Exodus 20.13



1.   Turn in your Bible to Exodus 20.13:  “Thou shalt not kill.”  Pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

2.   Remembering that this entire series of sermons on the ten commands is motivated by my desire to address the issue of antinomianism and most so-called Christian’s attitudes that the law doesn’t have any direct application to them, I think you will find this sixth command to be a bit more far reaching than you might have first imagined.

3.   At first glance this might be a command that Vegans would point to as a prohibition against all killing.  But we note that the same God who said “Thou shalt not kill” also demanded animal sacrifices.  So, this command is not a prohibition against taking the lives of animals, either for sacrifice under the Levitical system or for food, since our Lord Jesus Christ was most definitely a meat eater.

4.   As well, this command does not absolutely prohibit the taking of human life.  Genesis 9.6, you may be surprised to learn, asserts God’s requirement that human life be forfeited for taking human life:  “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

5.   Key to understanding this sixth command is the fact that each and every person is an image bearer of God.  What impact on another person’s life do your words or deeds have?  When you begin to consider such things you are beginning to see the real application of this prohibition.

6.   James M. Gray has this to say about the sixth command:  “The reference here is to the unlawful taking of life by suicide or homicide, but not to capital punishment for capital crimes (see Genesis 9:6), nor the taking of life in self-defense or lawful war.  It forbids all violence, passion, lust, intemperance in eating or drinking, and any other habit which tends to shorten life.  So far as the more spiritual import is concerned it interdicts envy, revenge, hatred, malice, or sinful anger, all that provokes to wrath or murder.”[3]

7.   Keil and Delitzsch:  “The other Five Words or commandments, which determine the duties to one’s neighbour, are summed up in Leviticus 19:18 in the one word, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’  The order in which they follow one another is the following: they first of all secure life, marriage, and property against active invasion or attack, and then, proceeding from deed to word and thought, they forbid false witness and coveting.  If, therefore, the first three commandments in this table refer primarily to deeds; the subsequent advance to the prohibition of desire is a proof that the deed is not to be separated from the disposition, and that ‘the fulfilment of the law is only complete when the heart itself is sanctified’ (Oehler).  Accordingly, in the command, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ not only is the accomplished fact of murder condemned, whether it proceed from open violence or stratagem (Exodus 21:12,14,18), but every act that endangers human life, whether it arise from carelessness (Deuteronomy 22:8) or wantonness (Leviticus 19:14), or from hatred, anger, and revenge (Leviticus 19:17-18).  Life is placed at the head of these commandments, not as being the highest earthly possession, but because it is the basis of human existence, and in the life the personality is attacked, and in that the image of God (Genesis 9:6).  The omission of the object still remains to be noticed, as showing that the prohibition includes not only the killing of a fellow-man, but the destruction of one’s own life, or suicide.”[4]

8.   Matthew Henry:  “The sixth commandment concerns our own and our neighbour’s life (v. 13): ‘Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not do any thing hurtful or injurious to the health, ease, and life, of thy own body, or any other person’s unjustly.’  This is one of the laws of nature, and was strongly enforced by the precepts given to Noah and his sons, Genesis 9:5, 6.  It does not forbid killing in lawful war, or in our own necessary defence, nor the magistrate’s putting offenders to death, for those things tend to the preserving of life; but it forbids all malice and hatred to the person of any (for he that hateth his brother is a murderer), and all personal revenge arising therefrom; also all rash anger upon sudden provocations, and hurt said or done, or aimed to be done, in passion: of this our Saviour expounds this commandment, Matthew 5:22.  And, as that which is worst of all, it forbids persecution, laying wait for the blood of the innocent and excellent ones of the earth.[5]

9.   Matthew Poole, an old commentator new to some of you writes these words:  “‘Thou shalt not kill.’  To wit, any man or woman, without authority, and with out just cause; which exception must necessarily be understood, because many other scriptures command the magistrate to kill great offenders.  And this prohibition being delivered by God, who made, and searcheth, and commends men’s hearts, must be extended not only to the external act of killing, but to all motions of the heart or tongue which tend that way, as anger, hatred, envy, malice, strife, blows, and the challenges of duellists; which is clearly manifest by comparing this with other scriptures, as Matt. v. 21; 1 John iii. 15, &c.  And here, as in the rest, is commanded the contrary duty of preserving the lives of our neighbours as much as lies in our power.”[6]

10. Matthew Poole is correct in what he writes.  It’s not enough to just abstain from killing others yourself.  One must also do what he can, when he can, to preserve the lives of others.  Therefore, how very wicked and selfish it is for women to insist on the right to kill their unborn children, to assassinate for convenience that little boy or little girl who has such great need of protection from mommy. 

11. And what is the real reason for such murder?  They claim it’s a woman’s right to choose.  But what person’s right to choose smothers another person’s right to life?  And what right do the strong have to snuff out the lives of the weak?  I think the real reason for the killing of the unborn is the selfish desire to avoid stretch marks, is the selfish desire to avoid putting on some weight during pregnancy, is the selfish desire to avoid discomfort, is the selfish desire to want to engage in illicit sex without consequences of any kind.  Whatever the individual reasons a mother might have for wanting to suck her baby into a sink, they’re not good enough to justify murder.

12. I don’t want to narrow the scope of this command to abortions only, since it is a command that reaches far wider than we imagine.  So, in the body of this sermon we will look at how this command is dealt with in the New Testament. 


1B.    Albert Barnes, commenting on Exodus 20.13, wrote, “Matthew 5.21-32 is the best comment on these two verses.[7]  I think he’s right.  Please turn to Matthew 5.21:

21     Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

22     But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

23     Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

24     Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 

2B.    We don’t have time this evening to deal with this passage thoroughly, but there are a couple of things I want to bring out.

1C.   First, notice in verses 21 and 22 that the Lord Jesus Christ is virtually equating killing someone and being angry with your brother.  Point of fact, the judgment that a man faces at the hand of God for killing a man is the same as the judgment he faces for being angry at his brother without a cause, and for speaking in a despicable and accusatory manner to him.  Thus, mistreatment of a brother because of being angry toward him without cause violates this sixth command.

2C.   So serious is this matter that you cannot properly worship God, verse 23-24, until you rectify the problem you have with any brother who has a problem with you.  And you may think, “Well, that’s his problem.”  But the Lord Jesus Christ very specifically shows us here that if your brother has a problem with you, that is your problem to address before you make an attempt to worship God.

3C.   Do you say nasty things to a brother?  Do you say nasty things about a brother?  Do you malign the reputation of people or impugn their integrity?  Understand that you cannot worship God until you have rectified that situation with a humble request for forgiveness and appropriate restitution.

4C.   Does someone have a problem with you, real or imagined?  Then you are responsible before God to take the step of seeking reconciliation before your worship to God will be accepted by Him.

5C.   This is the Lord Jesus Christ’s explanation of the command “Thou shalt not kill.” 


1B.    The Jewish people of Jesus’ day recognized that the prohibition against killing anyone was summed up by the pronouncement to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” as we remember from Leviticus 19.18.  But who is your neighbor?  By the time of the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry the concept of neighbor was restricted to mean only a fellow countryman.[8]

2B.    But the Lord Jesus Christ expanded the accepted scope of this command to define what was truly meant by the word “neighbor” in Luke 10.30-37:

30     And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31     And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32     And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33     But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34     And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35     And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36     Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37     And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. 

3B.    The whole point of this parable is What is a neighbor?  Who did the man who was beaten and robbed consider to be his neighbor?  Was it the high born priest?  What it the proper Levite?  It was not either of these two men, for being a neighbor has nothing to do with your station in life or what country you are from.  The neighbor was the despised Samaritan, who showed his neighborliness by showing mercy on the poor victim.

4B.    Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ shows us that “Thou shalt not kill” does not mean only to not take someone’s life.  It also means to show mercy to a neighbor.  And who is a neighbor?  It’s not someone you like, or someone you are related to, or someone you have things in common with.  The concept of neighbor as someone you should show mercy to, someone whose need you should meet, is whoever is close enough to do it to. 


1B.    I think you have begun to see, already, that “Thou shalt not kill” is a command that reaches deeper than the skin, that has implications that are far more consequential than just your actions.  And it’s left to the apostle John to reveal some of the more profound implications of this command.

2B.    Turn, please, to First John 3.4:

4       Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

5       And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

6       Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

7       Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

8       He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.  For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

9       Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

10     In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

11     For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

12     Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother.  And wherefore slew he him?  Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.

13     Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

14     We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

15     Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

16     Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

17     But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

18     My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

19     And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

20     For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

21     Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

22     And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

23     And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

24     and he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.  And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. 

3B.    I don’t have the time or the inclination to thoroughly explore this passage we’ve just read.  But allow me, please, to point out some of the more obvious nuggets that are lying right on the surface.

1C.   Verse 4:  “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”  So much for those who claim that Christianity needs no application of the law.  This is one of the last of the New Testament epistles to be written, by the last surviving apostle of Jesus Christ, and he defines sin as a transgression of the law.  Hello?  That means the law has usefulness even to the Christian to expose sin.

2C.   Verse 15:  “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”  So, regardless of whether or not an actual act of murder has occurred, though you may not have actually killed anyone, you are defined in Scripture as a murderer if you actually hate your brother.  Why so?  Because there is no middle ground in the mind of God or in the heart of man between love and hate.  And since God is the heart-knowing God, it’s what is in your heart that is important to Him.  For it’s in the heart that sin begins.

3C.   Verse 18:  “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”  Thus, we see that love for your neighbor is not a feeling, is not an attitude, and is not even confined to nice words.  Love, real love, is shown by deeds. 


1.   You may have thought to yourself, “I don’t come out so good on the fifth commandment, because I’ve not always obeyed my dad, and I’ve scowled at my mom and back sassed her at times.  But I’m okay on this sixth command, because I’ve never even thought about killed anyone.”

2.   Are you sure about that?  The flip side of the command “Thou shalt not kill” is the requirement that you love your neighbor as yourself.  Do you love your neighbor as yourself?  Do you really?

3.   You always give of what you have when you see a brother in need, First John 3.17?  You’ve never been mad at anyone without good reason?  Not one time, Matthew 5.22?

4.   I think you will have to admit that you have been angry without cause.  You have withheld what you might have given to someone in need.  In other words, you have not always loved your neighbor as yourself. 

5.   That means you have violated the sixth command.  You have not obeyed with the heart God’s prohibition “Thou shalt not kill.”  Thus, like Belshazzar of old, who was told by the prophet Daniel, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting,”[9] you, too, are found wanting.

6.   “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.”[10]  How much longer do you think you will you live under God’s pronouncement of guilt?

[1]Daniel 5.27

[2]Daniel 5.30

[3]James M. Gray, The Concise Bible Commentary, (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2000)

[4]C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2000)

[5]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[6]Matthew Poole, A Commentary On The Whole Bible, Volume I, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 160.

[7]Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[8]Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[9]Daniel 5.27

[10]Daniel 5.30

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