)
16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.
What the sixth commandment has in mind by using Ratzach is unlawful killing is forbidden. The ESV uses murder and that is pretty close to the original meaning.
A summary of the Sixth Commandment…
It is forbidden to take an innocent life. This applies to murder in cold blood, manslaughter, negligent homicide and also taking the life of the unborn, abortion.
2. What the Sixth Commandment Allows
We must also realize that there are times when killing is lawful and warranted.
The Bible teaches that it is not unlawful to kill the enemy in a wartime setting. It is not unlawful to carry out the death penalty when warranted. Both of these cases would be the state killing…
Romans 13:1–4 (ESV)
13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
It is not unlawful for us to defend ourselves even if in doing so we kill the aggressor. Some may carry a firearm for self-defense. This is perfectly legal and biblical. No one wants to have to use a firearm in self defense but if forced to it is not unlawful. Self-defense is biblical.
Human life is precious and this is why killing is sometimes warranted. The reasoning behind capital punishment is to kill the murderer so he/she could not murder any more people. The reason it is warranted if necessary to kill in self-defense is so the aggressor does not kill you.
Genesis 9:6 (ESV)
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
One issue we should understand is that the Bible does not teach rehabilitation. For example, when someone commits murder and the judicial system incarcerates the murderer for only a few years and then releases the murderer back into society what is the danger? He murders someone else.
Another far greater danger is the rest of society begins to sense that there are no real penalties and consequences for serious crimes. There is no fear of punishment. However, when a murderer is convicted in a court of law and capitol punishment carried out swiftly all of society benefits.
Deuteronomy 21:18–21 (ESV)
18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
This is one great plague within modern day America. There is no fear of God nor fear of punishment. There is no accountability.
3. The Sixth Commandment Preserves the Sanctity of Human Life
The Bible teaches us of the uniqueness of mankind above all other created things when it says,
Genesis 1:26–28 (ESV)
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The Bible tells us that humankind is the last of God’s creative works. And it also teaches us that humankind is the most unique of all His creative works; because no other living thing was given the dignity that God gave man. Human beings are unique, in that they alone – out of all the rest of creation – were made in the image of God.
The Meaning of “Image of God”. Out of all the creatures God made, only one creature, man, is said to be made “in the image of God.” What does that mean? We may use the following definition: The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.
When God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26), the meaning is that God plans to make a creature similar to himself. Both the Hebrew word for “image” (צֶלֶם, H7512) and the Hebrew word for “likeness” (דְּמוּת, H1952) refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents or is an “image” of. The word image can also be used of something that represents something else.
The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God in the following ways: intellectual ability, moral purity, spiritual nature, dominion over the earth, creativity, ability to make ethical choices, and immortality
No other created being is destined to share in the glory that the Father gave the Son. No other created being is so loved by the Father as to be loved with the same love as that with which He loves the Son. No other created being is given the privilege of being with the Son in such a way as to forever behold His glory. No other created being is invited to enter into so deep an intimacy with the Godhead as to have the Son in them, with the Father in the Son, and thus made perfect in one for all eternity.
No other created thing shares such an intimate relationship with God the Creator! Not even the angels in heaven have been given such honor and dignity! And I believe all these things must be considered a part of what it means to be made “in the image of God”. Mankind’s role on this earth as God’s “image-bearer” speaks of each individual human being’s incomparable dignity above all other created things – a dignity that finds its expression in man’s nature, his authority, his immeasurable value, and his eternal destiny. What a marvelous work humankind is!! And how much God loves what He has so marvelously made!!
John 17:20–26 (ESV)
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
4. The True Meaning of the Sixth Commandment
Matthew 5:21–26 (ESV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus begins by telling those present that day about their ancient forefathers who had received the original commandment from Moses and who began teaching it way too narrowly. For them, the idea was to not murder anyone because if you did there would be judgment. The Mosaic Law also had the prescribed judgment required for murder. The person who murdered someone had to appear before the court and a judge.
The issue here is that the commandment had been interpreted so as to simply include the act of murder. So, as long as you didn’t murder anyone then they were taught that they were righteous in that regard. Murder, however, is the act but doesn’t include the heart of the person. So, a person may not be an actual murderer but still be very far from God.
Jesus is out to expose the inner workings of murder. He’s out to expose the darkness of the human heart. There is darkness within the heart toward someone else before the actual murder takes place.
The one restraint society has to curb the number of murders is the consequences of committing that act. There are some murders that do not take place because the potential perpetrator does not want to be arrested, go to court, go to prison, and perhaps in some states be put to death. The fear of consequences is a hindrance to murder.
Jesus tells us that there are far more serious consequences for the things that take place prior to murder or even if a murder doesn’t take place these heart issues that are seen by God also have very serious consequences. God judges us not because of the acts we commit but the heart issues we carry along with us.
What does Jesus tell us here? There is a judgment from God for being angry with someone. You may not kill them but simply being angry with them will bring God’s judgment.
Jesus goes on and tells us that not only is anger wrong and brings one under God’s judgment but so does insults, slander and contempt. Anger shows itself in these ways. Shouting out at someone, you idiot, you’re so stupid, you fool are all in mind. These are ways we lash out against someone in anger.
You might say, at this point, well I don’t lash out like that and call people names so I’m not guilty of the type of anger Jesus is speaking about. That’s how fallen sinners think. If you have ever been angry with someone and kept it entirely hidden from everyone, God still knows and left unchecked you will be under God’s hand of judgment.
What’s the answer to Anger and to the Sixth Commandment?
The Biblical Answer to Anger is Reconciliation
We cannot substitute ceremony for reconciliation
Make things right before judgment is handed out
Exodus by Philip Ryken
Matthew 5:21-27 Brian Evans