Hebrew has no word for killing or murder; rotseach is the word for manslayer. The Greek for murder is phonos. Homicide was every conscious violent action against a human being with the immediate result of death. It was always to be punished by death, being considered a crime against the image of God. Killing is definitely forbidden in the sixth commandment (Genesis 9:5; Exodus 20:13; 21:12; Leviticus 24:17,21; Numbers 35:16-21; Deuteronomy 19:11-13). The penalty of death was not inflicted when the killing was unintentional or unpremeditated (Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:22-25; Joshua 20:3-5; compare Mishna, Makkoth, xi. 5). Cities of Refuge were founded to which the manslayer could escape from the "avenger of blood." There he had to abide till after the death of the officiating high priest. If he left the city before that event, the avenger who should kill him was free from punishment (Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:10-15,25-28,32; Deuteronomy 19:1-13; Joshua 20:2). See CITIES OF REFUGE. Killing a thief who broke in during the night was not accounted murder (Exodus 22:2). Unintentional killing of the pregnant woman in a fray was punished according to the lexicon talionis, i.e. the husband of the woman killed could kill the wife of the man who committed the offense without being punished (Exodus 21:22). This was not usually carried out, but it gave the judge a standard by which to fine the offender. If a man failed to build a battlement to his house, and anyone fell over and was killed, blood-guiltiness came upon that man's house (Dr 22:8). He who killed a thief in the daytime was guilty in the same way (Exodus 22:3; compare the King James Version). Where a body was found, but the murderer was unknown, the elders of the city nearest to the place where it was found were ordered by a prescribed ceremony to declare that they were not guilty of neglecting their duties, and were therefore innocent of the man's blood (Dr 21:1-9). Two witnesses were necessary for a conviction of murder (Numbers 35:30). If a slave died under chastisement, the master was to be punished according to the principle that "he that smiteth a man, so that he dieth, shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 21:20; compare Exodus 21:12). According to the rabbis the master was to be killed by the sword. Since in this passage the phrase "he shall die" is not used, some have supposed that punishment by death is not indicated. If the slave punished by the master died after one or two days, the master was not liable to punishment (Exodus 21:21). Because of the words, "for he is his money," the rabbis held that non-Israelite slaves were meant. In ancient times the avenger of blood was himself to be the executioner of the murderer (Numbers 35:19,21). According to Sanhedhrin 9:1 the murderer was to be beheaded. Nothing is said in the law about suicide.
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