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Thou shalt not kill but the killer

References 001

The ten commandments of Exodus 20 are probably the most famous laws ever given, and with it its sixth commandment "thou shalt not kill". Somewhat less famous is the corpus of laws given immediately after and the laws overriding the sixth commandment. Below is a preliminary list of direct instructions to kill.

Death by Exodus

Levi's Numbers do the Ronomy


Right after Moses comes down from the mountain with the commandment not to kill…

"Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.” – Exodus 32: 27-29

A little later on, an Israelite was caught blaspheming god’s name.

Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him […] The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death. Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death. Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him.” – Leviticus 24: 13-14, 16-17, 23

In Numbers 15, a man is stoned to death because he gathered some wood on a Saturday.

While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses - Numbers 15: 32-36

Keep in mind that following Leviticus 24: 17 and 24: 21, all the executioners in above three cases need to be put to death.

Darryl P.A, Patricia Forrester, 01 June 2022


Notes, sources:

Above list is compiled from the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and therefore not exhaustive. The examples of 'Contextual' are taken from Exodus 20 up to Numbers 16. We may expand later on.

The translation of Exodus 20: 13 is of course heavily debated, as is shown by the below references:

  • Thou shalt not kill: KJ21, ASV, BRG, CEB, Darby, DRA, GNV, KJV, AKJV, NABRE, NCB, NLV, RSV, WYC, LSG…

  • Thou shalt not murder: AMPC, CSB, CJB, CEV, ERV, EHV, GW, GNT, HCSB, ICB, ISV, JUB. LEB, TLB, MSG, …

The same applies for versions in other languages, i.e. Spanish

  • Thou shalt not kill: LBLA, DHH, NLBLA, NBV, NVI, PDT, BLP, RVC, SRV-BRG, TLA

  • Thou shalt not murder: JBS, NTV, RVA-2015,

Even when a choice is made to translate with ‘kill’ or ‘murder’, most versions include a footnote to allow for the alternative.

For potential future reference Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.” – Deuteronomy 24: 16

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