What is the difference between killing and murder? 

Author: BibleAsk Team

The Difference Between Killing and Murder 

Killing and murder are two different things. Murder is “the premeditated, unlawful taking of a life,” whereas killing is, more generally, “the taking of a life.” The misconception that “killing” and “murder” are synonymous is partially based on the King James mistranslation of the sixth commandment, which reads, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).  However, the word kill is a translation of the Hebrew word ratsach, which nearly always refers to intentional killing without cause.

The correct meaning of this word is “murder,” and New King James Version renders the command as “You shall not murder.” The Bible in Basic English should say: “Do not put anyone to death without cause.” Also, the same Law that forbids murder permits killing in self-defense. “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed” (Exodus 22:2). 

The Right of Life 

Any true understanding of our relation to our neighbor points that we must respect and honor his life, for all life is sacred.  The Lord says, “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning… from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:5, 6). 

The commandment, “you shall not murder,” also implies that every kind of shortening or taking of life is forbidden. Man cannot give life and has therefore no right to take it, unless asked to do so by God for administering divine justice as a punishment for a crime. No one can escape God’s punishment, not even the man who lays hand on himself. At the resurrection every individual will have to appear before the judgment seat of God to receive his reward or punishment for his actions (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). 

In the Old Testament, the Lord ordained that there should be levitical cities of refuge to protect those that committed accidental murder (Numbers 35: 6-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; 19:1-13; Josh. 20:2-9). These cities protected the slayer from the blood revenge of the dead person’s kinsman.

Greater Meaning of the Sixth Commandment

Not only does this commandment forbid violence to the body, but what is of far greater consequence, harm to the soul. We break this commandment when we hurt others by our words and actions, and lead them away from God that they lose their salvation. Those who defile the innocent and corrupt the godly “kill” in a greater sense than the murder because they do more than the killing of the body. Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). 

Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, [g]‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:21,22).

Love should control anger and hate. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14-15).  

According to the Talmud (Ḳiddushin 28a, Soncino ed., p. 133) a person who became guilty of slandering another by using the epithet “slave” was to be excommunicated from the synagogue for 30 days, and a person who called another “bastard” was to receive 40 lashes. In the case of a person who called fellow man “wicked,” the one offended could “strive against,” or “touch” his life (by depriving him of subsistence, etc.).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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