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What the Bible says about Murder Begins as a Thought
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:13

The Hebrew of the sixth commandment is about as terse as it can be. It consists of two words that are the Hebrew equivalent of "No killing." However, enough other scriptures appear in God's Word to let us know that the commandment means that God does not permit violent and premeditated killing of one perceived as an enemy. Exodus 21:12-14 clarifies this:

He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee. But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

This clearly separates a premeditated murder from an accidental killing. One can discern from verse 14 that, under this circumstance, constituted civil authorities are permitted by God to enact the death penalty.

Verses 12 and 13 imply that no amount of money or property settlement can atone for the destruction of the image of God in a murdered person. Even if the death was truly accidental, the killer still had to flee to a city of refuge. But for one guilty of deliberate murder, there were no sanctuaries whatsoever to flee to, not even the altar of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment

Matthew 5:17-20

Some Bibles title this paragraph, “Jesus Fulfills the Law.”The sense in which many professing Christians use the term “fulfills” is not inspired Scripture. In this case, it does not mean “accomplishes by keeping” or “does away with,” as judged against what He taught in what immediately follows. Fulfills, in this case, means “fills to the full,” “fully exemplifies the conduct it covers,” or “expands to its fullest intent.” Consider His subsequent illustrations carefully:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:21-26)

His teaching shows Him raising the acceptable level of obedience far higher than what people ordinarily considered as satisfactory behavior. Jesus expands the scope of sin in the sixth commandment from outright murder to also include a high level of anger in certain situations! Matthew 5:27-30 shows the same pattern in this teaching on the seventh commandment:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

The same conclusion is true of this commandment and also for each of the others He expands during His Sermon on the Mount. Far from doing away with God's commandments, He raises the standards of acceptable behavior far higher.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part One)

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 15:18-20

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


 




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