A StubbornThings Symposium 10/15/14
Introduction • The first recorded murder in the Book of Genesis took place in the primordial family of Adam and Eve, when one brother slew another in a silent field through the blinding passion of envy. Since then, killing seems to be in our DNA. The earth has been effectively turned into one indifferent slaughterhouse — where man’s inhumanity to his neighbor runs the continuum between uncontrolled personal malice and the masterful butcheries of World War. Indeed, the blood of beasts and Kings has saturated the very dust that mankind was molded from, and even God in the Garden slew an innocent creature to provide for the nakedness of our ancient Mother and Father when they tragically broke faith.
How do we glibly condemn those devotees of a vain and distant Allah — who slay in the name of wicked rapture – and magnify Yahweh, who commanded that Joshua exterminate those tribes who abided in the land of Canaan? Is God, as some have said: “A moral Monster?” Does He have one scale of justice for His Own and another for his feeble creatures who tremble beneath the fiery skies of Sinai? Is He, as Richard Dawkins says, “guilty of cosmic child abuse” for demanding such an incomprehensible horror of redemption — one that wouldn’t spare even Himself or His Only Begotten? Are Yahweh and Allah merely the flip sides of an arcane coin — or are the distinctions fixed deeper than the pillars upholding the Universe?
Can killing paradoxically bring forth the fruits of justice, or does a thing conceived in injustice remain so? Throughout time immemorial, armies have marched off to war with the banners of God at their fore: granting absolution for the horrible acts they would do that day. Whether charging a machine gun nest or delivering one’s only son on a makeshift altar to satisfy a dubious test, killing has either imparted heroism, imputed righteousness, or flattered our termite hearts into imagining that we are more than just blood-stained jackals. Knowing the ocean of tears that killing has bequeathed to this sad creature Man, how are we to make sense of the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill?”
— Glenn Fairman
Number 6: “Thou shalt not kill.”
When discussing the commandment, “thou shall not kill,” we must first understand that there are two different Hebrew words (ratsakh, mut) and two Greek words (phoneuo, apokteino) for “murder” and “killing.” One means “to put to death,” and the other means “to murder.” The Sixth Commandment is referring to murder. Murder involves the unjustified taking of another’s life.
I can imagine the guilt that Moses felt as God was giving him this commandment. Moses himself had murdered an Egyptian in defense of a Hebrew (his people). After committing the murder, he fled to the desert for forty years until God called on him to free the children of Israel from slavery under Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Today, it is impossible to turn on the local or national news without hearing about a murder. Murder is so common today that society has become immune to it. Many murders are committed by family members or close associates. Why would God include this commandment in the Ten Commandments? God places high value on life and He expects humankind to as well. Life is a precious gift. Only God is the creator and giver of life. Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed man from the [a]dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being. What makes human life precious? God created man in His image. Man has only been given one life to live. Who has the authority to take human life? Since God is the giver of life, He commands that no one has the right to take a life.
The first recording of someone taking the life of another is in the book of Genesis, the story of Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:8 And Cain said to his brother, [b]Let us go out to the field. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. What drives man to murder? It was God’s plan that humankind would live together in harmony; however, sin entered man’s heart through the fall. Sin is the cause of murder. The sin of greed, jealously, envy, anger, pride and hatred are powerful motivators to kill another. Cain killed Abel because of jealousy. Because anger usually precedes the act of murder, Jesus Christ taught us not to become angry without a cause. God defines murder as any thought or feeling of deep-seated hatred or malice against another person. Man cannot hide his disdain towards another person from God because God looks upon the heart for the truth. Hate is the root cause of murder. John wrote in I John 3:15 Anyone who hates (abominates, detests) his brother [in Christ] is [at heart] a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding ([k]persevering) within him. Hate is such a strong emotion that God has commanded us to not even hate our enemy.
Is there a difference between murder and killing? Killing during times of war (also called defending) is not the same as murder. American Soldiers kill in order to defend country, the constitution and fellow soldiers. Murder involves premeditation (pre-planning). Cain pre-planned to kill Abel. He hated Abel because God accepted his (Abel’s) gift. Manslaughter is an unintentional form of killing. Is abortion murder? If murder is the intentional taking of the life of another, than how can abortion not be? Is abortion pre-meditated? Of course it is. Abortions are not accidental killing. However, as with all sin, God is able and willing to forgive anyone who asked. The Bible states, “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” I John 1:9-10
Really? No squashing bugs? No eating meat? What about lettuce? Doesn’t that stuff die when you yank it out of the ground? Should we not fight wars? Should we not defend our selves? Should we not defend others? The left hind leg of the Democrat party thinks this way — odd that a party that booed God at its convention would lean so heavily on a misunderstood commandment that Moses claimed was given to him by that same God.
Let’s look at the original wording. The Hebrew word used here is rotseach. It does not mean generic killing. Literally it means “to dash into pieces,” or “to slay a man” i.e. to commit murder – cold-blooded, premeditated, purposeful killing. Later on in the Law, Moses lays out the particulars – what, if any punishment is due a person for self-defense, accident, negligence, vengeance; he covered the bases, even for today.
Then later on Jesus expanded on the idea – “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22) Yikes. So this is not just a prohibition for the bloody deed but also for wanting, at the slightest level, to commit the bloody deed. That is, of course, not punishable by law, but it doesn’t take much to see the train of thought here. A murderer has either fantasized about committing the act, a fantasy that eventually will demand an actual manifestation, and/or has allowed so much seething hatred to slither into his soul that it takes a very small spark to set off a deadly explosion. One way or the other murder starts in the soul.
Actually, the willingness to bring about death starts with one’s attitude about life. If a person sees her fellow humans as mere organisms, of no more cosmic importance than an annoying November fly, then murder would come easily, abortion wouldn’t ripple her moral waters, nor would euthanizing a sick and inconvenient parent. Self-interest will be her only interest. If, however, a person sees other humans as individual, creative acts of God, then you don’t go there, you don’t mess with what God has decreed. Those of us who have that kind of respect for our fellow man, don’t see “whacking” someone as an option.
Of course, it is an outrageous over-simplification to say that atheists are comfortable with murder, but that’s true only because the thou-shalt-not-kill idea has saturated human thought for at least 3,500 years – Darwin hasn’t completely eradicated that basal revulsion; most people feel that murder is wrong whether they are atheists or Christians. (I’m not sure about Muslims who’ve had 1,400 years to work that natural horror out of their systems.)
Let’s look further at Christ’s expansion of this commandment – if a murderous attitude, a murderous intent, is as bad as murderous action, then a truly good society will become hypersensitive about it. Our society used to find murder horrific, but a quick perusal of the television offerings on any evening of the week shows a real fascination with murder. Time was when a murder mystery was like a chess game – a body in the first few minutes (we never saw the actual murder and just the fact that the victim was dead provided horror enough). Now we watch the murders happen and the methodology of the perpetrator is as gruesome and torturous as possible. In 1967 Tom Wolfe wrote an essay entitled Pornoviolence in which he presented his concern that America was as addicted to violence as entertainment as some people get addicted to porn. His example program? Gunsmoke! I wish he’d rewrite that piece for today. I’ll admit that I’m as guilty as the next person about consuming the murder mystery du jour, but even as an avid fan of the genre, I’ve become sickened by the graphic and torturous fare that’s being offered. Murder is now our vernacular.
I also can’t help but feeling that when we attack a decent person’s character, spread rumors, or issue false accusations we are exercising a murderous propensity. We call it character assassination for a reason. We see this in politics and on social media, but it isn’t a modern phenomenon – technology has just made it more effective. Casio – one of the only virtuous people in Shakespeare’s Othello – reacts with great emotion when his character is ruined by Iago’s machinations, “Reputation, reputation, reputation! I have lost my reputation, I have lost the immortal part of myself,” (Act II, Scene 3). To ruin a man’s name, either out of negligence or vitriol is a form of murder.
And no discussion of “Thou shalt not kill,” is complete without noting what we are now willing to do to unborn babies. The stats about the tens of millions of babies who have been aborted since 1970 is an indictment against our entire society. Is abortion technically murder? We don’t really know when that the fertilized egg is connected with a human soul. In Exodus 21:22 Moses says, “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.“ There are biblical bits and pieces like that, but not enough clarity to leave us nonchalant about killing that fetus. A society that honors the will of God in the conception of a child would not slaughter that child.
And that’s what the 6th Commandment is all about: respecting God’s creation, and therefore respecting another person’s right to be part of that creation. A willful denial of those principles is as bad as we can get.
— Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.