You shall not murder. [Exodus 20:13 ESV]
Cain was the first to commit an act of murder. A different word is used in Genesis 4:8 than in Exodus 20:13. “Killed” means to hit or strike with deadly intent to destroy.
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. [Genesis 4:3-7 ESV]
Cain was angry with God because God did not accept the offering he brought. God warned him about the presence and power of sin, how it takes over and controls and enslaves the whole person. Cain could not kill God, the true object of his anger, so he murdered the next best thing. Abel was made in the image of God and thus a representative of God. Sin captured and twisted Cain’s thinking giving him, in the thinking of his heart, a reasonable excuse to try, judge, sentence, and execute his younger brother. He showed a pattern, first outlined by his parents as they rebelled against God, which all people would follow and develop for the rest of history.
In God’s statement in Exodus and Deuteronomy the word used for “murder” means to break into pieces, to take away the objects ability to function as it was made, that is, to take away it’s life. The action may be spontaneous or preconceived and deliberate. It may be an act of carelessness or come from hatred or the desire for revenge because of anger. In all cases murder is the final act of dehumanizing another person and unjustly taking their life.
There are more ways to break a person than to take their life. People regularly steal life from others through manipulation, debilitating and hypercritical statements, and repetitive comments about a person’s lack of character or lack of value. Hear what Jesus has to say.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. [Matthew 5:21-22 ESV]
Let me be quick to say there is room for righteous anger. This is an anger exhibited by those who are poor in spirit when they see the truth of God being compromised when actions state His truth is not true or the lie is true. There is a place for hatred of sin. There is never a place for hatred of the sinner.
Like all of God’s statements this one follows those which have come before. Do you not recognize God’s authority and place in creation? You will not recognize the image He has stamped on His highest creation. Do you have idols? You will find an excuse in those idols to judge and execute those with whom you live. Do you have so little regard for God you reject Him and His commands and statements and expectations and love and compassion? You will reject those He has created in His image. Do you seek rest in something other than God? You will never find rest and try to destroy those who do live in peace with Him, those who have something you have not. Have you been taught, by your parents or other authorities, to devalue people who do not fit a taught and ungodly expectation or measure up to an arbitrary standard of righteousness? This is no excuse to disobey God.
God places value on people. We do not have the right to devalue those whom God has eternally established as valuable. Those who try to destroy what God has deemed valuable will face God’s wrath, Him against whom they rebel. Jesus died, was murdered, for all, so those who are God’s would not face spiritual death. Yet, we are all physical, sinful people and will face physical death. How we die is in God’s eternal decree. But, woe to those who conspire to murder God by murdering those who are His.