Do Not Murder

1,533,284 Views
Dec 1, 2014

You Can Kill, but You Can't Murder
If asked to state this commandment, most people would say "Do Not Kill." This is understandable because the classic King James Bible translates it this way. But the English language has changed since 1610. Furthermore, Hebrew has two words for killing, just as English does. The correct translation, as Dennis Prager explains, is "Do Not Murder." Once you grasp this, the meaning of the commandment changes entirely.

Does the 6th Commandment mean we should all be pacifists and against the death penalty? No. It says “Do not murder,” NOT “Do not kill.”

  • The Hebrew original of the Sixth Commandment says “Do not murder" (ratzach, in Hebrew), rather than “Do not kill” (harag). The confusion of the two words began with the King James Version, which was created when “murder” and “kill” were synonymous.View Source
  • Dennis Prager notes that killing simply means taking any life – whether human or animal, deliberately or by accident, legally or illegally. Murder can only mean on thing: “The illegal or immoral taking of a human life,” he states. “If the Ten Commandments forbade killing, we would all have to be vegetarians – killing animals would be prohibited. And we would all have to be pacifists – since we could not kill even in self-defense…The Ten Commandments could not have prohibited all killing. The very same part of the Bible that contains the Ten Commandments – the Five Books of Moses, the Torah as it is known by Jews – commands the death penalty for murder; allows killing in war; prescribes animal sacrifice, and allows eating meat.”View Source
  • Read Dennis Prager on why the Ten Commandments are still the best moral code.View Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Capital Punishment and the Bible – Apologetics PressView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

The 6th Commandment doesn’t forbid the death penalty—it forbids murder. In fact, in the Bible, God demands the death penalty for some acts.

  • The Hebrew original of the Sixth Commandment says “Do not murder" (ratzach, in Hebrew), rather than “Do not kill” (harag). The confusion of the two words began with the King James Version, which was created when “murder” and “kill” were synonymous.View Source
  • Dennis Prager notes that killing simply means taking any life – whether human or animal, deliberately or by accident, legally or illegally. Murder can only mean on thing: “The illegal or immoral taking of a human life,” he states. “If the Ten Commandments forbade killing, we would all have to be vegetarians – killing animals would be prohibited. And we would all have to be pacifists – since we could not kill even in self-defense…The Ten Commandments could not have prohibited all killing. The very same part of the Bible that contains the Ten Commandments – the Five Books of Moses, the Torah as it is known by Jews – commands the death penalty for murder; allows killing in war; prescribes animal sacrifice, and allows eating meat.”View Source
  • Read Dennis Prager on why the Ten Commandments are still the best moral code.View Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Capital Punishment and the Bible – Apologetics PressView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

Is God against capital punishment? The only law that appears in each one of the Five Books of Moses is that murderers be put to death.

  • The only law that appears in each one of the Five Books of Moses is that murderers be put to death. Dennis Prager notes that while opponents of the death penalty “are free to hold the view that all murderers should be allowed to live,” they cannot cite the Bible to support their view. “The very same part of the Bible that contains the Ten Commandments – the Five Books of Moses, the Torah as it is known by Jews – commands the death penalty for murder; allows killing in war; prescribes animal sacrifice, and allows eating meat.”View Source
  • The Hebrew original of the Sixth Commandment says “Do not murder" (ratzach, in Hebrew), rather than “Do not kill” (harag). The confusion of the two words began with the King James Version, which was created when “murder” and “kill” were synonymous.View Source
  • Read Dennis Prager on why the Ten Commandments are still the best moral code.View Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Capital Punishment and the Bible – Apologetics PressView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

Those who cite the 6th Commandment to argue against taking up arms against an aggressor are confusing “Do not murder” with “Do not kill.”

  • The Hebrew original of the Sixth Commandment says “Do not murder" (ratzach, in Hebrew), rather than “Do not kill” (harag). The confusion of the two words began with the King James Version, which was created when “murder” and “kill” were synonymous.View Source
  • Dennis Prager argues that pacifism, when faced with a real threat, can actually be “immoral”: “As regards pacifism, the belief that it is always wrong to kill a human being, again, anyone is free to hold this position, as immoral as it may be. And what other word than ‘immoral’ can one use to describe forbidding the killing of someone who is in the process of murdering innocent men, women and children, in, let's say, a movie theater or a school? But it is dishonest to cite the commandment against murder to justify pacifism. There is moral killing – most obviously when done in self-defense against an aggressor – and there is immoral killing. And the word for that is murder.”View Source
  • Read Dennis Prager on why the Ten Commandments are still the best moral code.View Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

Pacifism when facing an aggressor—especially one threatening innocent people—can be not only foolish but immoral. 

  • The Hebrew original of the Sixth Commandment says “Do not murder" (ratzach, in Hebrew), rather than “Do not kill” (harag). The confusion of the two words began with the King James Version, which was created when “murder” and “kill” were synonymous.View Source
  • Author Dennis Prager argues that pacifism, when faced with a real threat, can actually be “immoral”: “As regards pacifism, the belief that it is always wrong to kill a human being, again, anyone is free to hold this position, as immoral as it may be. And what other word than ‘immoral’ can one use to describe forbidding the killing of someone who is in the process of murdering innocent men, women and children, in, let's say, a movie theater or a school? But it is dishonest to cite the commandment against murder to justify pacifism. There is moral killing – most obviously when done in self-defense against an aggressor – and there is immoral killing. And the word for that is murder.”View Source
  • Read Dennis Prager on why the Ten Commandments are still the best moral code.View Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

You would think that of all the Ten Commandments the one that needs the least explaining is the Sixth, because it seems so clear. It is the one that the King James Bible, the most widely used English translation of the Bible, translates as "Thou shall not kill."  Yet, the truth is the quite the opposite. This is probably the least well understood of the Ten Commandments.

The reason is that the Hebrew original does not say, "Do not kill." It says, "Do not murder." Both Hebrew and English have two words for taking a life - one is "kill" (harag, in Hebrew) and the other is "murder" (ratzach in Hebrew).
The difference between the two is enormous. Kill means: 
1) Taking any life -- whether of a human being or an animal.
2) Taking a human life deliberately or by accident.
3) Taking a human life legally or illegally, morally or immorally.
On the other hand, murder can only mean one thing:
The illegal or immoral taking of a human life.
That's why we say, "I killed a mosquito," not "I murdered a mosquito."
And that's why, we would say, "the worker was accidentally killed," not "the worker was accidentally murdered."

So why did the King James translation of the Bible use the word "kill" rather than "murder"? Because 400 years ago when the translation was made, "kill" was synonymous with "murder." As a result, some people don't realize that English has changed since 1610 and therefore think that the Ten Commandments prohibits all killing.  But, of course, it doesn't. If the Ten Commandments forbade killing, we would all have to be vegetarians -- killing animals would be prohibited. And we would all have to be pacifists -- since we could not kill even in self-defense.

However, you don't have to know how the English language has evolved in order to understand that the Ten Commandments could not have prohibited all killing. The very same part of the Bible that contains the Ten Commandments -- the Five Books of Moses, the Torah as it is known by Jews -- commands the death penalty for murder; allows killing in war; prescribes animal sacrifice, and allows eating meat.

A correct understanding of the commandment against murder is crucial because, while virtually every modern translation correctly translates the commandment as "Do not murder", many people cite the King James translation to justify two positions that have no biblical basis: Opposition to capital punishment and pacifism.

Regarding capital punishment and the Bible, the only law that appears in each one of the Five Books of Moses is that murderers be put to death. Opponents of the death penalty are free to hold the view that all murderers should be allowed to live. But they are not free to cite the Bible to support their view. Yet, many do. And they always cite the Commandment, "Do not kill." But that, as should now be abundantly clear, is not what the commandment says, and it is therefore an invalid argument. 

As regards pacifism, the belief that it is always wrong to kill a human being, again, anyone is free to hold this position, as immoral as it may be. And what other word than "immoral" can one use to describe forbidding the killing of someone who is in the process of murdering innocent men, women and children, in, let's say, a movie theater or a school?  

But it is dishonest to cite the commandment against murder to justify pacifism.
There is moral killing -- most obviously when done in self-defense against an aggressor -- and there is immoral killing. And the word for that is murder.

The Ten Commandments are portrayed on two tablets. The five commandments on the second tablet all concern our treatment of fellow human beings.

The first one on that list is "Do not murder." Why? Because murder is the worst act a person can commit. The other four commandments -- prohibiting stealing, adultery, giving false testimony, and coveting, are all serious offenses. But murder leads the list because deliberately taking the life of an innocent person is the most terrible thing we can do.

The next time you hear someone cite "Do Not Kill" when quoting the Sixth Commandment, gently but firmly explain that it actually says "Do Not Murder."         

I'm Dennis Prager.

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