1. Terms:

mur'-der (haragh, "to smite," "destroy," "kill," "slay" (Psalms 10:8; Hosea 9:13 AV]), ratsach, "to dash to pieces," "kill," especially with premeditation (Numbers 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 (John 8:44) and him that hates his brother (1John 3:15); a matricide is designated as metraloas (1 Timothy 1:9); compare adelphokionos, "fratricidal" (The Wisdom of Solomon 10:3). The plural of phonos, "murders," occurs in Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; Galatians 5:21 the King James Version; Revelation 9:21; compare 2 Macc 4:3,18; 12:6):

2. The Hebrew Law:

The Hebrew law recognized the distinction between willful murder and accidental or justifiable homicide (Numbers 25:16); but in legal language no verbal distinction is made. Murder was always subject to capital punishment (Leviticus 24:17; compare Genesis 9:6). Even if the criminal sought the protection of the sanctuary, he was to be arrested before the altar, and to be punished (Exodus 21:12,14; Leviticus 24:17,21; Numbers 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 (Exodus 21:15,17; 1 Timothy 1:9; Matthew 15:4). No punishment is mentioned for attempted suicide (compare 1 Samuel 31:4; 1 Kings 16:18; Matthew 27:5); yet Josephus says (BJ, III, viii, 5) that suicide was held criminal by the Jews (see also Exodus 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 (Exodus 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 (Numbers 35:19-30; Deuteronomy 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 (2 Samuel 13:39; 14:7,11; 1 Kings 2:34).


Frank E. Hirsch

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'MURDER'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.