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Bible verses about Sixth Commandment
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:16

A question that frequently arises regards the sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13, KJV). Yet, a short time later, God commands Israel to kill the inhabitants of Canaan, including children. That God would both prohibit and command violence appears to be incongruous. Such an apparent contradiction provokes the conclusion that Old Testament instructions are untrustworthy and that the God of those times was unpredictable.

The truth, though, is that the God who gave these commands is the same One who died for the sins of mankind (cf. I Corinthians 10:1-4). The problem is not with God, but with man's understanding of His nature and intentions.

Notice that this same apparent contradiction is also found in the New Testament. On the one hand, Jesus teaches that murder begins in the heart—that harboring malice or enmity breaks the spirit of the law (Matthew 5:21-22). On the other hand, when Jesus is standing before Pontius Pilate, He says plainly that if His Kingdom were a worldly one, His servants would fight (John 18:36). They would go to war on His behalf!

It was Israel's responsibility to marshal an army to subjugate the people of the land. This is seen in Numbers 1, which takes place while Israel is still at Sinai about one year later. Numbers 1 records God telling Moses to take a census and determine the number of men who were able to go to war. Fourteen times in that one chapter God repeats the instruction to number the men who were able to “go to war”—even though He had just recently confirmed His promise to fight on their behalf. God would be driving out the inhabitants, but He was also preparing the Israelites to engage the enemy. Clearly, it was still God's intent that Israel do its part within the fight.

In God's view—the only view that matters—the land belonged to Israel. The Canaanites and others were essentially squatters. Because of their right of possession, Israel had the authority—and actually, the duty—to enforce God's laws within the realm that now belonged to them.

Israel was the “governing authority” of the land God gave to them. He intended that the leadership of Israel be a “terror to evil works” (including those of the inhabitants of the land), and He fully intended that Israel “bear the sword” (c.f. Romans 13:1-4). God requires that the civil authority “execute wrath” on those practicing evil—which certainly applied to the pagan peoples of the Promised Land.

In every place and circumstance where God gives Israel the duty to destroy the people of the land, He also mentions the idolatry of the peoples, along with demonism, sorcery, witchcraft, and child sacrifice. God was greatly concerned about the influence these things would have on His people, so He was particular in admonishing them to carry out the penalty of His law thoroughly.

David C. Grabbe
Why Did God Command Israel to Go to War?


 

Exodus 21:12-14

Under the original letter of the law, it was intentional killing (murder) that was forbidden. Accidental killing was not regarded as murder. Nevertheless, manslaughter is a horrible crime, and the culprit had to remain in a city of refuge until the high priest died.

Martin G. Collins
The Sixth Commandment


 

Exodus 21:22-23

Without doubt, death is "lasting harm." These verses illustrate the accidental miscarriage of the unborn. If the miscarried baby dies, although no harm was intended against it, the judgment is manslaughter, and the accused can become a victim of the avenger of blood (Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 19:4-13; Joshua 20). How much more valid is the judgment of murder if the unborn is the intended victim? The Bible shows that the unborn "unviable tissue mass" is human. God's viewpoint is clear: Willful killing of the unborn—abortion—is murder.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Abortion: The Land Is Full of Bloody Crimes


 

Exodus 21:22-24

To whom does the "lasting harm" refer, the mother, the fetus, or both? If it refers to the fetus or both, then the Word of God recognizes the personhood of the fetus. Regardless of its age, if the fetus dies as a result of the fight, its death becomes a capital crime, just as punishable as if the mother had been killed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Murder?


 

Exodus 23:7

Statistically, in the United States the most dangerous place for anyone to be is in the mother's womb! The unborn baby is a living human being who dies a painful death when aborted. By the seventh week of gestation, the fetus has measurable brain waves (see Genesis 25:21-26; Luke 1:41-44), a legal criterion to determine whether a person is alive or dead. God—not the state, not the individual, not the parent—is the Lord of life (Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 44:24; I Corinthians 6:19).

Martin G. Collins
The Sixth Commandment


 

Exodus 23:22-24

God fully intended for Israel to go to war and drive out the inhabitants of the Promised Land. God spoke this on the heels of giving the Ten Commandments and the terms of the covenant. These instructions, then, were spoken on the same occasion that God said, “Thou shalt not kill,” or to be more precise, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13, NKJV).

At first glance, it may appear that God would do all of the work: “I will cut them off”; “I will send My fear before you”; “I will cause confusion”; “I will send hornets”; “I will drive them out.” However, verse 31 also shows that God fully intended that Israel play a part: “I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.” God is not directing the Israelites to escort a friendly populace gently out of their territory. The literal translation says that Israel should cast them out. Strength of arms would be required.

God did not promise to change their nature; these carnal people would fiercely resist and defend their land and their religion. Israel would have a fight on their hands—which God fully intended. He would be leading the fight against the inhabitants, which is why Israel would prevail. However, they were still responsible for cleansing the land of the Canaanites and other peoples.

Verse 22 (“if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak”) shows that God's promises are conditional, but it is important to understand exactly what the conditions were. If Israel were obedient, God would be an enemy to their enemies. The implication is not that if Israel disobeyed they would have to go to war, but rather that, if Israel disobeyed, they would have a much harder time when they did go to war. But whether or not they were faithful, Israel was still responsible for removing the paganism and pagans from the land.

Verse 33 stipulates that the inhabitants shall not dwell in the land. This was not conditional on Israel's obedience—this was God's edict to His people so they would understand their responsibility. But if the Israelites were faithful, they would have God on their side, blessing their efforts. It is the same way with us: God gives us responsibilities, and if we are faithful to Him, He supplies the help we need to carry them out.

It was Israel's responsibility, then, to marshal an army to subjugate the people of the land. This is seen in Numbers 1, which takes place while Israel is still at Sinai about one year later. In between Exodus 23 and Numbers 1, the Israelites had transgressed with the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1-35). Yet, even after their unfaithfulness, God still says twice that He would drive out the inhabitants (Exodus 33:2; 34:11).

Therefore, Israel's unfaithfulness did not nullify God's promise. Instead, Numbers 1 records God telling Moses to take a census and determine the number of men who were able to go to war. Fourteen times in that one chapter God repeats the instruction to number the men who were able to “go to war”—even though He had just recently confirmed His promise to fight on their behalf! God would be driving out the inhabitants, but He was also preparing the Israelites to engage the enemy. Clearly, it was still God's intent that Israel do its part within the fight.

David C. Grabbe
Why Did God Command Israel to Go to War?


 

Numbers 35:33-34

Numbers 35:9-34 contains information on the use of the cities of refuge, as well as a variety of regulations regarding the attitudes and circumstances under which a death occurred. Of special interest is God's comment about what murder does to a nation.

Murder defiles, corrupts, pollutes, debases, adulterates the land. Can murder possibly enhance the quality of life? Does it produce liberty? Does it free us to move about with light-hearted security because all is well? Or does it produce anxiety in people, stain a nation's reputation, and instill fear in outsiders who do business or have social intercourse with them? Murder has no "saving grace." It produces nothing good. For society's good, God has given authority to the state to punish those guilty of murder with a penalty commensurate with their crime.

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


 

Deuteronomy 1:26-32

Israel never really trusted God. Breaking the sixth commandment was merely the next step in the process of sin. Having committed the sin of doubt, they went on to commit the sin of war. God was determined to work out His purpose to give the land to Abraham and his descendants. Israel chose to be a war-making nation, but because God's purpose must stand regardless of what men do, he continued to back Israel in their conquest of the land and ordered wars.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Isaiah 2:4

Think about what a wonderful effect keeping just that one commandment will have on mankind. But also take time to consider that even as mankind will no longer learn to break the sixth commandment, it will also no longer learn how to commit idolatry, take God's name in vain, break the Sabbath, dishonor parents, commit adultery, steal, lie, or lust!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Habakkuk 2:12-14

Third Woe: Using violence to gain. This breaks, of course, the sixth commandment, "You shall not murder." The Chaldeans would use whatever means, to the spilling of rivers of blood, to get what they wanted.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Matthew 5:21-22

Matthew 5:21-22 advises each individual to make efforts to cover his responsibility to ensure that his thoughts, words, and conduct do not lead to his needing the court's services. Indeed, Jesus' approach, if done perfectly, will ensure that he does not sin in any manner!

Our Savior's remedy for combating crime shifts matters from retaliation by civil authorities to stopping it at its source. When each person is responsible for dealing with anger and hatred internally, keeping them from ever manifesting themselves as external acts, it also eliminates the fear of being caught by police and punished by the courts.

The central thought Jesus expresses is that such thoughts are tantamount to murder in God's eyes. If a person never had an evil thought, no murder would exist. I John 3:15 reveals how important Christians should consider controlling our thoughts to be: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." The hostility present in a wrongly motivated person's mind already contains the ingredients necessary to persuade him to kill another who, he feels, stands in the way of his progress. The hostility connects directly to the act of murder because they are actually one process.

At first, Matthew 5:38-39 appears to say that one should simply offer himself as a sacrificial lamb: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." However, Jesus does not rule out self-defense in a life-threatening situation, as His illustrations in the wider context of Matthew 5 show.

Taken together, His illustrations reveal that He is not considering anything more than rather minor, but irritating and perhaps considerably inconvenient, interruptions in our daily routines. The general thought is that we must not set ourselves up as the angry enemy of the person perpetrating evil against us. He advises us to remove the bitterness in our own hearts by doing good rather than retaliating and doing evil. It is a warning against letting our thoughts build a hatred-based case against others.

This involves a great deal of humility and patience on our part, but it often diffuses what could build to murderous thoughts in our mind. We have all probably felt like not working at one time or another, but because we had to do it, we set our will, threw ourselves into accomplishing the work, and before we knew it, we were likely enjoying the accomplishment! This is a simple illustration, but the same general process is involved in Jesus' counsel.

Jesus followed His own teaching, as Luke 23:34 illustrates: "Then Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.' Then they divided His garments and cast lots." Earlier He had said, "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). Yet, retaliation was not on His mind. Fulfilling His work from His Father and in behalf of mankind overrode His personal feelings, even in this severe dilemma.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment


 

Matthew 15:17-20

Because action follows thought, Jesus is against hatred, malice, and envy, all of which are included within "evil thoughts." Each is a form of the spirit of murder. His concern is not only with how we act but also why we act—not only in what we actually do but also in what we desire to do in our heart of hearts. To eat with unwashed hands does not defile the heart, but gluttony does. To eat with publicans and sinners does not defile, but self-righteousness does. What a person does against us does not defile us, but hatred, anger, and malice toward him does.

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


 

Matthew 15:18-20

Like all other sins, murder is generated in a person's inner being. It is interesting that the first things Jesus mentions as emanating from the heart are evil thoughts followed by murder. As the evil thoughts germinate and grow, they begin a process that ultimately produces murder. Jesus shows that the character of our thoughts becomes the character of our conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment


 

John 18:36-37

Recall Philippians 3:20, that "our citizenship is in heaven." We are not of this system; we do not fight in the wars of the kingdoms of this world. We are to come out of this world and not conform to its ways so God will not destroy us with it. However, Revelation 19:11-19 shows that when the Kingdom of God is set on earth, we will fight.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Romans 12:17-20

Paul's counsel to the congregation in Rome (Romans 12:17-20; 13:8-10) is clearly in line with what Jesus taught. He insists that we must never allow vindictiveness, the desire to get even with someone for a suffered wrong, to drive us.

In the same vein, Peter taught that we must not repay evil with evil, insult with insult, but we must bless (I Peter 3:8-9). Why are we called to react this way? Because if we want to be in God's Kingdom, it can only happen without the spirit of murder dwelling in us, and those evil retaliations are the spirit of murder. We are not to take vengeance because God has retained that responsibility to Himself. Is that not the way it should be? Only He fully knows and understands every facet of the circumstances and can judge perfectly. By the way, Paul addresses the issue of retaliation four times in Romans 12, which begins by stating that we are to be living sacrifices and not to conform to this world's ways.

The picture should be clear. Somebody must be willing to do this if there will be peace. Jesus set the example: He, refusing to strike back, died for the entire world. Christ's non-retaliatory remedy is ultimately for everybody's benefit, but until He returns, the standards He set can be met and lived only by those who, like Jesus, have the Spirit of God, are living by faith, and are enabled to keep God's ways by God Himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment


 

Romans 12:19-21

God alone has the wisdom and power and the right to take vengeance. Regarding war, Exodus 14:14 says, "The LORD will fight for you." War has never solved man's problems, and God promises that those who live by violence will die by it (Matthew 26:52). Christians must treat others with kindness, gentleness, and love (Luke 6:31; Galatians 5:14-15).

Martin G. Collins
The Sixth Commandment


 

1 John 2:8-11

Life without love is death because it is a life of selfishness, the opposite of what God is. John says it is like being blindfolded and having blurred judgment besides. Yet we have the love of God; He has shed it abroad in our hearts by His Spirit (Romans 5:5). This is not an abstract love for people in distant lands but is toward and for those with whom we have daily contact. God's love not only enables us to make progress in His way, it is the solution to the murder problem.

Hatred, the spirit of murder, destroys fellowship with God and man. If one has hatred toward another, it proves he does not love God. God is love. No one with the spirit of murder within him is in the image of God. Such an attitude must be overcome, for no murderer will enter His Kingdom.

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


 

 




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