Wilful murder was distinguished from accidental homicide, and was invariably visited with capital punishment (Num. 35:16, 18, 21, 31; Lev. 24:17). This law in its principle is founded on the fact of man's having been made in the likeness of God (Gen. 9:5, 6; John 8:44; 1 John 3:12, 15). The Mosiac law prohibited any compensation for murder or the reprieve of the murderer (Ex. 21:12, 14; Deut. 19:11, 13; 2 Sam. 17:25; 20:10). Two witnesses were required in any capital case (Num. 35:19-30; Deut. 17:6-12). If the murderer could not be discovered, the city nearest the scene of the murder was required to make expiation for the crime committed (Deut. 21:1-9). These offences also were to be punished with death, (1) striking a parent; (2) cursing a parent; (3) kidnapping (Ex. 21:15-17; Deut. 27:16).
The law of Moses, while it protected the accidental homicide, defined with additional strictness the crime of murder. It prohibited compensation or reprieve of the murderer, or his protection if he took refuge in the refuge city, or even at the altar of Jehovah. (Exodus 21:12,14
; Leviticus 24:17,21
; 1Ã‚Â Kings 2:5,6,31
) The duty of executing punishment on the murderer is in the law expressly laid on the "revenger of blood;" but the question of guilt was to be previously decided by the Levitical tribunal. In regal times the duty of execution of justice on a murderer seems to have been assumed to some extent by the sovereign, as was also the privilege of pardon. (2Ã‚Â Samuel 13:39
; 1Ã‚Â Kings 2:34
) It was lawful to kill a burglar taken at night in the act, but unlawful to do so after sunrise. (Exodus 22:2,3
- 1. Terms:
mur'-der (haragh, "to smite," "destroy," "kill," "slay" (Ps 10:8; Hos 9:13 AV]), ratsach, "to dash to pieces," "kill," especially with premeditation (Nu 35:16 and frequently; Job 24:14; Ps 94:6; Jer 7:9; Hos 6:9); phoneus, "criminal homicide," from phoneuo, "to kill," "slay"; phonos, from pheno, has the same meaning; anthropoktonos, "manslayer," "murderer," is used to designate Satan (Jn 8:44) and him that hates his brother (1 Jn 3:15); a matricide is designated as metraloas (1 Tim 1:9); compare adelphokionos, "fratricidal" (The Wisdom of Solomon 10:3). The plural of phonos, "murders," occurs in Mt 15:19; Mk 7:21; Gal 5:21 the King James Version; Rev 9:21; compare 2 Macc 4:3,18; 12:6):
2. The Hebrew Law:
The Hebrew law recognized the distinction between willful murder and accidental or justifiable homicide (Nu 25:16); but in legal language no verbal distinction is made. Murder was always subject to capital punishment (Lev 24:17; compare Gen 9:6). Even if the criminal sought the protection of the sanctuary, he was to be arrested before the altar, and to be punished (Ex 21:12,14; Lev 24:17,21; Nu 35:16,18,21,31). The Mishna says that a mortal blow intended for another than the victim is punishable with death; but such a provision is not found in the Law. No special mention is made of (a) child murder; (b) parricide; or (c) taking life by poison; but the intention of the law is clear with reference to all these eases (Ex 21:15,17; 1 Tim 1:9; Mt 15:4). No punishment is mentioned for attempted suicide (compare 1 Sam 31:4 f; 1 Ki 16:18; Mt 27:5); yet Josephus says (BJ, III, viii, 5) that suicide was held criminal by the Jews (see also Ex 21:23). An animal known to be vicious must be confined, and if it caused the death of anyone, the animal was destroyed and the owner held guilty of murder (Ex 21:29,31). The executioner, according to the terms of the Law, was the "revenger of blood"; but the guilt must be previously determined by the Levitical tribunal. Strong protection was given by the requirement that at least two witnesses must concur in any capital question (Nu 35:19-30; Dt 17:6-12; 19:12,17). Under the monarchy the duty of executing justice on a murderer seems to have been assumed to some extent by the sovereign, who also had power to grant pardon (2 Sam 13:39; 14:7,11; 1 Ki 2:34).
Frank E. Hirsch