The sixth commandment is one of the shortest:
Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13).
The translation, “not murder” has been preferred more than three to one during the past century—notably a century dominated by democratic republics, and by vast wars involving never before seen savagery and the killing of tens of millions. “Thou shalt not murder” obviously is less restrictive than “not kill”; the state doubtless prefers it as it leaves considerable room to wage war. Killing is fine, only murder is prohibited.
Seventh-day Adventist scholar Dr. Ron du Preez has reviewed this matter. A survey of translations made over more than four centuries by Christians and Jews reveals that of 48 translations, only 14 use “not kill.” du Preez conducted a careful review of the uses of the Hebrew word RASAH used in Exodus 20:13. There are 47 uses of the term in the Old Testament. Of these, five lack sufficient context to be helpful in determining which translation is most correct. This leaves 42 uses. An exhaustive consideration of all 42 results in 18 times when RASAH should be translated as “murder” and 24 times where it should be translated as “kill.”
du Preez concludes:
Contrary to the declarations of Bible commentators and the statements of “most Bible scholars,” a comprehensive interpretation of the actual Scriptural passages definitively demonstrates that the Hebrew verb RASAH, as used in Exodus 20:13, refers to both accidental killing as well as premeditated murder. An examination of the Septuagint translation, together with the use of the Greek verb phoneuo, validates the finding that the most reliable manner of translating the sixth commandment is as the 2001 New English Translation has rendered it: “You shall not kill” (Ron du Preez, writing the chapter “Thou Shalt Not Kill” in Keith Phillips and Karl Tsatalbasidis’ I Pledge Allegiance: The Role of Seventh-day Adventists in the Military, 2007, p. 100).
(Note: The practice of Seventh-day Adventists historically has been as noncombatants/concientious objector status. Unfortunately, recent decades have seen a weakening of this practice and some Adventist young people enlisting as combat soldiers. The book I Pledge Allegiance urges Seventh-day Adventists to reject participation in military service, but does not sustain a Christian anarchist position such as that espoused here on Christian and State.)
If the Ten Commandments, as indicated above, actually teaches “Thou shalt not kill,” it becomes very hard to sustain a statist position of frequent war-making. God puts too high a price on human life. He has given it, and He would prefer that other humans not take it away.
And what cost the “Christian” support of war? None know how many potential converts to Christianity have been led to not pursue the possibility of the claims of Christ. How many have rejected even considering the possibility of entering into a restorative, life-changing, saving relationship with Christ, because of the terrific moral blur effected by gun-toting “Christian” American soldiers traveling overseas to shoot and kill?
“Thou shalt not kill” should be a Christian watchword. Everyone has a property right in their own person. But when men are sure of their “rightness,” they justify their actions, and even that which is profoundly unjust is blithely counted as right.
Men, women, and children are maimed and die. In the past two thousand years, the only enabling mechanism behind substantial wars has always been the state. There is nothing redeeming in the state. A closer look behind its mask of legitimacy reveals the smiling visage of Satan. He loves it. After all, the state is his primary promotor of the violation of God’s law. To disobedience he grants the state’s stamp of approval. And even Christians eat it up.