THE WORD: The sixth Commandment

“Cain Slaying Abel” by Peter Paul Rubens (circa 1608) is a painting in the collection of Courtauld Institute of Art, London. (Public Domain).

This series explores the Ten Commandments through the words and admonishments of Arthur Pink.

“Thou shalt not kill.” — Exodus 20:13

The first five Commandments showed how God safeguards His glory; in the second five we are to behold how He provides for the security and well-being of men for: (1) protection of man’s person; (2) sanctity and good of his family (“thou shalt not commit adultery”); (3) safety of his estate and substance (“thou shalt not steal”); (4) his reputation or good name (“thou shalt not bear false witness”). Finally, as a strong fence encircling the whole Law, God not only prohibits outward crimes, but inward motions of evil in our thoughts and affections (“Thou shalt not covet …”).

It is the first of these regulations which specially relates to our neighbor that we shall now consider: “Thou shalt not kill.” It is the first crime we read of after the fall of Adam and Eve, wherein the corruption transmitted to their descendants was fearfully displayed by Cain. His rancor and enmity goaded him to slay Abel, because his brother’s “works were righteous and his own evil.” (1 John 3:12).

This commandment is not restricted to forbidding the actual crime of murder. It prohibits the causes of murder — anger, hatred, slanders and revenge — and whatever else may prejudice the safety of our neighbor or tempt us to see him perish when it is in our power to rescue him.

Every killing of a man is not murder. It is not so in the execution of justice, when the magistrate sentences a slayer, for he is vested with lawful authority to put capital offenders to death. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Genesis 9:6). These words state the general and unchanging principle.

Shedding of blood in a righteous war is not chargeable with murder. It is lawful to take up arms against an invader and to recover what has been unjustly taken away. Thus, David pursued the Amalekites who had carried away his wives. Some decry this assertion and denounce all war as unlawful. Yet, when soldiers came to Christ’s forerunner for instruction saying, “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:14), he did not say, fight no more, abandon your calling, but gave them directions how they should conduct themselves. When examined by Pilate Christ declared, “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).

Accidental slaying is also not chargeable with murder. As when hewing wood, the axe should slip and undesignedly kill a neighbor (Deuteronomy 19:5). The Lord appointed cities of refuge, where innocent slayers could find safe asylum from the avenger of blood. But, if we are engaged in what is unjustified and it leads to the death of another, this cannot be excused from murder (see Exodus 21:22-24).

Next let us consider cases of murder.

Suicide is self- murder, and is one of the most desperate crimes which can be committed. Inasmuch as this sin precludes repentance on the part of its perpetrator, it is beyond forgiveness. Such creatures are so abandoned by God as to have no concern for their eternal salvation, seeing they pass into the immediate presence of their judge with their hands imbrued in their own blood. Suicide destroys not only the body but the soul, too.

Murder is a most heinous crime. Those who are accessories are also guilty of murder, such as those who commission it to be done (2 Samuel 11:15; 12:9), or consent thereto (as Pilate), or conceal it, as in Deuteronomy 21:6-7.

The causes and occasions leading to murder are also forbidden. The principal of these are envy and anger. Cain first envied the success of his brother’s sacrifice, and this quickly prompted him to murder. Unjust anger, if allowed to fester in the heart, will turn into the venom of an implacable hatred.

Anger is not, as envy, in itself, unlawful. There is a virtuous anger, which (so far from being sin, is a noble and praiseworthy grace, see Mark 3:5). To be moved with indignation for the cause of God is a holy anger.

Jonah 4:1 gives an illustration of groundless anger. Anger is immoderate when it is violent and excessive, or when it continues to boil. “Let not the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26)

Think lowly of yourself and you will not be angered if others slight you. All contention proceeds from pride (Proverbs 13:10). Think often of the infinite patience and forbearance of God. How many affronts does He bear with from us. How often we give Him occasion to be angry with us, yet “He has not dealt with us after our sins.” Beware of prejudice against any, for it is sure to misinterpret their actions. Shun angry persons (Proverbs 22:24, 25); fire quickly spreads.‌

Arthur W. Pink, born in Nottingham, England, in 1886, pastored churches in Colorado, California, Kentucky, and South Carolina. He moved to Sydney, Australia, and then returned to England in 1934. Pink relocated to Lewis, Scotland, in 1940 and remained there until his death in 1952 at the age of 66.