Thou Shalt Not Kill

Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13 & Deuteronomy 5:17. Referenced again in the New Testament, in Matthew 5:21, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:21, Romans 13:9 and James 2:11.

As one of the ten commandments, handed down from God via Moses on Mount Sinai, this one has rang in our ears for centuries. But a common question that has confused readers of the bible, is a seeming call by God for men to kill in certain cases.

For instance, those who touch the altar of God, according to Exodus 19:13, shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live. Or, in Leviticus 24:13, a man who blasphemed and cursed God should be brought in and “let all the congregation stone him.

So let’s examine some of the theories behind what may first seem like a contradiction, and dispel some of the myths.

Some might argue that “to kill a killer” is a good thing, that it helps to maintain the general order of peace. So when God ordained that humans should be at the hand of murder (like in Exodus 21:12, He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.) it could be argued that was to “preserve the peace”, so to speak, and eliminate those poisonous elements from society. The same could be said for the following passages in Exodus, 21:15-17, And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

But translated in today’s world, that could just be a license to find fault and to kill, which doesn’t seem to be the aligned with the original message.

Others might argue that orders from God to kill are taken out of context, which is also not the case. There are clearly many places in the bible – like in the above passages – where God orders his followers at the time to kill, whether by stone or by fire.

And others may say that God gave life, and therefore he has the right to take it back. And we shouldn’t question what he does or doesn’t do. That he can take the life of a sinner, but he can also exercise great and longsuffering to give opportunity for repentance and salvation. But despite the beauty of this argument, that the words of the bible indicate that people can and should take killing in to their own hands, we should consider these words carefully.

Others would also argue that times were different then. That those children of God were a nomadic people, living under harsh conditions, and that there were special circumstances for those rules. Things weren’t always as civilized as they are now, so these words from so many centuries ago may ring harsh by today’s standards.

What do you believe? It is good to ask these questions.

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