Thursday, May 2, 2019

Wrongful Killing

"You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13).

The New International Version and other modern translations render Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.” In Hebrew, however, it is not the verb for murder that is used, but a verb which means kill, and that can refer to other kinds of manslaughter as well as premeditated murder. Thus, we find in the law that accidental manslaughter carried a kind of penalty with it (Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 19). Moreover, the law required that men be careful not to cause human death through negligence (Exodus 21:22–23; 28–30; Deuteronomy 22:8). Therefore, a more literal translation of Exodus 20:13 is appropriate: “You shall not kill.”

Does that mean it is always wrong to kill? No. We are forbidden to take upon ourselves the right to kill other people and we are commanded to take care with our property so that we do not cause other people to die. God, however, has the right to kill and has delegated that right to human beings in certain circumstances. The same God who said to Israel, “You shall not kill,” also ordered them to kill all the Canaanites in His name (Exodus 23:23; Deuteronomy 20:16–17). God also said that His people have the right to kill in self-defense (Exodus 22:2), which implies that defensive warfare is legitimate.

God commands capital punishment for murder. He commanded it originally as part of the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9:5–6), reiterated it strongly at Mount Sinai (Exodus 21:12), and nowhere repealed it in the New Testament (indeed, see Romans 12:17–13:5). God makes it clear that it is a sin to spare the life of a murderer (Numbers 35:31).

In an age of sentimental secular humanism which has deeply infected the Church, it is important for Christians to understand that it is just as much a sin to spare a murderer as it is to be a murderer yourself. God has spoken and we are to obey Him whether we like it or not, and whether His ways are approved by the mass media or not. Since God has spoken, it does not matter whether capital punishment deters crime or not. In fact, the Bible says that the death penalty is very much a deterrent (Deuteronomy 13:11; 17:13; 21:21). As far as Biblical religion is concerned, capital punishment for premeditated murder is not open for discussion.

The burden of today's lesson is that it is God alone who can say who shall live and who shall die. Are you ready to bow the knee, intellectually, to that statement? If today’s lesson makes you uncomfortable, look up Proverbs 14:12 and reflect on it.