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The Sixth Commandment - Do not murder

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A man aiming a military rifle. As mankind enters the 21st century, most people will not accept or practice the sixth commandment. The Bible, however, reveals that this commandment is vitally important and broader in scope than many people would like to believe. This guide will help you explore all that this commandment entails.

Commandment Stated

EXODUS 20:13 “You shall not murder.”

1. How do you define “murder”?

2. What situations can you think of when killing is not murder?

3. Why is human life sacred?

4. Does this commandment prohibit suicide? Why or why not?

5. Why would this commandment not apply to taking animal or plant life?

6. Would recklessly endangering a person's life violate this commandment? Why or why not?

7. How might the sixth commandment be stated positively? Consider Leviticus 19:16-18 Leviticus 19:16-18 16 You shall not go up and down as a talebearer among your people: neither shall you stand against the blood of your neighbor; I am the LORD. 17 You shall not hate your brother in your heart: you shall in any wise rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin on him. 18 You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×

Jesus' Teachings

Man carrying a gun in his pants. MATTHEW 5:21-24 ” You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

1. What does “Raca” mean?

2. What does the word “fool” mean?

3. What does it mean to “be in danger of the judgment”?

4. What does it mean to “be in danger of the council?

5. Why is the penalty for calling someone a “fool” so severe?

6. Why should murder and being angry with a brother have the same penalty?

7. Compare this verse with Ephesians 4:26 Ephesians 4:26Be you angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath:
American King James Version×
. Why is there no contradiction between this verse and Matthew 5:22 Matthew 5:22But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
American King James Version×

8. How should we react to anger-provoking situations? Is it hard to control anger? Why or why not?

9. Why is it so important to God that we live in peace with one another?

LUKE 6:27-28 ” But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

10. What do these verses teach us about using personal hurts as a reason to take human life?

11. Is it easy to follow this commandment taught by Jesus? What has been your experience? Do you think such love is natural? If not, where does one get such love?

Comment: Jesus magnified the sixth commandment by showing that the proper attitude towards human beings is more than just refraining from killing those who try to harm you.


The following tragic story is excerpted from the article “After the fire, children 'don't feel safe'” by Bill Smith in the March 15, 1999 St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Willie Cooper, 7, never saw the blaze that swept through the apartment on Salisbury Street on Friday afternoon, killing six children, including three of his classmates at Clay School.

… As he pushed away from the swingset at Cougar Park early Sunday afternoon, Willie stared down at the ground, the nightmare from the evening before still clear in his mind.

“The fire,” he said, “makes me afraid.”

Officially, at least, there were six victims of Friday’s tragic fire in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood…. But on Sunday, it was clear that there were many more—children whose lives were suddenly and dramatically changed by what happened.

Inside the Hyde Park Donut Shop, a 14-year-old boy … buried his face in his hands and wept, a newspaper story of the fire open on the counter in front of him. The boy … said he had been out of town … and had just learned that the six children — all of whom he knew — had died. The victims were Amber …, 6 ½ months; Briana …, 2; Forise…, 5; Jason…, 6; Darrell…, 8; and Danielle…, 9.

Kathy Schwab, the owner of the doughnut shop, said the fire had taken a heavy toll on the people of the area— especially the children.

“When things like this happen, they don’t feel safe,” she said. “The kids won’t be outside. They’ll be in their homes. Especially the little ones.

“This is a lot more than just a building catching fire. You feel that something else is going to happen, that there will be repercussions, and nobody knows what those repercussions are going to be. “

The 14-year-old boy lifted his head from the counter.

“There’s going to be payback,” he said.

Schwab said: “That’s what the children know. That’s what the children understand.”

Nevelynn …, 23, has been charged with one count of first-degree arson and six counts of felony murder in connection with the blaze. Investigators believe he set fire to the building in retaliation for being beaten earlier in the day for a robbery about a month ago….

Throughout the morning and afternoon Sunday, traffic along Salisbury was heavy. Cars slowed in front of the apartment building, and people stared and pointed up at the boarded windows.

Occasionally, passers-by stopped to set stuffed animals outside the front of the building or tie flowers to the stop sign on the corner.

Children, friends of those who died, had taped messages on the windows of the Evans Hyde Park Pizza shop just below the apartment.

One of the messages, on school notebook paper, was decorated with three tulips, drawn with crayon.

“We miss you,” it said.


1. What does this true story reveal about the effects of murder upon a community?

2. Explain where this murder began. Consider the words of Jesus before answering.

3. What would the world be like if this sixth commandment were obeyed universally?