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Thou shalt not kill

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The sixth commandment in the Christian bible is the source of much controversy. Some translations have changed "kill" to "murder". What is the source of this?

While there are literally hundreds of "commandments" offered by God as rules for his people, the most common source is Exodus, chapter 20, and for this item, we're talking about Exodus 20:13 in original Hebrew:

לא תרצח

Also in Deuteronomy 5:17:

לא תרצח

"You shall not kill" has in modern times been interpreted as, "You shall not murder". The operative word in original Hebrew is ratsach which does not specifically mean murder. In an effort to wash away some of the more obvious double standards in scripture, modern theologians are claiming the translation suggests, "murder" but it's ambiguous at best. You would think something this important would not be so ambiguous.

Ratsach is mentioned in the bible more than 46 times, and less than half of the time is this word used to indicate murder; in some cases it's accidental killing or other forms of non-premeditated violence.

You shall not kill.

It is ridiculous to imagine that before the Ten Commandments were written, everyone went around killing people guiltlessly. The human race's moral sense, and its ethics, have evolved over millions of years through cooperation and conflict. They are still evolving.

Dan Barker states, "Laws against murder and manslaughter, based on self-preservation and social stability, have found their way into almost every culture."

This is the first one that might appear in a modern courtroom, but is it a good law?

Dan Barker notes, "The drawback of this law is its absoluteness - good laws make distinctions...It is hopelessly vague. What about in self-defense?, what about in time of war?, what about accidents? what about capital punishment? etc."

The New International Version tries to make it more specific and deliberately mis-translates this commandment as "You shall not murder" - in an effort to counter the objections above.

We know the NIV is wrong for the following reason: The Hebrew word used here is ratsach - which can mean murder, slay or accidentally kill. There are other common Hebrew words that can mean similar things - all used interchangeably.

For example, Deuteronomy 4:42 uses ratsach, in the context of "Cities of Refuge"...

- Deuteronomy 4:42:
...where anyone who had killed (ratsach) a person could flee and find refuge if he had unintentionally killed (ratsach) his neighbour without malice aforethought.

So the NIV has falsely translated this as "murder" - a very specific English word, when in Hebrew it was a general word for "to kill".

Numbers 35:22-24 talks about accidental killings very clearly, using the word ratsach

- Numbers 35:22-24:

But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or threw something at him without lying in wait,

or with any deadly object of stone, and without seeing it dropped on him so that he died, while he was not his enemy nor seeking his injury ...and he is not his enemy, nor seeking his evil; then the congregation shall judge between the slayer (ratsach) and the blood avenger..

Note: the NIV again wrongly translates this as: "the assembly must judge between him and the avenger of blood. In other words, they have avoided translating ratsach here, because of these very objections to the sixth commandment.

In Exodus 32:27-28 ,just after giving Moses these commandments - god directly causes people to murder each other - in the true sense. This is an horrific passage:

- Exodus 32:27-28:

He said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.' " and he said to them, `Thus said Jehovah, God of Israel, Put each his sword by his thigh, pass over and turn back from gate to gate through the camp, and slay each his brother, and each his friend, and each his relation.'

So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.

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