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May 15, 2011


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Thank you. I agree with your understanding of "do not kill" as "murder." But I think this leads us to the question of a just war--in other words, if killing is allowed in matters of justice, how do we know if going to war with a particular country really is a matter of justice or some other reason? I suppose that's another post...

for me the biggest issue is that God's people are in every country. how can i kill our own people? also how can i shoot at people who's salvation i am praying for?

Greetings Shining, you are quite on target. In a war in which a Christian is an arms bearer, he/she would not know who they were wounding or killing. Some of the "enenmy" might well be Christians or even fellow Seventh-day Adventists. What you are suggesting might fit well with my next paper on what the NT has to say to the issue. In the OT, all, I believe, of Israel's foes were non-Israelites, except under the divided kingdoms, where Israel and Judah fought against each other on occasion.

It is more than just shooting at fellow Christians/SDAs, we are talking about actually killing them, assuming they are on the "other side." It would seem to be most distasteful to God to have his remnant people killing each other, which probably happens in every war, since there are Christians and SDAs in a large number of nationalities.

Killing those we are praying for is a particularly distasteful thought.

Yes, the issue of "just wars" is a part of the larger issue and another post. However, I will say that the question of "just wars" brings in a number of problems. 1)In spite of "just war" theory, most wars are fraught with conflicting moral and political issues and national interests. 2) Do we use St. Thomas Aquinas' standards or those contained in Geneva or Hague conventions? Is there a Biblical standard? 3) Since there is no US draft, US citizens can volunteer when they choose. However, once enlisted, it can be very difficult to opt out of a particular conflict based on Conscientious Objection. One's objection must be to all war, by Supreme Court decision, not a particular war. Is a Christian bound to discriminate over wars in which his/her government is involved? Or does Scripture, the NT in particular, forbid the Christian from all armed conflict? Yes Prynne, in this blog, I was dealing specifically with the issue of "killing" as used in the 6th Commandment. My next project is the issue of combatancy/noncombatancy and the NT. I think that the issue of the "just war," must be discussed both in the context of just war ethics and what Jesus and the apostles said that is related to interpersonal and international relationships and conflicts. I would be happy to hear what you have found or think along those lines.

I do have a few thoughts to add to this study, lest some think that because the Hebrew word rṣḥ is not connected with war in Scripture, either we are not accountable to man or God for the killing that happens in war or that making war is easily justified. Let us not be presumptuous with God. The 10 Commandments, in this case the last 6, are cosmic in scope and not limited to narrow, literal interpretations. This becomes clear in the Sermon on the Mount, particularly in Jesus' expositions on murder (Matthew 5:21-22) and on adultery (vv. 27-30). Fundamentally, murder is any wanton, deliberate, premeditated killing, whether by individual against individual or one group against another group. Thus we have several kinds of murder-homicide, genocide, infanticide, fratricide and several other "cides," or forms of group murder. These often happen in war. Sometimes they are known as massacres. Jesus teaches that it is not just the physical acts of murder and illicit sex that are covered in the Commandments, but the motives behind the acts. In fact, the motive or wish or intent is seen by God as equivalent to the action, and is at least just as sinful. So those who plan and execute wars and those who participate in them may well come under national and international judgement and under the condemnation of God. And the latter condemnation is the more serious, by far. For Jesus said (Matthew 10:28), "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

I am very deeply interested in any responses to this addendum to my original blog. James North, Jr

i appreciate the post and follow up addendum. i guess that's the problem with writing, its impossible to include every issue that could possibly come up as a result of the written topic. i also appreciate the specificity and narrowness of scope and i look forward to the follow up article on the NT teaching.

i also appreciate how (pointing out that exo. 20:13 has a limited exegetical meaning and it may not be the best verse to use when supporting a noncombatant view) the paper still recognized the right of those who choose to be noncombatants on the basis of conscience.

Thanks Jonathan, We want our positions in doctrine and teaching to be exegetically sound. Our positions have sometimes been lacking in exegesis, e.g., our position on noncombatancy. Basing our beliefs on the KJV and English alone is not a good practice, because the English does not always reveal the meaning and intent of the original writers. Refining our beliefs as we study more widely and deeply is the "growing thing" to do.

Besides, the experiences of our "great cloud of witnesses" lead us to understand that as individuals we must think hard about laying our moral decisions at the feet of earthly authority, when we must answer to a Higher. Fundametally we are accountable individually for our actions. Isn't this the focus of Ezekiel 18. Verses 4, 20 emphasize, ". . . The one who sins is the one who will die"(TNIV). Certainly those who make war are responsible for their motives and what they are sending soldiers to do, but is not the individual responsible for his own participation?

Exodus 20:13 "you shall not murder <07523>.

Deuteronomy 4:42 that a manslayer <07523> might flee there, who unintentionally slew <07523> his neighbor without having enmity toward him in time past; and by fleeing to one of these cities he might live:

Deuteronomy 19:4 "now this is the case of the manslayer <07523> who may flee there and live: when he kills his friend unintentionally, not hating him previously—

Joshua 20:3 that the manslayer <07523> who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood.

Joshua 20:5 ‘now if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer <07523> into his hand, because he struck his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand.

Chaplain North,

The above passages all employ the term for murder found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. They do qualify the expression. The words "unintentional", "premeditation", and "not hating him in times past" are employed by English translators.

People do not kill others in war unintentionally, nor are the killings not premeditated.

An interesting and relevant passage is found here:

1 Kings 2:5 "Moreover you know also what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner son of Ner, and Amasa son of Jether, whom he murdered <02026>, retaliating in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist, and on the sandals on his feet (NRSV).

Other versions say Joab shed the blood of war in [a time of] peace.

I developed a great deal of respect for military chaplains after reading C.E.B. Cranfield's "Shorter Commentary on Romans."


well.. thank you for the study..

so The 6th Commandment is a prohibition of intentional, premeditated, and malicious killing.

But, I strongly disagree with your attempt to justify joining an army as combatant, even by the rules of Selective Service Law. Everyone know that joining a war as a combatant would actually expose you to a condition where you have to kill someone and doing so despite knowing the consequences has no difference from planning to murder..

Basically, joining and killing as a combatant in a war is just another murder act.

I found it interesting but i have a question... What we say when someone ask me if God Him self did not KIll or MURDER

Regarding Hansen's comment. What leads you to conclude that the words "murder," "premeditation," and "not hating him in times past," are employed by English translators? Are you meaning that these expressions are supplied and are actually not in the Hebrew text? The point of your succeeding comments is not clear. We know that the killing done in war is premeditated. What is your point-that killing done in war is patently murder by that definition? And what is the purpose of your observation about Joab's killing of Amasa? And I am happy that your respect for military chaplains has been raised to a high level.

Andy, I don't believe I justified voluntary enlistment in an army as a combatant. To join as a combatant is a personal decision. I have never encouraged anyone to enlist. I have confronted them with the realities of Sabbath observance difficulties and of military combatant training. Most, when confronted with those realities, decide against enlisting.

I do not agree that all killing in war is murder. Romans 13 will not allow that blanket judgment, when it says that a ruler "does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (v. 4). If the ruler is God's minister, then there is an appropriate use of war and the killing involved. Not that God favors war, but in a sinful world, some war may be necessary and appropriate. The question is whether Christian, specifically, the SDA, can participate as an agent of the government in the prosecution of justice, punishment, and the security of its citizens? So I respectfully disagree but recognize your right to believe as you do.

To Ch Manuela.

Your question is a very good one. We might ask it another way-Is God obedient to His own commandments? If you read my original blog, I showed that the 6th Commandment is inaccurately translated, "Thou shalt not kill." A much more accurate translation is, "Thou shalt not commit murder." Does God kill? Check Numbers 16:23-35; 1 Samuel 15:1-3; 2 Samuel 6:1-7;and Acts 5:1-10. Clearly, the Lord has killed individuals and masses of people. And there are many other such cases. But in every case it was in retribution of rebellious sin and when one's cup of iniquity overflowed. And God is God--which means He can both give and take life at His discretion, but He never takes life carelessly or capriciously. It is always in justice and judgement. As for whether or not God commits murder--God's law is an extension of His character. Murder is sin. Can God sin? Can God violate His own character? Everything God does is done in righteousness. Besides, Jesus, in John 8:44 says that the devil "was a murderer from the beginning . . ." If the devil is a murderer, can God be a murderer? Psalm 119:137 says,"You are righteous, Lord." And twice in Jeremiah, 23:6 and 33:16, God is called, "The Lord our Righteousness." I hope these thoughts will help you if you are ever asked if God killed or committed murder. The answer is "yes" to the first, and a resounding "no" to the second.

Ch. North, I was just offering a few passages that clearly make a distinction between intentional killing and unintentional. I didn't mean to suggest that there is no distinction in the OL.

Joab was condemned because he retaliated for blood shed in war in a time of peace.


Thank you for the additional information. The condemnation and execution of Joab is a very interesting and pertinent view in the war-filled annals of Israelite OT history. But I still do not understand two points you brought up: 1)"murder," "premeditation," and "not hating him in times past," are employed by English translators. Are you meaning that these expressions are supplied and are actually not in the Hebrew text? 2) We know that the killing done in war is premeditated. Is your point that killing done in war is patently murder by that definition?

Hi Ch. North,

The following passages include the English words "premeditation" and "unintentional." These words were selected by the NASB translators. <01097> is a negative, When it is used with <01847> the word combination is translated "without premeditation or "unintentional."

The numbers are taken fron the Online Bible, a free program which I enjoy.

All these passages are taken from narratives which discuss the cities of refuge.

If we define murder as "any" premeditated killing, then war would be defined as murder. I reject that definition because, among other things, executions would also be murder. I don't believe that to be the case.

God gave specific OT instructions regarding the execution of various criminals, including rebellious children. Killings of that nature were not murder.

Nu 35:11 then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally <07684> may flee there.

Nu 35:15 ‘these six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person unintentionally <07684> may flee there.

De 4:42 that a manslayer might flee there, who unintentionally <01847> <01097> slew his neighbor without having enmity toward him in time past; and by fleeing to one of these cities he might live:

De 19:4 "now this is the case of the manslayer who may flee there and live: when he kills his friend unintentionally <01847> <01097>, not hating him previously—

Jos 20:3 that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally <07684>, without <01097> premeditation <01847>, may flee there, and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood

Jos 20:5 ‘now if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor without <01097> premeditation <01847> and did not hate him beforehand.

Jos 20:9 these were the appointed cities for all the sons of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them, that whoever kills any person unintentionally <07684> may flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stands before the congregation.

David was not allowed to build the temple because he was a man of war (1 Ch 22:8, 28:3). Even so, Scripture says his heart was "perfect" (KJV, ASV)all his days except in the matter of Uriah (1 Ki 15:3-5). I haven't figured out how David could be perfect and yet forbidden to build the temple because he was a man of blood. Do you know?

Take care.

Ch. North,
Your article is very thoughtful, it is a wonderful article, it causes one to usefully reflect quite a bit, in my opinion. But frankly after reading it I came to conclusions that were somewhat different from yours - - and I did so precisely because of the very evidence you yourself cite.
You maintain in one of your replies above that,
"I showed that the 6th Commandment is inaccurately translated, "Thou shalt not kill." A much more accurate translation is, "Thou shalt not commit murder.""
Actually, I completely disagree that this is what you showed or proved at all with your research. (Pardon me if I sound blunt and annoying, I'm not trying to purposely be that way, it's just that I think the logic of your own research comes to a different conclusion than the one you are claiming.)
If anything, your statements clearly show that the actual Hebrew word, "rsh", used in stating the operative word "kill" in the 6th Commandment, was also be used in a variety of situations in the Bible that did not specifically mean the English word "murder" as we specifically and culturally understand that word today.
In fact, I was very surprised at the wide and somewhat nebulous definition, or should I say multiple analogical meanings, "rsh" takes in the Bible as I read your own words. If you ask me, the Lord could have easily meant much more than simply the specific and cultural meaning of the English word "murder" when he imparted the 6th Commandment - - and I am a LOT more convinced of that possibility after reading your statements above than I was before reading them.
Thanks to your article I have a terrific amount of debating ammunition to take issue with someone the next time it is confidently claimed to me that the 6th Commandment means simply "Thou shalt not murder" instead of the wider implications implied in "Thou shalt not kill". I have heard this claim more than once - - and I say that the evidence you yourself have presented clearly suggests to me that God wants us to truly spend time meditating on the meaning of the Commandment and it's possible implications - - as opposed to coming up with a limited interpretation of it that neatly fits into our own cultures' expectations.
One cannot serve both God and mammon. When God is presenting His own law it represents the highest and most holy ideal, and not necessarily the most convenient thought that allows us to refrain from really spiritually examining what we do, as we evaluate our human solutions regarding state conflicts, state punishments, termination-of-pregnancy decisions or any other mess we attempt to sort out. When we speak for God's law, when we decide to serve God above everything else, we should be speaking for that goal which is the most holy. And in my humble opinion and experience that goal does not always present itself, at first glance, as the most "pragmatic".
In any event thank you for your research and your thoughtfulness! God bless you!

Greetings Avocadojoe, There is not much that I can say in response to your post except that obviously I do not agree. You are entitled to your opinion and I respect your opinion. God bless you, also.

Dear Bro. Hansen, I guess I should be able to know exactly what you mean when you say that "premeditation" and "unintentionally" are supplied by the translators, but your statement causes a question in my mind. Do you mean that those two words are not in the Hebrew at all and that the translators added them to make the meaning clear? If that is the case I would expect them to appear in italics, as is normally the case with words that are not in the original text but are supplied by the translators to clarify the meaning. Is that the case? On what evidence does the Online Bible make this case?

I much appreciated your article! I'm anxiously waiting for the 2nd part about NT.
This is an issue that I'm much interest to understand. Did Ms White say something about it?
Thanks for your work.
I like very much the works from you ppl from Andrews University.
I never liked the military career, but I have friends that works at military or police and I care a lot about them, and I'm always afraid that they need to kill someone, or be killed.

Ch. North, My Hebrew knowledge, which approximates that of a bar Mitzvah lad, tells me that there are Hebrew words in the texts which have been translated by the English words "without premeditation" and "unintentionally" as well as other ways such as "at unawares" or "unwittingly." It depends on which English version you choose.

If your Hebrew is weak, you can always check an interlinear translation or commentary to confirm what I have said.

The passages indicate that there was a difference between planned killings and accidents. Additionally, the manslayer had to appear before the priests to gain admission to the "city of refuge." If his story didn't pass the smell test, he would be excluded and subject to execution by the near of kin.

This does not address the issue of killing in time of war.

Bro. Hansen, While I am not a Hebrew scholar, I am able to translate the Hebrew with the aid of a good lexicon. I did study Hebrew years ago when I was first attending Seminary, and I have kept some familiarity with it over the years. It makes little difference how the various versions of the Bible translate the Hebrew words, the fact is that the Hebrew words for "without premeditation" and "unintentinally" are actually in the Hebrew text. Various versions may use synonyms for these two words, but the meaning is there in the Hebrew text, that is, there are two Hebrew words in the Hebrew Bible that intrinsically are "unpremeditated" and "unintentional." "Without premeditation" and "unintentionally" have not been added or supplied at all because the Hebrew text has those words. I think you have drawn an inaccurate conclusion from what you have read in the Onlne Bible. "Unawares" and "unwittingly" are simply synonyms of the two words above that are also appropriate translations of the Hebrew words. I checked this in Koehler and Baumgartner's Hebrew/English Lexicon.

Avocadojoe, I have been thinking about the fact that you have drawn opposite conclusions from mine, based on my arguments. Perhaps it would be helpful to me if you explain your thinking a bit more fully.

Ch North, My post of Oct. 7 stated that my purpose in writing was to demonstrate that Scripture distinguishes between intentional killing and unintentional killing. My Nov. 15 post mentions that the Cities of Refuge motif does not address killing in a time of war. I'm not sure what my inaccurate conclusion might be.

I'll give you an example of something which might be inaccurate regarding the Iraq war.

The USA entered into a war because Iraq supposedly had WMD. Who were those weapons a danger to? Primarily, to Israel. They were not a danger to the USA; consequently, the US entered into a war to fight on behalf of Israel. I find this distasteful. It's a war, an unjust one, being fought on behalf of a renegade AntiChristian nation by soldiers of the US military. Now that is a sin in which I would choose to not participate.

Some people believe that the US entered Viet Nam to protect the interests of Roman Catholicism in that country.

Now it is possible that I am wrong to believe that America's military is fighting wars on behalf of the Jews and the papacy.

I am not mistaken, however, about the limited scope of my posts regarding intentional killing and unintentional killing in the Cities of Refuge motif.

Any kind of killing is unforgiven by God. God is not a man that lie and not a man that repent. Abortion is still killing. Venial sin is still killing. If someone kills a person even by accident or not, is still judged by God. God is a just and strict God who condemns such acts. God does not condone such acts. A baby is valuable as a person like an adult. It does not matter. Any man who kills bear his own sins and God will avenge of that man who slew the one. It does not matter. Some killings are righteous for example, the only one is to kill the killer. This is the commandment of God who has set up in the ancient or the Old testament. Killing is killing. There is no escape. He has to face the judgement of God.

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