Saturday, June 16, 2012

Law Courts (Deuteronomy 17:8-13) labels the next section of their website "Murder in the Bible".  In that section, they give a list of verses in which the death penalty is the punishment for a crime committed, or instances in which God took the life of a person or people.
             The following quote is taken from
            "The act of murder is rampant in the Bible.  In much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, there are laws that command that people be killed for absurd reasons such as working on the Sabbath, being gay, cursing your parents, or not being a virgin on your wedding night.  In addition to these crazy and immoral laws, there are plenty of examples of God's irrationality by his direct killing of many people for reasons that defy any rational explanation such as killing children who make fun of bald people, and the killing of a man who tried to keep the ark of God from falling during transport.  There are also countless examples of mass murders commanded by God, including the murder of women, infants, and children.
            The following passages are a very small percentage of the total passages approving of murder in the Bible.  They are divided here into three parts: 1) Capital Punishment Crimes, 2) God's Murders for Stupid Reasons, 3) Murdering Children, and 4) Miscellaneous Murders.  This list is long, but it barely scratches the surface of all the murders approved of in the Bible."

            First, we need to define our terms here.  "Murder" is defined as "the premeditated, deliberate, unlawful taking of a life with malice aforethought".  This is known as first-degree murder.  Second-degree murder is defined as "taking a life intentionally, but without deliberation or premeditation".  To "kill" is to deprive of life or cause the death of someone.  We can find a distinction between the two acts in Exodus 22:2, where a person who kills another person in self-defense is not guilty of murder.
            In the case of God, can it be said that he is a murderer because he takes life?  The truth is that God is the originator of all life.  Without him, there would be nothing.  He is the creator of all things, and all living creatures (Genesis 1-2; Deuteronomy 32:6; Job 33:4, 38; Isaiah 40:28, 42:5; Nehemiah 9:6; John 1:3; Romans 1:18-20).
            Therefore, God is sovereign over all life.  Only God alone can give life, and God alone has the right to take it when he chooses.  This is why a human being murdering another human being is such a serious crime.  When a human being murders another human being, they take a life that they do not have the right to take. 
   has listed a number of passages that describe instances of killing in the Bible.  I will address them in the order that the website has listed them, sometimes grouping similar verses together to avoid redundancy.

            The following quote is taken from

"Kill People Who Don't Listen To Priests - "Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death.  Such evil must be purged from Israel."  (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

            What this chapter is describing is various laws concerning the rule and judgments of kings, judges and priests.  You can read Deuteronomy 17 here:

            For society to function, there must be laws to govern and keep people in check.  Otherwise, there would be anarchy and chaos.  Many of the law codes of ancient civilizations have survived, such as the Code of Hammurabi (written circa 1772 BCE).  The book of Deuteronomy contains the Law that God gave to Israel after rescuing them from slavery in Egypt.
            To uphold the Law, priests were anointed to serve God at the Tabernacle.  Judges were also appointed to settle disputes between people, as is the case today.  The issue being described here is concerning a blatant disregard of God's Law.  God had freed the Israelites from a lifetime of perpetual slavery in Egypt, where they had been enslaved for 400 years (Genesis 15:13).  In response to his covenant of love and protection, along with his promise to give them the land of Canaan as their own, the nation of Israel entered into a covenant with him, promising their allegiance and obedience to his Law.
            In light of these circumstances, every Israelite person was bound to keep the covenant and follow God and his Law.  To show contempt for God, his covenant, his appointed leaders and his Law was to break the covenant and act in an incredibly disrespectful and ungrateful manner to the one who had saved them from slavery and mistreatment. 
            What is being described here is a person who defied God's Law and showed contempt for those upholding it: " Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict.  You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the Lord will choose. Be careful to do everything they instruct you to do.  Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left.  Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death" (Deuteronomy 17:9-12, NIV).  This wasn't just about not listening to a priest.  It was about open rebellion against God, his Law and his representatives.  As such, it had to be dealt with quickly and decisively, so the entire nation would not be adversely affected by the rebellious actions of one person.  "All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again" (Deuteronomy 17:13, NIV).
[1] "Murder", "Kill",