You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13) sounds pretty straightforward. This verse is actually just one word in the Hebrew language: ratsach. The idea is a human killing another human in an animalistic way.
Think of a predatory animal like a lion. The lion attacks as an angry response when it is provoked. There is no thought about consequences or possible alternatives, but it simply lashes out in anger. A lion will also lie in wait to ambush its prey. Humans who kill in this animalistic way are regarded in the Bible as murderers (see Exodus 21:14; Numbers 35:20-21, and Deuteronomy 19:11, 13).
The legal definition of homicide today says it is “the killing of a human being by a sane person, with intent, malice aforethought (prior intention to kill the particular victim or anyone who gets in the way) and with no legal excuse or authority.”
God determines our day of conception (Psalm 139:16), the value and purpose of our life while we are alive (Ephesians 2:10), and the day of our death (Job 14:5). Taking any of these things out of God’s hand, and putting them into our own hands, not only constitutes murder but dishonors God.
Some things are obviously homicide: Abortion is murder, suicide is murder, euthanasia is murder. Because these things put man in the place of God, they are unlawful.
But think of this: Slander is also murder. According to rabbinical scholars, publicly humiliating someone is murder, because it is character assassination. Jewish law also forbids the sharing of true but harmful information about someone else. Both of these things devalue a human being’s God-given value and purpose. Jesus echoed these teachings in Matthew 5:21-22 and Matthew 15:19.
J.I. Packer wrote, “We all have in us capacities for fury, fear, envy, greed, conceit, callousness, and hate that, given the right provocation, could make killers out of us all. … When the fathomless wells of rage and hatred in the normal human heart are tapped, the results are fearful.”
Here’s a quick checklist to make sure we aren’t getting close to becoming murderers:
- Do I get too angry too quickly, and stay angry too long?
- Do I harbor unforgiveness against anyone?
- Have assassinated someone’s character?
- Am I “lying in wait” for anyone to catch them doing wrong?
To stay clear of these murderous ways: