THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT –
THOU SHALT NOT KILL – Exodus 20


Thou shalt not kill.

Exodus 20:13 ASV

Of supreme importance in understanding this is the distinction between the word here rendered “kill,” and another Hebrew word in numerous passages rendered, “Thou shalt surely slay him,” or “He shall surely be put to death.”

In those places the word is [HARAG]. Deuteronomy 13:9 is an example. “Thou shalt surely [HARAG] him.” Now the word here is [RATSACH], which means murder.

In those other places, it is [HARAG] which means “to slay” or “to put to death.”

For that reason, this can be rendered: “Thou shalt do no murder.”

It is a false understanding of God’s Word, therefore, to quote this commandment as a prohibition of capital punishment.

This commandment, of course, is honored more by its breach than by its observance.

Sometimes the honor has taken a negative form, as when men covered the faces of the dead when troops moved forward over battlefields.

It has taken the form of monuments and tombs of unknown soldiers, perpetual lights on battlefields, and arches of triumph.

This commandment haunts humanity to this very hour!

Regarding capital punishment, it is the law of God that murderers shall be put to death by society (Genesis 9:6), and that is not an option – it is a Divine order.

The violation of it by self-styled liberal societies has already drowned the world in blood and may yet deliver the whole earth into the hands of ruthless murderers.

The first poem ever written was by Lamech bragging about his murders (Genesis 4:23-24), thus murder is as old as history and as new as today’s headlines around the world, and especially in many United States cities.

Satan was credited by the Lord Jesus Christ with having invented the lie, and since that evil being was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, it is perhaps safe to conclude that he also invented murder (John 8:44).

The biggest problem related to this commandment is that of war.

Is it forbidden that Christians participate in war?

The related problem of whether a Christian may be a policeman must also be confronted.

And, since war itself can be, and frequently is, an expanded police action, we shall look at the police angle of it first.

Here, there is a clear word from an apostle. Paul denominated the policeman as “a minister of God unto thee for good,” giving full approval of the office and its lethal sword. “He beareth not the sword in vain” (Romans 13:1-7). See our blog post regarding our Police.

But did not Christ tell Peter to throw his sword away?

No, Jesus commanded him to, “Put up thy sword into its place” (Matthew 26:52), indicating that the sword certainly had a place approved by Christ himself.

There are, in fact TWO swords in that passage:

(1) the sword of authority, which it was unlawful to resist

(2) the sword of self-defense carried by Peter

Christ himself used physical force when he plaited a whip of cords and drove the money-changers out of the temple (John 2:13-15).

There are times when nothing but force avails. Can it be supposed for a moment that the band of thieves and robbers whom Jesus expelled from the temple would have accepted a mere invitation to “Get out!”

If our society were to forego the use of force entirely, it would quickly deliver the whole world into the hands of lawless murderers.

Sir Stanley Baldwin, the great conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain summed it up thus:

“Civilization itself is but the ice formed in process of ages on the turbulent stream of unbridled human passions; and, while this ice seemed to our fathers secure and permanent, it has rotted and cracked during the agony of the great war (1914-1918), and in places the submerged torrent has broken through leaving fragments in constant collision, threatening by their attrition to diminish and ultimately disappear.”

Although written to describe the condition of the world after World War I, Baldwin’s analysis is just as true now. Force, and only force is effective in some situations.

Christ virtually admitted this when he declared that, “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (John 18:36).

This is usually countered by the allegation that Christians belong to only one kingdom, that of Christ, but this is refuted by the fact that Paul belonged to two kingdoms and profited by the employment of armed forces again and again to protect him from the Jews.

Some eight centurions are mentioned in the N.T., and without exception, every single one of them appears in a most favorable light.

And not once did either John the Baptist or Jesus Christ or any apostle ever suggest that they give up service in the Roman army!

The conclusion must be that Christians may indeed serve in the armed forces.

But if this results in the necessity of killing, what then?

Under the Old Testament, killing in war was not viewed as murder, as witnessed by the case of Abner who was granted asylum in one of the cities of refuge, Hebron, following his killing of Asahel (2 Samuel 3:17-27).

However, the righteousness of killing “in some wars” is not a license to engage in all wars.

The Christian is required by the very nature of his responsibility to reserve judgment on the status of any war, as whether justifiable or not, and act accordingly.

At the present time, the forces of godless atheistic Communism are moving under the avowed purpose of enslaving all humanity.

Today’s headlines are proof of this!

Shall this be resisted by war?

How else?

Sometimes, the alternative is worse than war. The cliche that “wars never decide anything” is untrue.

The battle of Tours, 732 A.D. certainly decided that Western Civilization would not be taken over by Muslim extremists.

However, we know from 9/11 and other terrorist events, this issue will definitely continue until time itself ends.

The question is indeed difficult, and dogmatic answers may not be given, But the children of God should “have their senses exercised to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

Is there any possibility of relieving the world of the scourge of war?

The answer is NO.

This is true because Christ said, “There shall be wars and rumors of war, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 25:5,6).

Christ added, “Be not troubled, for these things must come to pass” (Matthew 25:6).

The only way to eliminate war would be to eradicate the causes of it from human hearts. “From whence come wars and fightings among you?

Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members”? (James 4:1, KJV).

Murder and war, therefore, are present in the individual, and in every individual whose heart is filled with lust, pride, greed or inordinate ambition and desire. In whatever instance a human soul wins victory over these basic sins, there is a beginning of a solution of the problems of war and murder.

There can never be a better world until it is filled with better people, and that world can never be until people accept and serve their one true Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot either see or hear or walk; nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their immorality or their thefts.
Revelation 9:20‭-‬21 RSV

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