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Holman Bible Dictionary


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Intentional taking of human life. Human life is given great value in the Bible. Persons are created in the image of God; and persons are called to obey, serve, and glorify God. Human life is viewed as a sacred trust. It is because of this that taking human life is viewed as a serious crime in the Bible.

The prohibition against murder is found in the Ten Commandments, the heart of Hebrew law (Exodus 20:13 ; Deuteronomy 5:17 ). Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being by another. Deliberately taking the life of a human being ursurps the authority that belongs to God. The prohibition against murder is a hedge to protect human dignity.

The Old Testament (Genesis 9:6 ) prescribed that a murderer should be prepared to forfeit his own life. In Numbers 35:16-31 , careful attention is given to determining whether a killing is to be classified as murder.

Jesus removed the concept of murder from a physical act to the intention of one's heart (Matthew 5:21-22 ). According to Jesus, murder really begins when one loses respect for another human being. Spitting in the face of another, looking with contempt upon another, or unleashing one's anger are signs that a murderous spirit is present. Jesus forces us to move to the spirit behind the prohibition of murder. We are compelled to do all that we can do to protect the life of our neighbor and help it flourish. The writer of 1John pushed Jesus' teaching to its ultimate: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15 ). See Image of God , Ten Commandments .

D. Glenn Saul

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Murder'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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Sunday, November 29th, 2020
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