The Ten Commandments Examined: Part Three

Continuing On

Our look at the Ten Commandments continues:

Commandment #6

You shall not murder.
(Exo. 20:13, NASU)

This seemingly straightforward command has caused quite a bit of controversy over the years. Much of this controversy stems from a mistranslation of “You shall not kill” (KJV, ASV, emph. added). There is an important difference between killing and murder. The Law of Moses had much added detail concerning varied situations involving the killing of another man. Outright murder was to be punished by death (Exo. 21:12, 14; Deu. 19:11-13). However, accidental homicide allowed for the accused to flee to a place of sanctuary in order to avoid the spilling of innocent blood (Num. 35:9-28; Deu. 4:41-43; 19:4-10).

This command is in many ways merely a reiteration of God’s previous universal command given to Noah after the Flood: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:6). This was in contrast to the situation of the world before the Flood where such a punishment was not in effect (e.g. Cain). It is important to note that to put to death a murderer required killing to take place. One might also wonder if part of the contribution to such a depraved world before the Flood was a lack of capital punishment.

Commandment #7

You shall not commit adultery.
(Exo. 20:14, NASU)

In our modern age it is striking to place adultery and murder into the same context with one another. While murder is still considered a heinous act (for obvious reason), adultery has become somewhat passé and acceptable. However, the Law of Moses took such sexual sin very seriously. A man who was found “lying” with a married woman would lead to both being stoned to death (Deu. 22:22-27). (Note the absence of the man in the scenario of the woman caught in adultery who is brought to Christ).

This command dealt with more than the specific act, but also had application beyond. A man who seduced a virgin was required to pay a dowry and marry her (Exo. 22:16, 17). Conversely, a woman who claimed to be a virgin and was proven to not be was labeled as a harlot and stoned to death (Deu. 22:13-21). The purpose of these actions was not to create a “taboo” about sex (see Song of Solomon), but to instead protect the institution of marriage. Marriage is the oldest institution on earth and was expected to be held in high esteem, just as it should be today (Heb. 13:4).

Commandment #8

You shall not steal.
(Exo. 20:15, NASU)

Desiring to have what another owns is a very old problem for human beings. It is the basis for many wars and conflicts throughout history. This prohibition against theft is more than simply saying, “Do not take.” Under the Law of Moses, one’s inheritance was granted by Law from one’s ancestors, and to lose one’s property would be devastating.

The Law of Moses placed heavy penalties upon theft. Depending upon the item, the thief was required to make restitution either double or fourfold what was taken (Exo. 22:1-4). The Law also prohibited “crimes of opportunity” such as requiring the return of an enemy’s donkey, even if it were simply running away (Exo. 23:3-9). When all is considered, all that we have comes from God. He expected His people to treat other’s property with respect, and He has the same expectation today (Eph. 4:28).

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