There is a huge misconception out there regarding the following scripture found in Exodus 20:13 (King James Version): “Thou shalt not kill”.
The context of this scripture is in relation to Moses receiving God’s law; specifically the “10 commandments”. For the purpose of explaining the misconception of this scripture we have elected to reference the King James Version.
The Hebrew word for “kill” is “ratsach” which means to slay or murder. Many have mistakenly taking this word as some sort of catch all for all killings; i.e. the killing of animals, killings involved in war, self defense and capital punishment. However, the intended meaning of the passage is to not kill in “cold blood”; to not murder or to not shed innocent blood.
Many of the other translations provide clarity of this word by using the word “murder” derived from the actual Hebrew word provided above.
Let’s consider the subject of “capital punishment”. In further study of the scripture we do not find any indication that capital punishment is ever condemned. For example: Genesis 9:6 – “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man” (NASB). Also, Romans 13:3-4: 3“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; 4for 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 on the one who practices evil”.
Furthermore, the sword was the most lethal weapon of the day during biblical times and would be considered the equivalent of today’s gun. The goal of the sword was for both the punishment of crimes and as a crime deterrent.