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Murder is the willful taking of an innocent human life. It is to be distinguished from accidental homicide, and from the time of Noah onward was forbidden by God in principle founded on the fact of man's having been made in the likeness of God[1]. Under the law in the Pentateuch the punishment for murder was death[2] with no compensation for murder or the reprieve of the murderer[3].

In any case with the death penalty, at least two witnesses were required[4]. If the murderer could not be found, the city nearest the scene of the crime was responsible to offer a sin offering to the priests to absolve the government of the town from any fault[5]. This sin was forbidden in the Ten Commandments[6].


The sin of murder, as forbidden in the sixth commandment, is a translation of the Hebrew word רצח (ratsach) is a primitive root indicating violence against a living being resulting in death. It is translated "slay", "kill" and "murder" but is distinguished from accidental killing ("manslaughter") and execution ("putting to death"). The equivalent Greek word is φονεύω (phoneuo) which is used to translate allusions to the sixth commandment[7].


  1. Genesis 9:5-6; John 8:44; 1 John 3:12,15 (Link)
  2. Numbers 35:16,18,21,31; Leviticus 24:17 (Link)
  3. Exodus 21:12,14; Deuteronomy 19:11,13; 2 Samuel 17:25, 20:10 (Link)
  4. Numbers 35:19-30; Deuteronomy 17:6-12 (Link)
  5. Deuteronomy 21:1-9 (Link)
  6. Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17 (Link)
  7. Matthew 19:18 (Link)
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