Four words in English, only two in Hebrew. Let’s see what else the Bible says about our life and about the lives of those around us.
God warns Cain when envy and anger are building within. Unchecked, he murders his own brother (Genesis 4). Therefore, the Fifth Commandment forbids envy and anger.
Still in Genesis 4, Lamech follows the example of his great-great-great-grandfather and kills a man who has somehow done him bodily harm while we see that violence begets violence and murder begets murder.
After the flood and just before placing His rainbow in the sky, God commands the strictest of punishments for murder, saying, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image” (Genesis 9:6).
In Genesis 34, Jacob’s daughter is raped. This violation of the Fifth Commandment is so egregious that her brothers kill the offender and his entire village. While one violent act spawns more, we see again why God forbids such things.
In Genesis 37, Joseph’s brothers are contemplating his murder. A shrewder head prevailed when Judah pointed out that there was no money in murder. This commandment forbids abduction, imprisonment, and selling another person into slavery.
In breaking the Fifth Commandment, one of Jacob’s sons becomes a slave and prisoner in Egypt. 400 years later, all of Jacob’s children will be slaves, imprisoned in Egypt and commanded to murder their baby boys (Exodus 1).
The Egyptian king seeks to murder God’s sons, an ominous foreshadowing of Herod’s indiscriminate killing while trying to murder God’s Son (Matthew 2).
Between those two murderous kings is found a third. In 1 Samuel 18, King Saul grows jealous of David’s popularity. By chapter 19, he is throwing spears. In chapters 20-23, anger and envy have Saul pursuing David across the country. Eighty-five priests and their families are killed because they showed David kindness.
Which leads to 1 Samuel 24 (a similar event takes place in chapter 26). David has a chance to do something that most humans would condone: David can end Saul’s terror and carnage, end his own exile, with just one “justifiable” stroke of his sword.
But David didn’t do it. God’s Fifth Commandment places a hedge around the lives of the wicked as well as anyone else’s. “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6, ESV).
A hedge. A prohibition. A command to defend and protect what God has created. And a description.
A description. Another aspect of the commandments as they are found in Exodus 20 is that they are descriptive. Literally translated, they might read, “You have no other gods. You don’t misuse My name. You remember My Sabbath. You honor your father and mother. You are not murdering. You don’t commit adultery. You don’t steal. You aren’t bearing false witness against anyone. You are not even coveting; not someone else’s house, spouse, workers or equipment.
This is who you, God’s people, are; what you are and what you are not; what you do and what you don’t do.”
Now here you might reply: “Really? That doesn’t sound like me. I’ve never actually killed, but I have hated. I’ve been angry and envious of others. I haven’t protected the way I can and should. I probably would have given the order and gotten Saul out of my way.”
All true. You daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. Nevertheless, God’s Word and His description of His people stands firm.
His description of you stands firm. Look:
Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry…” (Matthew 25:34–37, ESV).
Faith is alive and pulsing within the sheep. Even if they don’t see what they’ve done, their Shepherd does and He knows them and He knows their name. They are sheep because their creator made them to be sheep.
Do you see your sin regarding the Fifth Commandment? Do you see how you have harbored anger and not harbored concern? Do you remember how you have hurt others and how even now you fail to help and befriend in every bodily need? Good.
God sees you in Christ, who was pierced for your transgressions and crushed for your iniquities. In Christ, God sees you as one who has kept and who still keeps His law, one who had and still has regard for the lives He’s surrounded you with. God bless you as, in Christ, you help and befriend everyone in need.
The Fifth Commandment
You shall not kill.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do no bodily harm to our neighbor, but help and befriend him in every need.
Rev. Tony Pittenger
Bethany Lutheran Church & School
Port Orchard, WA