Commandment #5: Don’t Murder

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 12, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)

This commandment seems pretty straight-forward, right? Don’t kill anyone, and you’ve got this. But is that really all there is to it?

My guess is that the people of Israel thought this commandment was relatively simple to follow, which is why Jesus expounded upon it during His “Sermon on the Mount,” specifically in Matthew 5:21-26. That passage starts out with Jesus saying, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (verses 21-22).

The Hebrew word used here for “murder” is pronounced like ratsah, which sounds very similar to the word raca that Jesus used in that passage in Matthew. Raca is an Aramaic word of contempt or insult. Hebrew and Aramaic are closely-related languages, and these two words are strikingly similar. This Hebrew ratsah has the idea of killing with intention. It’s not an accident that just happened, but the person means to commit this act of murder. Being commanded not to murder is to not have the intention of murdering or harming someone, even with just an insulting word. Hatred of another person can easily lead to wanting to do something about that hatred, which this commandment specifically forbids.

Being told to “not murder” is equivalent to being told to “not be angry” either. While I would guess that the majority of people reading this blog post have not actually killed another human being, how many of us could say that we’ve never been angry with someone else? Now, this commandment is a lot easier to break.

The Bible is clear that we are not to be angry with others in many places besides this commandment. To learn more on what the Bible says about anger, check out this post.

This commandment is brought up multiple other times in Scripture. Jesus quotes it when speaking with the rich young ruler as recorded in Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-25. The Apostle Paul quotes it when discussing how love fulfills the law in Romans 13:8-10. James also writes about this commandment in James 2:8-11 when he talks about what it takes to be a lawbreaker. In addition, John writes, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:15), showing that any hatred is equal to murder.

Luther’s Small Catechism gives the meaning of this commandment as, “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.” That takes it one step further: don’t just not kill your neighbor and don’t physically hurt your neighbor, but do support your neighbor in their physical needs. There will always be people who can use our help with their physical needs; read more about what the Bible says about caring for the poor among us here and here.

Just as with the other commandments, we should desire to keep this one because of our love for God. Murdering another person shows that we don’t value their life; God values all lives because He created every person in His image. If we love God, we will value what He values: life. Being angry or hateful toward another person is another way of devaluing their life, which is why this commandment extends into that meaning as well. If we truly love God, we will show Him our love by loving others, both with our actions and our intentions.

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