By Eric Taylor
Pastor, Cedar Hill Baptist Church, Cedar Hill
Focal Passage: Exodus 20:13; 1 Samuel 26:7-11, 22-25
As we come to the sixth commandment, many people either misunderstand or misinterpret the phrase, “You shall not kill.” Actually, the best translation of the original language is, “You shall not murder.”
The word here in the Hebrew is “murder,” and specifically means the wanton, intentional slaying of another human being. It refers to manslaughter, and the unauthorized taking of an innocent life.
Now some may say, “Big deal, what’s the difference? Kill, murder, it is all the same.” Well, if this commandment is just a blanket statement against killing, then there is a legitimate debate concerning capital punishment, and whether or not God contradicts Himself when He gives about a dozen different offenses calling for the death penalty. In addition, if this commandment is solely about killing, then one would have legitimate objections to things like the Just War Theory.
Is a soldier breaking the sixth commandment if he kills an enemy combatant on the field of battle? What about God who seems to actively take human life, such as the slaying of the 180,000 Assyrians (Isaiah 37), and the extermination of the Amalekites in I Chronicles 4. Or how about the deaths of Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5)? In other words, if this commandment is about any kind of “killing” then God has some explaining to do.
However, for any open-minded interpreter of the text, God is not forbidding just war, self-defense or capital punishment. He is not declaring the virtues of veganism and vegetarianism. In this verse, God was prohibiting the unjust taking of a human life created in His image (Genesis 1:27).
Now the text from I Samuel 26:7-25, is a good example of how to respect human life, and what this text does is remind us of a few of things we should never forget about life. First, God is sovereign over life and death. In verse 10, David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will certainly strike him [Saul] down: either his day will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish.”
While David could have made a case for defending his right to take Saul’s life through self-defense, he chose to leave the timing of Saul’s death to the author of life and the only One who is sovereign over death.
Second, we should value life, even the life of our enemies. In verse 24, David sent word to Saul that he considered his life “valuable.” His words remind us of Jesus’ command to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
Third, David’s words in I Samuel 26: 10,24 remind us that, in the end, it is God who avenges, and God who vindicates his own (v. 24). Matter of fact, if we fast forward to the end of the story, we see that Saul does pay for his actions as his son dies at the hand of the Philistines. David’s words became reality, in that, God struck Saul down, and He did it on the battlefield. In other words, his day came at the hands of the Philistines.
Ultimately, when in doubt, the best approach is to value and respect human life, and let God sort out the vengeance as He handles the affairs of men.