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What Does the Bible Say About Murdering the Innocent?
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What Does the Bible Say About Murdering the Innocent?

Murdering innocent people is a grievous sin in the eyes of God. Throughout Scripture, God condemns the shedding of innocent blood and calls for justice when it occurs. As Christians, we are called to value and protect all human life as precious in God’s sight. This post will examine what the Bible teaches about murdering the innocent and provide key takeaways for Christians to uphold the sanctity of life.

Introduction

The unjust killing of innocent human beings is strongly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. Scripture affirms that all people are made in God’s image and have intrinsic worth (Genesis 1:27). As image bearers of God, the lives of all people have sacred value regardless of age, appearance, ability, or social status. The Bible categorically prohibits murder and places high value on human life.

Key Takeaways:

  • God created all human beings in His image; therefore all human life is sacred (Genesis 1:27)
  • Intentional murder is prohibited in the 10 Commandments: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 NKJV)
  • God abhors the shedding of innocent blood (Proverbs 6:16-17)
  • Unjust killing pollutes and defiles the land (Numbers 35:33-34)
  • Allowing murderers to live threatens the community (Numbers 35:30-34)
  • God calls for the death penalty for intentional murder (Genesis 9:6)
  • God is especially concerned with protecting the vulnerable who cannot defend themselves (Psalm 82:3-4)
  • Those who murder the innocent will face God’s judgment (Exodus 23:7)

In the sections below, we will explore Bible passages about murdering the innocent under these categories:

  1. The sanctity of human life
  2. Biblical laws concerning murder
  3. God’s judgment against those who attack the vulnerable
  4. The call to rescue the innocent

Examining these categories will give us a comprehensive understanding of how God views murdering the innocent. This biblical framework equips Christians to champion the value of all human life.

What does the bible say about murdering the innocent?

The Sanctity of Human Life

A foundational truth underscored throughout Scripture is that all human beings have intrinsic worth because we are made in God’s image. Every person is sacred in God’s eyes regardless of age, appearance, ability, or social status.

Human life is sacred

The creation account in Genesis 1 states that God created humans in His own image.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26 NKJV)

Being made in the image of God means that all people have innate value and dignity. This gives a sacredness and equality to human life that transcends circumstances.

The Bible further emphasizes the value of human life by declaring the intentional taking of innocent life to be a capital offense. Genesis 9 records God instituting capital punishment for murder after the great flood:

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6 NKJV)

The reason given for the death penalty is the sacred value of human life as God’s image bearers. The judicial execution of murderers reflects the severity of destroying those created in God’s likeness.

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In the New Testament, James 3:9 condemns cursing others because it belittles the fact that all people are made in God’s image:

“With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.” (James 3:9 NKJV)

These verses establish human life as sacred by virtue of being made imagers of God. All innocent lives have intrinsic worth and dignity before their Creator.

God values people in all stages of life

Scripture shows God’s care for human life includes the unborn, children, and the aged.

Concerning the unborn, numerous verses reveal God’s intimate involvement in conception, fetal development, and birth (Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, Job 31:15, Isaiah 44:2,24). This demonstrates God’s care for babies in the womb.

God also expresses special concern for caring for children. Jesus emphasizes the value of children in Mark 10:14-15,

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15 NKJV)

In Matthew 18:10, Jesus says not to despise any of the “little ones” under God’s care.

God cares for the vulnerable elderly as well. Leviticus 19:32 instructs,

“You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:32 NKJV)

The Bible rejects discrimination based on age or ability. All life has immeasurable worth to God from conception to old age.

Human dignity is not diminished by disability

Scripture upholds the dignity of those with disabilities. Exodus 4:11 says God intentionally forms people with disabilities:

So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11 NKJV)

Leviticus 19:14 condemns taking advantage of the deaf or blind. Rather than discriminating, God expects us to honor the disabled:

“You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:14 NKJV)

When David is anointed as king, he affirms this value in 2 Samuel 5:8, saying,

“The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” (2 Samuel 5:8 NKJV)

Meaning the disabled were welcome, not barred. All people have dignity as image bearers of God despite disability.

Social status does not determine human value

The Bible consistently upholds justice and protection for marginalized groups like foreigners, orphans, and widows. God reminds the Israelites that He hears their cries (Exodus 22:21-24). Anyone who exploits or harms them will face God’s wrath.

Likewise, in the New Testament church, there was to be no favoritism based on social class. James 2:1-9 condemns showing partiality to the rich over the poor. All people stand equal before God.

From conception to old age, from any nation or social status, Scripture testifies that all human life is sacred to God. To murder the innocent is to defile those created in His image. Next we will examine biblical laws expressly forbidding murder.

Biblical Laws Concerning Murder

Along with affirming the sanctity of life, the Bible contains direct commands against taking innocent lives. From the 10 Commandments to the Levitical law to the teachings of Jesus, God’s Word unequivocally prohibits murder.

The 10 Commandments forbid murder

The most fundamental biblical law against murder is the 6th Commandment given to Moses on Mount Sinai:

“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13 NKJV)

This commandment encapsulates the sanctity of human life in a legal prohibition. It is notable that this strong ban on murder came long before the Levitical sacrifices and rituals.

Killing the innocent defiles the land

In Numbers 35, God instructs Israel to appoint cities of refuge for those who unintentionally kill someone. However, God makes a distinction between accidental killings and murder:

‘These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel…that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there. (Numbers 35:15 NKJV)

‘But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. (Numbers 35:16 NKJV)

Premeditated murder polluted the land of Israel and required atonement through the death of the murderer. But manslaughter through carelessness was unintentional and provided mercy through refuge.

Allowing murderers to live would continue defiling the land. Numbers 35:33-34 states:

‘So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit. (Numbers 35:33-34 NKJV)

Letting murderers live would contaminate Israel and dishonor the victim’s blood. Real justice required their execution.

Exodus confirms the death penalty for murder

In Exodus 21, God establishes policies to protect against violence:

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:12 NKJV)

This applied whether the victim was male or female, slave or free. Intentional murder warranted death, enforcing the sanctity of life.

The Levitical law protects against injury and murder

Beyond the 10 Commandments, God gave detailed civil laws to prevent harm and murder. Exodus 21:22-25 says if men fighting strike a pregnant woman and kill her baby, the offender must be punished.

Leviticus 24:17 and 21 state:

“Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:17 NKJV)

“Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal. If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him” (Leviticus 24:21 NKJV)

The Lex Talionis “eye for eye” principle ensured punishment fit the crime. It was given to limit vengeance and mob violence.

These Levitical laws demonstrate God’s high regard for human life in ancient Israel.

Jesus reinforces the prohibition against murder

In the Gospels, Jesus underscored the Old Testament’s strict ban on murder. In Matthew 5:21, He says:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” (Matthew 5:21 NKJV)

Rather than abolish the law, Jesus fulfilled it by internally addressing the root attitudes behind murder like anger and insults. He reinforced the essence of the law by going deeper than mere outward actions.

In Mark 10:19, when asked about God’s commands, Jesus included, “Do not murder.” Other gospels repeat this (Luke 18:20, Matthew 19:18). The ban on murder continued in the new covenant that Jesus brought.

The Bible allows killing in limited contexts

While categorically prohibiting murder, the Bible does permit taking life in specific circumstances.

  1. Capital punishment – As already shown, Scripture commands the use of capital punishment for deliberate murder (Genesis 9:6). This upholds the value of life by demanding life for life.
  2. Killing in war – God sometimes called Israel to holy war in the OT, with God’s authority. Also, Romans 13:4 says rulers have the power of the sword to avenge wrongdoing, potentially through warfare.
  3. Self-defense – When someone forcefully threatens life, the Bible allows protecting yourself through lethal force if necessary. Exodus 22:2 says if a thief is killed breaking in, no bloodguilt applies. Self-defense is not considered murder.

However, these exceptions are tightly constrained. Nowhere does the Bible endorse indiscriminate killing of the innocent. That remains antithetical to God’s law.

In summary, from the Pentateuch to the Gospels, God consistently condemns and prohibits the intentional killing of the innocent. His laws reflect the sacred value He places on all human life. Having seen the Bible’s clear ethical standards, next we will turn to God’s judgment against those who defy His laws by attacking the weak and defenseless.

God’s Judgment Against Those Who Attack the Vulnerable

A major theme throughout Scripture is God’s special concern for protecting vulnerable people who are unable to secure their own justice. God promises repeatedly to intervene on behalf of the oppressed. Those who attack the defenseless invite God’s judgment.

God will punish those who afflict widows and orphans

In the Law, God singled out widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor as groups requiring His protective care. He promises to hear their cries and hold their oppressors accountable.

Exodus 22:22-24 states:

“You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.” (Exodus 22:22-24 NKJV)

God pledges to bring the sword against those who afflict the vulnerable. This shows how detestable it is to Him when people abuse those who lack protection or power to stop it.

Shedding innocent blood brings God’s judgment

Numerous verses warn that God abhors the shedding of innocent blood and will judge the guilty.

Proverbs 6:16-17 declares 7 things God hates including:

“Hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans.” (Proverbs 6:16-17 NKJV)

Those who scheme murder invite disaster. No innocent blood is invisible to God.

In Jeremiah 22, God condemns King Shallum for spreading injustice and killing the innocent:

“‘Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages, who says, “I will build myself a great house with spacious chambers,”… “But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.’” (Jeremiah 22:13, 17 NKJV)

For these sins, God promises Shallum will die in disgrace without proper burial. Shedding innocent blood brings severe consequences.

Ezekiel reminds Jerusalem that having idols and shedding blood will lead to destruction:

“You have become guilty by the blood which you have shed, and have defiled yourself with the idols which you have made.” (Ezekiel 22:4 NKJV)

Their bloodguilt would be punished. God hears the outcry of victims.

In the New Testament, Hebrews 11:37 mentions some faithful believers were killed though innocent. But God sees their injustice and will repay (Revelation 6:10). No violations against the weak escape God’s notice. He will judge the wicked.

Rejecting the vulnerable is rejecting God

A startling statement by Jesus elevates caring for the vulnerable as a litmus test of obeying God. Proverbs 14:31 states, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker.” Matthew 25:31-46 echoes this by depicting God’s judgment for how people treated those in need:

“Then the King will say…, ‘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 and feed you…?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40 NKJV)

Neglecting the lowly is neglecting Christ. We are accountable for defending the defenseless since God identifies with them.

The Bible consistently reveals God’s opposition to harming the innocent. He promises to intervene on their behalf. Wanton attacks against them are direct affronts to God Himself.

The Call to Rescue the Innocent

So far we’ve examined Scripture’s prohibition against shedding innocent blood through murder. But the Bible goes further in calling God’s people to actively prevent such oppression and redeem the vulnerable.

As Proverbs 24:11-12 states:

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?” (Proverbs 24:11-12 ESV)

Beyond avoiding evil ourselves, we are exhorted to rescue the innocent from evil. Failing to protect life is unrighteous. We cannot claim ignorance before God who knows our hearts. He expects His followers to uphold justice and defend the powerless.

Defend those sentenced to death unjustly

The Bible has strong words for those in authority who condemn the innocent.

Proverbs 17:15 states:

“He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17:15 NKJV)

When systems pervert justice and oppress the blameless, God is adamantly opposed. Supporting such wickedness makes us complicit.

Proverbs 24:24-25 warns:

“He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” Him the people will curse…But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight.” (Proverbs 24:24-25 NKJV)

Far from remaining neutral, we are called to condemn injustice and champion the falsely accused.

Isaiah 1:17 instructs God’s people to “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” This applies across the Old and New Testaments.

Love entails protecting the vulnerable

In Luke 10, Jesus defines loving our neighbor as actively showing mercy to anyone in need. He tells the story of the Good Samaritan who helped a victim others passed by. Likewise, we must aid those suffering injustice.

1 John 3:16-18 states:

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)

True biblical love involves sacrifice to protect the defenseless. Ignoring their need is unloving.

James 1:27 defines pure religion as visiting orphans and widows in distress. We must seek out those in need of deliverance.

Rescuing the innocent pleases the Lord

In contrast to those who harm the weak, God commends those who intercede to save lives.

Proverbs 24:11 promises, “Rescue those being led away to death, and hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?” We are responsible to prevent any murder we can, lest we deny knowing.

In Exodus 1, Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah chose to obey God rather than kill newborn boys. As a result, Scripture says,

“God dealt well with the midwives…So God was good to the midwives.” (Exodus 1:20-21 NKJV)

When we protect innocent lives, God’s favor rests on us for good. There are always options besides passively enabling murder.

Esther took great risk to advocate for saving the Jews from slaughter. Mordecai urged her, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Likewise, we may be positioned to avert tragedy for a purpose.

In Matthew 25, Jesus equates rescuing the oppressed with serving Him. He considers such mercy towards the “least of these” as true righteousness (Matthew 25:37-40). Obeying God’s call to defend lives ushers in His kingdom and draws His delight.

Conclusion

Throughout Scripture, God categorically condemns the taking of innocent life through murder. All people bear God’s image with sacred worth. His commands uphold the sanctity of life from the womb to the grave. God abhors wickedness against the defenseless and promises to intercede on their behalf to enact justice. As followers of Christ, we are charged to actively prevent such oppression and defend the lives of the innocent. Protecting the vulnerable demonstrates love and pleases God.

Murdering the innocent profanes God’s name, spurns His law, and defiles His creation. It incurs guilt before Him and judgment. But through Christ redemption is possible even for murderers like the Apostle Paul. God cherishes all lives and desires all to repent and experience new life in His Spirit. By His grace may we champion the worth of all people, fulfill justice and love mercy, that God’s kingdom may flourish.

Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.