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What the Bible says about Accident
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Numbers 35:9-28

God instructed Israel about what to do when a man was killed. These verses show that God recognizes only two classifications of killing: accidental and intentional. "Self-defense" is not even listed as a possibility! God illustrates "accidental death" as occurring when there is no intent to kill or to harm. It is accidental when there is no awareness that an action will result in the death of another. Deuteronomy 19:5 provides a clear example of such an accident: ". . . as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies."

However, when there is intent to kill or injure, God's law defines it as murder regardless of what the other person was threatening to do, about to do, or in the process of doing. If a man fires a gun with the foreknowledge that it has the potential to kill another man, it is murder. The "self-defense" category is something afforded by the law of the land, not by the law of God.

David C. Grabbe
Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?

Deuteronomy 19:5

The Bible clearly distinguishes between accidental and carelessly caused deaths. If two men are chopping down a tree, and one man's ax head flies off, striking and killing the other, there is no guilt. It was an unavoidable accident. But if a man fails to restrain an ox that has already gored someone, and it gores another and kills him, the owner is guilty of murder.

Here the commandment becomes very personal. Anyone who owns a swimming pool that is not fenced against children may find himself guilty of murder. A reckless driver may find himself in the same position as the owner of a goring ox - even worse, he is the ox!

Hundreds of people die in auto accidents, but thousands are killed by irresponsible traffic-law violators. It is an accident when a car's brakes fail without warning and someone dies; it is homicide to run a stop sign or red light with the same result. It is an accident when a child darts out into traffic and is struck; it is murderous to careen down a neighborhood street at sixty miles an hour and strike the child. An automobile can be a lethal weapon, especially when operated by someone under the influence of a drug.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


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