“Murder” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as ‘the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.’ When the Law of Moses commanded, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) this kind of murder (murder in the first degree) was under consideration.
From the first murder recorded in the Bible (where Cain killed his brother, Abel) to the murder, by crucifixion, of Jesus Christ, God’s Word is clear in condemning this criminal act.
There is a distinction made in the Scriptures between an accidental or unintentional killing of an innocent one, and an intentional killing with malice aforethought. Even the laws of our land allow for such. Involuntary manslaughter may result in the death of an innocent, but unless there are other circumstances to be considered, such is not penalized with the same severity as would be first degree murder. In Deuteronomy 4:42 the law of God made provision for an accidental killing (murder). The Bible says there: “That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live.”
First degree murder is the planned and intentional taking of a life. Regardless of the motive behind the taking of such a life – hatred, malice, greed, even convenience as in the case of abortion of an unborn baby, the consequences are the same, as far as God in concerned.
Civilized people have always stood against first degree murder. Also, civilizations have allowed for the killing of criminals as due punishment for certain crimes. The Scriptures say in Genesis 9:6, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” This is the “justice” of an eye for an eye, etc., that has been a basis for much of the law of God and man.
The penalty for murder was a penalty laid upon the individual who murdered – not upon others of his family who were not guilty. In II Kings 14:6 this law is laid down: “But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the LORD commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”
Clearly, the New Testament speaks of those who murdered the Just One, Jesus Christ (Acts 7:51). The law of God always protected the righteous man and brought judgment in I Timothy 1:9: “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers.” Those guilty of murder will have their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8).
Under the Law of Moses, those who were guilty of murder were to be killed. Deuteronomy 13:9 says, “But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.” Thus, there is a time, according to God’s Law to kill (Ecc. 3:3).
Jesus talked of the law that said, “Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt. 5:21). Jesus’ apostle John stated, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding him (I John 3:15). While there is a fear of the civil law that can kill the body, there is something all should be more concerned about. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
-Glenn B. Ramsey