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The Blue Letter Bible

Dictionaries :: Murder

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International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia


mur'-der (haragh, "to smite," "destroy," "kill," "slay" (Ps 10:8; Ho 9:13 AV]), ratsach, "to dash to pieces," "kill," especially with premeditation (Nu 35:16 and frequently; 3Job 24:14; Ps 94:6; Jer 7:9; Ho 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 (Joh 8:44) and him that hates his brother (1 Joh 3:15); a matricide is designated as metraloas (1Ti 1:9); compare adelphokionos, "fratricidal" (The Wisdom of Solomon 10:3). The plural of phonos, "murders," occurs in Mt 15:19; Mr 7:21; Ga 5:21 the King James Version; Re 9:21; compare 2 Macc 4:3,18; 12:6):

1. Terms:

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 (Le 24:17; compare Ge 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; Le 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; 1Ti 1:9; Mt 15:4). No punishment is mentioned for attempted suicide (compare 1Sa 31:4 f; 1Ki 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; De 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 (2Sa 13:39; 14:7,11; 1Ki 2:34).

Written by Frank E. Hirsch


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