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Is Military Killing Wrong? - Part One


Iíve enlisted in the military, and Iím about to go to boot camp. Someday I might end up on the front lines and have to kill somebody. I know the Ten Commandments say, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13, KJV). But the Bible also has stories about battles where lots of people were killed. Will God look down on me if I have to kill someone?

Steve Answers:


You’re right! The Bible does say not to kill people, and then it describes lots of killing. That sounds like a direct contradiction, doesn’t it?

The sixth commandment reads "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13, KJV). Most translations (even the New King James Version) render it, "You shall not murder."

You see, there are seven different Hebrew words in the Old Testament for our English word "kill." The one used in the Ten Commandments–ratsach–refers to premeditated killing, or what we’d refer to as first-degree murder. An example would be getting so angry at somebody that you plot a way to kill that person, and then you carry it out.

Some Bible scholars have pointed out that this type of killing doesn’t refer to killing animals (Genesis 9:3), defending one’s home from nighttime burglars (Exodus 22:2), accidental killings (Deuteronomy 19:5), execution by the government (capital punishment) of those who’ve committed murder (Genesis 9:6), or involvement in certain types of war–similar to what you refer to when Israel went to war (Numbers 31:17; Joshua 6:21).

Other people simply don’t buy that. Because humans have been made in the very image of God (Genesis 1:27), killing a person is seen as a form of attack against God Himself.

In fact, some people are pacifists to the point that they oppose the death of not just humans but animals as well. These people would probably see the above explanation as somebody just trying to weasel out an answer to support the bias they have toward killing in the first place.

Interestingly, in Genesis 9:6 God told Noah after the flood that whoever kills a person must be killed. The reason God gave for this law was that He’d made humans in His image. Yet God gave this instruction right after the Flood–an event that wiped out everyone not in the ark. Confusing?

In two weeks we’ll talk more about whether or not God will look down on you if you have to kill someone while you’re serving in the military. 

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