Bible Question:

How do you explain the command you shall not kill in Exodus 22:18 versus Exodus 22:20?

Bible Answer:

“You shall not kill” is the sixth commandment among the Ten Commandments. The King James Version read as follows.

Thou shalt not kill. (KJV) Exodus 20:13

The Hebrew word for “kill” is rsh. It means “to murder or slay.” That is why the NASB and NIV read,

You shall not murder. (NASB) Exodus 20:13

That was the meaning of the King James Version (KJV) in A.D. 1611. Words change meaning with time. So the newer versions have updated their translations to communicate the meaning in our time. So when we read such passages as Exodus 22:18-19,

You shall not allow a sorceress to live. Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death. (NASB) Exodus 22:18-19

We realize that God was giving the Israelites a command to take this action. This is not murder. This action is not the result from a passion of the heart, but an act of obedience to God. Now if someone desires a person to die because of some crime the person did or because – as in this case – the person is a sorceress, that does not make God’s command wrong. It is the person’s heart which is wrong. God commanded governing authorities to administer the death penalty for certain crimes. This was not murder, but the taking of life to carry out justice.

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. (NASB) Romans 13:1-4


Today, God calls each of us to love one another and He calls us to holiness. God is more concerned about our holiness than our lives. He is more concerned that we believe in Jesus Christ than that we have good health or wealth.