The Sixth Commandment – Ten Lessons Regarding God’s Prohibition Against Murder

“You Shall Not Murder.” (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17).

Love one another and pray for your enemies1

Introduction: The prohibition against murder is something that all societies agree to. It is part of God’s Law that is written on our hearts: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them . . .” (Ro. 2:14-15; same Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10, 16; 2 Cor. 3:3). The Bible, however, has much more to teach us about murder. God used murders to deliver His Laws to show that we all need mercy and grace and that God can forgive even the worst of our sins. Jesus expanded the definition of murder to include hatred, anger, and even name calling to show us that we all are guilty under the Law and in need of repentance. The Bible also teaches that not all killings are the same. Intentional and unintentional killings must be judged differently using standards of due process and proportionality for punishment. The Bible also teaches that some types of state-sponsored killings are permitted. These include capital punishment and certain deaths caused during wars or when a law enforcement official enforces the law. But the Bible also teaches that some kinds of killings might be ordered or allowed but still violate God’s law. These include the killings of noncombatants during war and abortion. Finally, the Bible teaches you to repent of your hatred and anger toward others. If others have shown anger and hatred toward you, forgive them so that God can forgive you. As you read this study, if the Holy Spirit reveals any sins in your life, repent of your sins and conform to God’s will for your life.

1. To Show Their Need For Mercy and Grace, God Used Murderers as His Greatest Prophets.

  • Moses’ murder of an Egyptian. Moses did not begin his life as a saint. Instead, he was a fugitive from the law after committing murder: “Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (Ex. 2:11-12). “On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’” (Acts 7:26-28). Why would God select someone who had murdered to give the law against murder?

  • Moses was the most humble man because he knew the price of his sins before God. The Bible says that Moses was the most humble man on the planet (Nu. 12:13). Moses had no reason to believe that God selected him because of his righteousness. He has had reason to be prideful. From the Law, he knew that the penalty for his sins was death.

  • David’s murder of Uriah. God said that David was “a man after My heart, who will do my will.” (Acts 13:22). God also used David to write many of the Psalms and to unite the Jews. Yet, David also was not a saint. While Davis sent his troops to battle the Ammonites he slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11:1-4). After she told David that she was pregnant, David first tried to deceive Uriah by sending him home from the war to stay with his wife (2 Sam. 11:5-8). When Uriah refused to stay with his wife while his troops were in battle, David then tried to deceive Uriah about the pregnancy by getting him drunk to entice him to go to his wife (2 Sam. 11:9-13). When that plan of deceit failed, David tried to cover up his adultery by writing a letter to his commander Joab to order that Uriah be sent to his death on the front lines of battle: “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” (2 Sam. 11: 14). The Bible records that the Messiah would come from the line of David: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” (Is. 9:7; 2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 132:17). Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by being a descendant of David (Matt. 1:1; Ro. 1:3). Why would God pick a murderer for the line of the Messiah? If God could use David, an adulterer and a murderer, is there any sin of yours that is too great for God to forgive? Is there any past sin that should hold you back from service?

  • Paul’s murder of multiple Christians. Paul also killed and imprisoned Christians: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons.” (Acts 22:4). “But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3). “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;” (Gal. 1:13). God selected him to write most of the New Testament because Paul would know he did not deserve this honor: “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (Col. 15:9). Paul also would not have fully understood universal sin and the need for God’s mercy and grace unless he knew how much he needed it himself (Ro. 3:20). If God could use Paul for His will, is there any reason why He cannot use you?

2. Any Time that You Have Had Anger in Your Heart, You Too Have Committed Murder.

  • Anger, hatred, and even name calling is murder in God’s eyes. Satan was the first to sow the seeds of murder and hatred within mankind (Ez. 28:14-16). According to Jesus, whoever murders or even hates another is under Satan’s influence and is guilty of murder in God’s eyes: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matt. 5:21-22). “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 Jo. 3:15). Have you ever been angry with someone? Have you ever hated someone? Have you ever called someone a fool, an idiot, or some other similar insult? Can you say before God that you have never violated His Commandment against murder?

  • If you have broken one Commandment, you have broken them all. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (Jam. 2:10). Even if you have never hated someone, but you have broken some other Commandment, are you in need of God’s mercy and grace from His punishment for murder (Ro. 3:20).

3. The Penalty for Murder is Death.

  • The punishment for intentional murder is capital punishment. Although some Christians believe that capital punishment is immoral, it is the punishment that God prescribed for intentional murder: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” (Gen 9:6). “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 21:12). “If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 24:17). “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death . . . .” (Nu. 35:30).

  • For the unsaved, the punishment for murder is also eternal death. As set forth above, Jesus expanded the types of actions that fall under this crime. He also expanded the punishment. All unsaved murderers and people filled with anger and hatred towards others: “shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matt. 5:22; 15:18-19; Gal. 5:21; 1 Jo. 3:15).

  • There is nothing that you can pay to God to forgive your murder. “Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” (Nu. 35:31). Besides accepting in faith what Jesus did for you at the cross, is there anything that you could offer God to pay for your murder, anger, or hatred towards others?

4. Unrepentant Hatred or Murder May Also “Hinder” Your Prayers.

  • God’s many warnings about the “hindered” prayers of sinners. For unrepentant sinners, God warns: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness.” (Is. 59:2-3). “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he does listen to anyone who worships him and does his will.” (Jo. 9:31; Prov. 15:29; 8:9; Ps. 66:18). If you are filled with unrepentant anger or hatred, your prayers will be “hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7).

  • A person who has wronged another in secret is cursed. When Cain murdered his brother Abel, God cursed the land that he tried to cultivate (Gen. 4:8-15). This same curse applies to anyone else who murders or harms a person in secret: ‘“Cursed is he who strikes his neighbor in secret’… ‘Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.’” (Dt. 27:24-25). If you have hurt another person in secret, you cannot expect that your sins will go unnoticed before God (Heb. 4:13; Jer. 16:17).

  • An unaddressed murder will also defile the land. Murder also defiles the land (Nu. 35:33-34; Ps. 106:38; Ho. 4:1-3). A defiled land can bring about famine, drought, disease, and economic decline. The western world cannot embrace violence and expect to be blessed.

5. God’s Law Requires that the Punishment Reflect the Mental State of the Killer.

Our modern laws distinguish between intentional and unintentional crimes. Meditate on the following verses, for who desires credit for the laws that we celebrate in the Western world.

  • Assault with a deadly weapon resulting in death is a capital crime. God commands: “But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. If he struck him down with a stone in the hand, by which he will die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he struck him with a wooden object in the hand, by which he might die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.” (Nu. 35:16-18).

  • Assault with hatred or while lying in wait resulting in death is also a capital crime. God also commands: “If he pushed him of hatred, or threw something at him lying in wait and as a result he died, or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and as a result he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer . . .” (Nu. 35:20-21).

  • A person who commits manslaughter (second degree murder) shall not be put to death. “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee.” (Ex. 21:12-13). A person was entitled to refuge confined to a city of refuge if he or she killed someone “if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or threw something at him without lying in wait, or with any deadly object of stone, and without seeing it dropped on him so that he died, while he was not his enemy nor seeking his injury . . .” (Nu. 35:22-23).

  • A person who kills in self-defense is not guilty under the law. God further commanded that: “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account.” (Ex. 22:2). Jesus commands that we turn cheek when we are injured by another (Matt. 5:39). God’s law, however, suggests that a person who kills while defending his property and presumably oneself has not committed a crime under God’s law. Thus, under some circumstances, Christians may have the right to bear guns to defend their homes and families. Where would you draw the line between Jesus’ words and the law of the Old Testament?

  • The criminally insane should be treated differently. Many people cringe at the insanity defense available in Western countries. Yet, God’s law distinguished between intentional and unintentional killings. If an insane person kills without the knowledge between right and wrong, it would not be proper under God’s law to execute such a person.

6. God’s Law Requires “Due Process” For Those Accused of Murder.

  • Capital punishment requires at least two witnesses. “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses, but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness.” (Nu. 35:30). “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.” (Dt. 17:6). The Catholic Church teaches that Capital punishment is morally wrong. Yet, this teaching is not consistent with the Bible. Many Protestant Churches endorse state laws requiring capital punishment when a murder is committed with “special circumstances,” but not with the testimony of two or more witnesses. This teaching also is not consistent with the Bible. Capital punishment is maligned because of innocent deaths based upon the faulty testimony of only one witness. Would these problems exist if governments used God’s standards of due process for capital crimes?

  • Capital punishment requires a trial by jury. In the Old Testament, a family or tribal member who tried to avenge the death of another family or tribal member was called a “blood avenger.” In cases involving death, God required that an impartial jury in a neutral “city of refuge” was to judge between the blood avenger and the accused: “[T]hen the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger according to these ordinances. The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled. . .” (Nu. 35:24-35). The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, like the Sixth Commandment, requires the right to an impartial jury for a criminal offense: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” People celebrate this as a great achievement of secular mankind. But where is true credit due?

7. Many of Those Who Implement Government Sanctioned Killings Have No Guilt.

  • A soldier or law enforcement officer is God’s appointed avenger. Vengeance belongs to God alone (Dt. 32:35; Ps. 94:1-2, 16, 23; Rom. 12:17, 19). Yet, God uses government officials to carry out His vengeance: “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” (Rom. 13:3-4; 1 Pet. 2:14). If a soldier is commanded to kill in time of war or if a police officer shoots to stop another killing, either person is God’s appointed “avenger.” Neither has committed murder. “ Joab . . . shed the blood of war in peace.” (1 Kings 2:5-6). When a group of soldiers asked Jesus what they needed to do to be righteous, Jesus said nothing about putting down their weapons. He instead told them to be content with their wages: “Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, ‘And what about us, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.’” (Lk. 3:14). Many veterans sadly carry guilt believing that they have murdered others in combat. The high rates of homelessness, drug abuse, and other problems amongst veterans indicate that this is a serious problem. Yet, if the Church properly taught God’s Law, they would not carry guilt.

  • A soldier must fight if his or her objections to a war are only political. God warns that: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Ro. 13:1-2). If a soldier does not agree with the politics behind a war after voluntarily enlisting in the armed forces, the soldier must still be obedient.

  • The killing of noncombatants is not allowed, even when state sponsored. In the Old Testament, God ordered the Jews to clear the Promised Land of the ungodly, including women and children: “When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Gir'gashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites . . . then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them.” (Dt. 7:1-2; 7:16; 20:17; Nu. 31:7-8; Josh. 11:10-14). These commandments, however, were special commandments that only applied to the clearing of the land of Israel. Their only application today applies in the spiritual context of rooting out sin. The laws previously quoted for intentional and unintentional crimes, normally prohibited the killing of non-combatants like children because they were innocent of any crime: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people . . .” (Lev. 19:18). During the holocaust, Hitler killed 6 million Jews, including 1 million children. The Germans should have refused to follow human law when Hitler’s law broke God’s law: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). Thus, there is a limit to when a soldier must obey the commands of a government. A soldier cannot object to the politics of a war. Yet, a soldier must object to the intentional killing of non-combatants, like women and children.

8. Sacrificing Children for the Promise of a Better Life Is Not Sanctioned Under God’s Law.

  • The prohibition against killing children. God makes each child within the womb (Ps. 139:13). Thus, child sacrifices to the gods of that time (i.e., Molech) were expressly prohibited: “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 18:21). ‘“I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name.”’ (Lev. 20:3-4). Today, the god of our world is ourselves (Is. 47:8-10). Would sacrificing an unborn child to meet our own selfish desires be any less of an abomination in God’s eyes?

  • A society that fails to stop child sacrifices will also be cursed. God warns: ‘“If the people of the land, however, should ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death, then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech.”’ (Lev. 20:5). He also warns that He punished the people of Canaan for their immoral practices (Lev. 18:24-29). Their curse dated back to the curse against Noah’s son Ham (Gen. 9:24-25). He also warned the Jews that He would curse the land if they sacrificed their children: “And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood.” (Ps. 106:38). God does not desire that any nation or any person perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He spared the people of Nineveh after they repented (Jonah 3:10). Yet, not wanting to punish an unrepentant nation doesn’t mean that God won’t eventually do so. God repeatedly judged Israel when it failed to follow His rules. Since 1973, Americans have aborted more than 50 million babies. Should we think our nation is exempt from God’s discipline if He repeatedly disciplined the Jews?

9. Repent of Your Sins of Hatred, Anger, or Murder.

  • Give thanks that Jesus Has Paid the Price for Your Sins. Without the shedding of blood, sins cannot be forgiven: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11). The blood also had to be from an animal “without defect.” (Lev. 1:3, 10; 3:1; 22:20; Ex. 12:5; Dt. 15:21; 17:1). Christ offered a one-time blood sacrifice for all our sins. “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” (Rev. 1:5). If God was willing to accept the sacrifice of animals on our behalf, we have no reason to doubt Christ’s ability to atone for even the worst sinners, including murders: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). Is there any guilt remaining from any confessed sin in your life that is holding you back from service? If so that guilt is from the devil and not from God (1 Jo. 1:9).

  • Renew your mind and release any anger or hatred in your life. God is not just the God of the Spirit, He is also “the God of the flesh.” (Jer. 32:27; John 17:2). He made us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). He can also wash our flesh of any iniquity (Ps. 51:1-3, 7). We must first read the Word to know our sins (Eph. 5:26). If we confess and repent of “unrighteousness,” God is faithful to forgive us (1 Jo. 1:9; Jo. 15:3; 1 Cor. 6:11). We must then renew our minds every day to release any anger or hatred that may form in our lives (Rom. 12:1-2). Does anger easily boil up in your life? If so, ask God in prayer to remove this from your life.

  • Reconcile with any aggrieved brother or sister before you go to God in prayer. If you have hatred toward someone else, Jesus says that you must first make restitution with the person you have wronged before you go to God. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24). Is there anyone you have shown hatred or anger toward that you have not apologized to?

10. Forgive Those Who Have Hated or Murmured Against You or Killed a Loved One.

  • Forgiveness allows you to be forgiven. If someone sins against you, Jesus says that you must forgive that person “up to seventy times seven” times (Matt. 18:22). If a believer does not forgive another believer, God will not forgive the believer: ‘“I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he could repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:32-35). Have you refused to forgive someone who hurt you?

  • Pray for those who persecute you. What must we do if another person is angry with us and will not accept our apologies or efforts to resolve the situation? We must pray for them: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:43-44).

Show God’s love to those who hate you2