The Old Testament. The Old Testament uses many terms to refer to the act ofkilling, some of which can be used interchangeably (see 2 Sam 14:7, ;where three terms for killing are used ). The most common of these is harag [g;r'h], aneutral term found over 160 times. It is used to convey the concept of the violent deathof persons at the hands of other persons (individuals, Israelites, or foreigners), whetherjustified or unjustified; it also includes the idea of murder or judicial execution (theoffender was to be killed in agreement with the command in Gen 9:6 ).
Killing Enemies in Battle. The Hebrew term harag [g;r'h] canmean killing enemies in battle. In a holy war, the Israelites would undertake the ritualmass destruction of enemies in obedience to the command of God ( Numbers 31:7 Numbers 31:17 ; Deut 2:34 ; 3:6 ; 7:22-26 ; 13:16 ; 20:10-14 ; Joshua 8:26-28 ; 1 Sam 15:3 ). EvenPharaoh participated in the mass destruction of enemies ( 1 Kings 9:16 ).
Killing Opponents. The killing of political opponents occurred during periods ofrevolution, in disputes with prophets, or in the battle for succession to the throne.Gideon destroyed Peniel and its people when they refused his aid ( Judges 8:17 ); Saulthought about killing Samuel ( 1 Sam 16:2 ), andwas successful in having the priests of Nob slain ( 1 Sam 22:17 );Jezebel killed the prophets of Yahweh ( 1 Kings 18:13 ; cf. 1 Kings 19:10 );Zechariah was stoned during the reign of Joash ( 2 Chron 24:21 );Abimelech killed his seventy brothers ( Judges 9:5 );Athaliah killed her family and was herself killed ( 2 Kings 11:16 ; 2 Chron 23:15 );and Jehu destroyed the line of Ahab ( 2 Chron 22:8 ). Thefestival of Purim was associated with the slaying of political enemies ( Esther 3:13 ; 7:4 ; 8:11 ; 9:2 ). Pharaohintended to kill the Hebrew sons (Heb. causitive of mut, Exod 1:16 ; also see 1 Sam 17:50 ; 2 Sam 3:30 ). Harag[g;r'h]is also used for the killing of personal enemies and rivals (by Lamech [ Gen 4:23-24 ] forthe intended killing of Joseph 37:20 ; mut wasused in Gen 37:18 ;also see 1 Sam 19:1 ; 1 Kings 11:40 ]Jacob versus Esau [ Gen27:41 ] and Cain versus Abel [ Gen 4:1-6 ]).
Killing as a Crime. There were at least four types of criminal homicide: murder,accidental homicide, the goring ox, and justifiable homicide. Murder was a premeditatedact ( Exod 21:13 ; Num 35:20-22 )punishable by death ( Num 35:31-33 ; Deut 19:13 ). Moses'killing of an Egyptian was considered a crime by Pharaoh ( Exod 2:14-15 ), aswas Joab's blood vengeance against Abner ( 2 Sam 3:30 ; cf. 1 Kings 2:5 ) andDavid's plotting the death of Uriah ( 2 Samuel 12:9 2 Samuel 12:14 ).Judicial murder was also condemned ( Exod 23:7 ; Psalm 10:8 ; 94:5-6 ).
A distinction was made between homicide and premeditated murder ( Exod 21:13-14 ),although the blood avenger was required to act against both, primarily as a safeguardagainst the killing of relatives. The one who committed accidental manslaughter was ableto receive asylum ( Exod21:13 ; Num35:9-30 ; [Heb. naka, [a'k"n] a mortal blow] Deut 19:1-10 ).Accidental manslaughter could result from a sudden shove or unintentional throwing of anobject ( Num 35:22 ),the dropping of a stone or random missile ( Num 35:22-23 ), afall from a roof with no rail ( Deut 22:8 ), orassault by a killer who was not lying in wait ( Exod 21:12-13 ).An ox who killed a man was stoned ( Exod 21:28-32 ).A property owner was justified in killing a thief in the act of stealing ( Exod 22:2 ; indaylight hours ).
Killing as Punishment for a Crime. Israel's death penalty showed moralsensitivity and placed a high value on human life. Punishment was often regarded as God'svengeance on the crime. Capital punishment was employed for the following criminal cases:intentional homicide ( Exod 21:12 ; Lev 24:17 ; Num 35:16-21 ),kidnapping ( Exod21:16 ; Deut 24:7 ),prostitution by the priest's daughter ( Lev 21:9 ),persistent disobedience against parents ( Lev 20:9 ; Deut 27:16 ),apostasy from the Lord ( Num 25:5 ; Deut 13:10 ),killing the king ( 2Sam 4:10-12 ), fratricide ( Gen 4:14 ; Exod 21:14 ; Judges 9:56 ; 2 Sam 14:7 ), childsacrifice ( Lev 20:4 ;Heb. mut ), and false prophecy ( Deut 13:1-5 ). Itwas also enforced for sexual abuses such as adultery ( Lev 20:10 ; Deut 22:22 ), incest( Lev 20:11-17 ),sodomy ( Lev 20:13 ),and bestiality ( Exod22:19 ; Lev20:15-16 ), and for cultic abuses including idolatry ( Lev 20:1-5 ; Num 25:1-5 ; Deut 13:6-18 ; 17:2-7 ), blasphemy( Lev 24:15-16 ),profanation of the Sabbath ( Exod 31:14-15 ; Num 15:32-36 ),and sorcery ( Exod22:17 ; Lev 20:27 ).One aspect in criminal law was the idea of corporate personality; Achan's death penaltywas extended to his entire family (Josh. 7).
Killing as Sacrifice. The term shahat [f;j'v] wasused for the slaughter of animals, either for sacrifice or for food ( Exodus 29:11 Exodus 29:16 Exodus 29:20 ; Lev 1:5 ),for child sacrifices ( Ezek 16:21 ; 23:39 ), and forJehu's mass killing ( 2 Kings 10:7 2 Kings 10:14 ).Other terms (e.g., zabah [j;bz]) were used for butchering ( Lev 17:3-9 ).
Yahweh as the Subject. Yahweh punished misdeeds, was a military hero (Yahweh ofhosts), and killed personal opponents ( Num 22:21-35 ).He killed Pharaoh's firstborn ( Exod 4:23 ; 13:15 ), thePhilistines ( Isa14:28-32 ), Babylonians ( Isa 14:4-21 ),and even his own people ( Jer 5:14 ; 23:29 ; Hosea 6:5 ; Amos 9:1-4 ). Yahwehwas also described as killing his enemies in prophetic visions of judgment ( Ezek 23:9-10 ; Amos 4:10 ; 9:1 ).
The New Testament The New Testament also uses a variety of words for the conceptof killing. The most common is apokteino [ajpokteivnw], a term used nearly seventy-five times.The writers of the Septuagint employed this word on over 150 occasions (normally for theHebrew term harag [g;r'h]). Its generic meaning appeared to signify the ending of someoneelse's life in a violent way, and could signify murder, execution, or killing. It wasfound most often in the Gospels and Revelation, while rarely in the Pauline Epistles. Theobjects of the term were most often those who speak for God ( Matt 14:5 ; 23:30 ; Mark 6:19 ; John 16:2 ; for thekilling of God's messengers ) and were condemned to death. The disciples were threatenedwith death ( Acts21:31 ; 23:12-14 ),as were martyrs ( Rev6:11 ; 11:7 ).It could also be used figuratively ( 2 Col 3:6 ; Eph 2:16 ; sinforces one into a conflict that ends in death ), in parables ( Matt 23:37 ; Mark 12:5-12 ), orin prophetic narratives (with reference to the disciples in Matthew's apocolypse [24:9]).It was used concerning Christ in the passion predictions ( Mark 8:31 ; 9:31 ; 10:34 ). Killing wasused to execute God's judgment ( Rev 6:8 ; 9:15-18 ; 19:21 ); hostilitywas behind the killing of Christ ( Eph 2:15-16 ).
Other terms for killing are also used, but on a less frequent basis. Luke often uses aterm (anaireo [ajnairevw])that means to do away with, usually in a violent way ( Luke 22:2 ; Acts 9:24 ; 16:27 ; 23:15 ; 26:10 ). The NewTestament term for committing murder (phoneuo [foneuvw]) is used by Matthew to signify the sixthcommandment (5:21; 19:18), and by Paul in summarizing the law ( Rom 13:9 ; see James 2:11 ). Otherterms include "handle violently" (in the extended sense to mean"kill": diacheirizo the killing of Jesus on the cross Acts 5:30 ; 26:21 ),"deliver up to death" (thanatoo Rom 7:4 ; 8:36 ; 2 Col 6:9 ; also,"put to death" Matt 27:1 ; Mark 13:12 ; 14:55 ; 1 Peter 3:18 ),"to slaughter" (sphazo Romans 5:6 Romans 5:8 Romans 5:12 ; 6:9 ; 1 John 3:12 ). TheNew Testament term for immolation (thuo [quvw]) has a ritual character ( Luke 15:23 Luke 15:27 Luke 15:30 ).It could be used of oxen ( Matt 22:4 ), flocks ( John 10:10 ), byPeter in Acts (10:13; 11:7), for the Passover ( Luke 22:7 ), ofChrist as the Passover lamb ( 1 Co 5:7 ), and byPaul in comparing pagan and Hebrew sacrifice ( 1 Col 8:4-13 ; 10:25-30 ).
Mark W. Chavalas
Bibliography L. Conene, NIDNTT, 1:429-30; M. Greenberg, JBL 78(1959): 125-32; J. J. Finkelstein, TAPS 71 (1981): 1-89; H. Fuhs, TDOT, 3:447-57;H. McKeating, VT 25 (1975): 46-68; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel.
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