Thou Shall Not Kill: Does God Violate His Own Commandment?

by Rich Deem

The sixth commandment is “Thou shalt not kill.”1 Atheists claim that God violated His own commandment in ordering the destruction of entire cities, just to allow the Jews to have a homeland in the Middle East. The Bible confirms that God ordered the killing of thousands of people. Isn’t this an open and shut case for the hypocrisy of the God of the Bible?

Is all killing the same?

One thing you have to love about atheists is their extreme appreciation for the King James Version (KJV) translation. The KJV was translated in the early 17th century using an archaic form of modern English. In the last 400 years, the English language has changed significantly. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who read the KJV (both believers and unbelievers) are unqualified to know what the text means in many instances because of word meaning changes. In attempting to demonstrate the contradiction of God’s commands to Israel and the sixth commandment, atheist cite the KJV translation, “Thou shalt not kill.”

However, like English, Hebrew, the language in which most of the Old Testament was written, uses different words for intentional vs. unintentional killing. The verse translated “Thou shalt not kill” in the KJV translation, is translated “You shall not murder”2 in modern translations – because these translations represents the real meaning of the Hebrew text. The Bible in Basic English translates the phrase, “Do not put anyone to death without cause.”2 The Hebrew word used here is ratsach,3 which nearly always refers to intentional killing without cause (unless indicated otherwise by context). Hebrew law recognized accidental killing as not punishable. In fact, specific cities were designated as “cities of refuge,” so that an unintentional killer could flee to escape retribution.4 The Hebrew word for “kill” in this instance is not ratsach, but nakah, which can refer to either premeditated or unintentional killing, depending upon context.5 Other Hebrew words also can refer to killing.68 The punishment for murder was the death sentence.9 However, to be convicted, there needed to be at least two eyewitnesses.10 The Bible also prescribes that people have a right to defend themselves against attack and use deadly force if necessary…

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Thou Shalt Not Kill: Does God Violate His Own Commandment?