Should I ever take the life of another person?
The passage about the cities of refuge in Numbers 35:6-34, along with its parallel passage in Deut. 19.3-13, gives us several valuable lessons regarding the precious value of life, how important it is for people to recognize and safeguard life, and the special exceptions when the taking of life is permitted or required. Some of the important points are given below.
The most important lesson of this passage is that the intentional taking of life (murder) is to have the consequence that the life of the murderer is to be taken in return. This is the case where the taking of the life (of the murderer) is not only permitted it is required (Num 35.16, 17, 18, 30; Deut 19.10).
If someone accidentally takes a life, that person has very strict requirements to keep to make sure everyone living in the land knows that it was an accident. They must flee to a city of refuge, to have their case heard by the elders there. If the elders declare that person guilty, they must be turned over to the avenger of blood to be killed. This is one exception where it is permissible for the avenger of the murder victim's family to take a life without penalty.
Verse 10 in Deut. 19 is especially significant in light of the modern worldly practice of abortion. God warned Israel that “no innocent blood” should be shed in their land. One of the great sins of the people of Canaan that cause God to command Israel to wipe them out completely was their practice of infant sacrifice (Ps 106.34-38 - see also Lev. 20.2-3; Deut. 18.9-10; 2Kings 16.3, 24.2-3; Jer. 32.35-36; Ezek 16.20-21,23.37-39; ). God hates the shedding of innocent blood and there is no one more innocent than the precious babies in the womb who are slaughtered by the thousands in our land every day!
So what these passages tell someone who wants to know if taking a life is permissible in God's sight is only that there are exceptions where the taking of life are allowed, but the only exception specifically mentioned here is that of punishment for murder. Does this exception apply to a soldier in the army of his country who may have to kill his country's enemies? This question is illuminated by the following observations.
However, there is nothing like this in the New Testament. This issue is simply not dealt with, leading different men to make different conclusions regarding the issue of killing another person, whether in self defense, defending one's family, or in combat as a soldier. Some great scholars and committed christians through the ages have decided that a Christian should never bear arms against another person and never take a life. They make this conclusion primarily on the example of Jesus in Mat 26.52 and John 18.11, along with the general principle of passive acceptance of aggression in these passages (Mat 5.39; Rom 12.19; 1Cor 4.11-12; 1Thess 5.15; 1Pet 2.21-23 and 1Pet 3.9). Many other scholars and committed christians through the ages have noted that all of these passages involve situations of a personal nature and really don't apply to the question of military service or defense of your family. They conclude that the Old Testament example of the principles of taking a life and the exceptions when it is permissible still apply.
Finally, whatever decision an individual makes regarding the taking of a life in military service or self-defense, we must remember how precious life is and avoid the great tragedy of taking innocent blood. To take a life is a decision that should not be made lightly. There is also the issue of what happens if, in military service, you are ordered to take a life that you know you should not? What will you do? If you are ever ordered to kill innocent civilians, will you do so or will you take whatever penalties and consequences for disobeying such an order?
Let me finish these thoughts by simply saying:
If you decide to always refrain from taking a life in any circumstances, do so with a full consideration of all the scriptures and issues involved.
If you decide to serve in the military, or to be willing to take a life in defense of your family, do so with a full consideration of all the scriptures and issues involved.
In both cases, I think the admonition of Romans 14.5 applies, “Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.”
The word “to kill” in the Ten Commandants (Ex. 20.13 and Deut 5.17):
07523. xur ratsach (953d); a prim. root; to murder, slay:--
07523 xur ratsach raw-tsakh'
a primitive root; TWOT - 2208; v
KJV - slayer 16, murderer 14, kill 5, murder 3, slain 3, manslayer 2, killing 1, slayer + 0310 1, slayeth 1, death 1; 47
The word “to kill” in Mat 5.21 and Rom 13.9:
5407. foneuw phoneuo; from 5406; to kill, murder:--
NAS - commit murder(5), commits murder(1), murder(3), murdered(2), put to death(1).
Uses of the word “murder/kill” (Greek foneuw phoneuo ) in the New Testament:
Ac 3:14* But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
Ac 7:52* Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Ac 28:4* And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
Ro 13:9* For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Jas 2:11* For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
Jas 4:2* Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Jas 5:6* Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
1Pe 4:15* But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
Re 21:8* But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Re 22:15* For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Uses of the word “murder/kill” (Hebrew xur ratsach ) in the Old Testament:
Ex 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.
Nu 35:6 And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.
Nu 35:11 Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
Nu 35:12 And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
Nu 35:16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Nu 35:17 And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Nu 35:18 Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Nu 35:19 The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.
Nu 35:21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.
Nu 35:25 And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.
Nu 35:26 But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;
Nu 35:27 And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:
Nu 35:28 Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
Nu 35:30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
Nu 35:31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
De 4:42 That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:
De 5:17 Thou shalt not kill.
De 19:3 Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.
De 19:4 And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past;
De 19:6 Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.
De 22:26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
Jos 20:3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
Jos 20:5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
Jos 20:6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
Jos 21:13 Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah with her suburbs,
Jos 21:21 For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs,
Jos 21:27 And unto the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the other half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Beeshterah with her suburbs; two cities.
Jos 21:32 And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Hammothdor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs; three cities.
Jos 21:38 And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaim with her suburbs,
Jud 20:4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge.
1Ki 21:19 And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.
2Ki 6:32 But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?
Job 24:14 The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief.
Ps 62:3 How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence.
Ps 94:6 They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.
Pr 22:13 The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.
Isa 1:21 How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.
Jer 7:9 Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not;
Ho 4:2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
Ho 6:9 And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.