The Sixth Commandment
Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.”
It was mentioned in the third Commandment regarding the negative aspect of the commandments that each one of the negative laws have a positive aspect to it. For example, this sixth Commandment not only prohibits murder, but it also affirms the sanctity of human life.
The Old Testament reveals to us that life is so valuable to God that He declares that if a life is taken then a life is required. Numbers 35:30 “Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.”
In Deuteronomy 32:39 God declares: “I kill, and I make alive.”
From this it would seem that the divine institutions that God has given us – family, church and state – should strive to “make alive” in our particular areas. For the church, this would be to bring the Word of Life to our neighbors, widows, orphans, the poor, the sojourners as well as aliens in our midst. For the state or civil governments this command should not only put to death evil men with no regard to human life, but to also work to help restore a fallen world by providing an environment for the kingdom of God to advance.
Some people, even Christians, oppose the death penalty. However, in one sense this opposition is contrary to the nature of Christ’s message. Stephen McDowell brings out: “The death penalty was set forth by Christ’s atoning death, which makes clear that the penalty for man’s treason to God and departure from God’s law is death without remission.” Paul tells us in Romans that the “wages of sin is death.”
This indicates that if we believe in the atoning death of Christ, we also accept capital punishment as a means of executing God’s justice here on earth. In other words, if the law of God does not require death, then Christ died needlessly.
When we think of this commandment, “You shall not murder,” we also need to see that God forbids all the many sins that lead to murder. For example:
- Anger: Genesis 49:6 says, “for they had killed men in their anger.”
- Envy: We see how Satan envied our first parents and could not rest until he brought about their death. We see that Joseph’s brothers envied him and they also took counsel on how they might slay him. The first murder that took place was because Cain envied Abel.
- Hatred: We see how the Pharisees hated Christ because He had more favor and honor among the people than they had and they were not satisfied until He was dead by crucifixion. “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” was their cry.
- We see how Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai would not bow to Haman, and how Haman was not satisfied until he got a warrant to bring about Mordecai’s death (murder).
The Scripture seems to indicate that there are different ways to murder. We could murder with our “mind.” 1 John 3:15 says, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer.” We can murder with our tongue. We see this with the Pharisees as they falsely accused Jesus before Pilate. We can murder with the pen (or our computer with writing) as we see with David when he wrote to Joab to put Uriah in the fiercest part of the battle so that Uriah would hopefully die, and getting his secret desire fulfilled so that David wasn’t the one actually killing Uriah. David was the true murderer here. 2 Samuel 12:9 states, “You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” We can murder by plotting the death of someone although never laying a hand upon the person as we see with Jezebel plotting the death of Naboth in order to get his vineyard.
Although it is sinful for a private person to shed someone’s blood, unless it is for self-defense, at the same time is also a sin for the state to NOT shed blood when it is required under God’s law. It is not murder for the state to put to death a person who murders another person; it is true justice and protection of civilization.