Deuteronomy 5:17                               “You shall not murder.”

  • What is God commanding? No murder. Murder means intentional, willful, premeditated killing.
  • Why is God commanding this? Why is murder forbidden?
    • murder destroys life
    • murder is irreversible
  • God is the Giver and Taker of life, the true Source and Owner of all life
  • We cannot make life, we have no right to destroy it
  • God has declared life sacred
  • For the victim of the murder: loss of life (highest loss)
  • For the victim’s family?
    • loss of life, relationship, leadership, provision, investment, commitment
  • For God and society: loss of life, gifting, calling
    • murder creates poverty: potential cut short, investment lost,
    • murder creates fear: value of life reduced, fear for safety, loss of movement
    • murder creates despair … irreversible
  • What does the fear do?
    • paralysis of the others
    • limitations for all others
    • cuts short education, potential, opportunity, movement, employment …

Right to life is the most basic human right. If this right is not granted, most likely none of the other rights are granted either.

Deuteronomy 19:2-7 - Cities of refuge - Unintentional killing

“You shall set apart three cities in the land … you shall calculate the distance and divide into three regions the land … so that a homicide can flee to one of them. A homicide is someone who has killed another person unintentionally when the two had not been at enmity before … the killer may flee to one of the cities and live. If the distance it too great, the avenger of blood in hot anger might pursue and overtake and put the killer to death, although a death sentence was not deserved.

  • What is God commanding?
    • Set aside cities of refuge
    • Distributed for easy access
  • What are the cities of refuge for?
    • refuge for people who killed
    • allows for a proper trial & sentence
  • God considers the motivation for the action
  • Murder = intentional, planned, motivated
  • Homicide = unintentional, accidental, unmotivated killing
  • Motivation and Intention matters
  • Why is God commanding cities of refuge?
    • to ensure proper investigation & trial
    • to bring justice
    • to prevent self-justice without proper
      investigation nor trial
    • to prevent escalation of violence > endless family feuds (Example: Albania)
    • to prevent further killing (revenge killings)
  • What is God saying through the cities of refuge?
    • motivation in a killing matters:
    • killings must be properly investigated and judged
    • Self-justice is forbidden
      … for it is not just (no investigation or trial, wrong measure of punishment)
      … for it leads to more killings of innocent people

Deuteronomy 19:11-13 - Murder - Intentional killing

“But if someone at enmity with another lies in wait and attacks and takes the life of that person, and flees into one of these cities, then the elders shall send to have the culprit taken from there and handed over to the avenger of blood to be put to death …
“Show no pity; you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel so that it may go well with you.

  • Now addressing murder = killing with intention, plan, motivation
  • Cities of refuge must hand over the one guilty of murder
  • Murder must be investigated, tried and punished
  • By punishing the guilty, the curse of innocent blood flow is purged
  • Why is God commanding this? What if we don’t obey this?
    • injustice to victim
    • injustice to the victim’s family
    • crime is not discouraged, life is cheap
    • further murders are encouraged
    • innocent blood flow brings a curse on the land
  • What does punishment achieve?
    • bringing justice
    • purging the blood guilt, curse
    • discouraging further crime
    • maintaining that life is valuable
    • stability, security, value of human life upheld in a society

Deuteronomy 19:15 - Proper Investigation

A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing …. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.
  • How to make sure no wrong judgment on wrong evidence?
  • What is God commanding?
    • 2 to 3 witnesses minimum
  • Why is God commanding this?
    • ensuring good investigation > true facts > just judgment
  • Truth can be known
  • In a real world actions leave evidence
  • Evidence can be found

Deuteronomy 19:16-19 - False witnesses in court

If a malicious witness comes forward to accuse … the judges shall make a thorough inquiry, if the witness is … false … then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other.

  • How to ensure that the witnesses in court do not testify falsely?
  • Punishment for false witness = punishment for crime they implicated the other person in … to be a false witness in a murder case means death sentence!
  • God ensures a sore warning to all who stand in court!
  • “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor!”   De 5:20
  • God knows both sides of every conflict

Deuteronomy 19:19-20 - Purpose of punishment

So you shall purge the evil from your midst. The rest shall hear and be afraid and a crime such as this shall never again be committed among you.

Why is proper judgment essential?

  • It discourages crime as people will be afraid to get caught
  • it ensures security for normal people
  • Often people say: ‘The dead can’t be brought back. To execute another person for it will make no difference’. This feeling is understandable but the conclusion is wrong.
  • The fruit of justice and just judgment is peace

Deuteronomy 19:21 - Judgment without mercy

Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

  • There must be punishment for every criminal act.
  • There must be no escalation in punishment (like paying back 7 times)
  • Why does the God of compassion here command to have no pity? Does not Jesus teach something different? “Do not resist and evil doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”     Mt 5:39, Lu 6:29
  • There is a difference between a godly inward attitude and civil justice
  • God tells the government     > to ensure justice
  • God tells the church              > to show mercy
  • Both are expressions of God and reveal his character. Both are needed.
  • Example: a rape. Let’s say the rapist repents and becomes a believer.
  • Example: Tammy Faye Baker’s death sentence

Deuteronomy 21:1-9 - unknown murder

What if a murder happens and no guilty one can be found? > Complicated procedure!

  • Elders and judges measure distance to surrounding towns, the one closest geographically has to take responsibility for the murder (Today: which city’s area?)
  • Elders of the town must take a heifer, break its neck near river with priests present
  • all elders must wash their hands over it and declare: ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor were we witnesses to it. Absolve, O LORD, your people Israel … do not let the guilt of innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel’
  • Political leaders must take responsibility, spiritual leaders must participate
  • Oath of non-guilt and of non-knowledge … it they know anything > must prosecute
  • Unless innocent blood shed is punished or in this way absolved, the guilt remains

What does this mean?

  • Murder cannot be taken lightly, it cannot be left unaddressed > blood guilt on nation
  • Political leaders – as the ones in charge of justice, lawfulness & security – have to take full responsibility for an unknown murder
  • To leave a murder unpunished, unaddressed, unatoned for reduces the value of life
  • To punish, address, atone ensures the sanctity of life. Otherwise “life is cheap”.
  • Bangladesh Example: Toddler Nausheen shot accidentally by robbers fleeing from police in Badda, Dhaka.

Gen 4:11                        Cain after murder of Abel ‘You are cursed from the ground’
Lev 18:24-25, 18:28    Sin, Injustice, Blood Guilt on the land > extermination