Friday, January 24, 2014

Fact Checking -- "Thou shalt not kill"?

If you still have questions on “eye for an eye”, please post in comments or twitter me or email me. 
Next urban legend.  A lot of people now base their objections to war and the death penalty on the Ten Commandments, citing “thou shalt not kill.”  The 10 Commandments are in Exodus 20:2-14 and Deuteronomy 5:6-18.  “Thou shalt not commit murder” is in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17.
Reading the commandment as “thou shalt not kill” is a massive case of quoting out of context.  Remember, the Torah is a law book, at least, starting from Exodus 12 it is, and the first copy of the Ten Commandments is in Exodus 20.  BUT what people are ignoring are all the “thou shalts”, Jewish laws, that say “he must die,” or something like that.
You can’t reconcile those verses with “thou shalt not kill.”
Unless you know Hebrew.
Because the Ten Commandments don’t say “thou shalt not kill,” they say “thou shalt not commit murder.” 
There are 3 words in Hebrew for killing.  The one used in the Ten Commandments is rtsch (rtsch represents the root of a Hebrew verb; see the Hebrew lessons).  Rtsch has to do with willful murder.  The verb in “he must die” is mot – the actual phrase is mot yumat, a phrase you have run across in the Hebrew lessons if you ran on ahead to the Gan Eden story.  This is judicial execution, and Torah requires judicial execution in certain specific cases. 
The third word is hrg and you will see it in the Hebrew lessons when you see the story of Qain and Hevel.  Hrg means “kill,” in the sense of involuntary manslaughter or accidental manslaughter, as we phrase it in American law. 
And just like American law, a person not guilty of willful murder cannot be subject to the death penalty.  This includes officials of the court who perform executions, and before much longer I will go into another class of court officials who cannot be subject to the death penalty.
You can either just accept this and go on to the next topic, which I will link to when I get there, or you can go on to the next lesson.  For that, look up the following verses.
Judicial execution includes Exodus 21:12, 15-17, and Leviticus 20:8-20.
When you can use judicial execution is Numbers 35:30 and Deuteronomy 17:6.
Read these verses for next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved 

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