1. Meaning of the Term:
The language of Scripture distinguishes less clearly than the modern juridical between assassination and murder. "Murderer" = rotseach (Nu 35:16-19,21,30-31; 2Ki 6:32; Job 24:14); horegh, from haragh = "to slay," "kill," the King James Version translation "murderer" in Ho 9:13; but "slayer" in Eze 21:11. Where the Revised Version (British and American) renders "slayers," we find ratsach, in Nu 35:11,25-28; De 4:42; 19:3-4,6; Jos 20:3,5-6; 21:13,21,27,32,38, irrespective of whether willful, deliberate killing is spoken of, or hasty or merely accidental; and nakhah = "to strike," "wound," "kill," "slay," in Nu 35:24. The prohibition against killing is all-inclusive, even to suicide, placing the ban not only on deliberate, purposeful slaying (Ex 21:12,14,18), but on all endangering of life through negligence (De 22:8) or recklessness (Le 19:14) or hatred, anger and revengefulness (Le 19:17 ff).
2. Punishment of the Act:
The Mosaic law presupposes the punishment of all killing of human beings on the ground of Ge 9:6, and repeatedly reiterates it (Ex 21:12,14 ff; Le 24:17,21; Nu 35:33; De 19:11 ff), the reason assigned being that man is made in the image of God; hence to slay a man is paramount to lifting the hand against the Creator. And while the degrees of guilt are not indicated by the language, they are closely distinguished by the punishments prescribed. Not only notorious enmity against the slain and deliberate lying-in-wait on the part of the murderer (Ex 21:13; Nu 35:20 ff; De 19:4,11), but also the nature of the instrument was taken into account to determine the nature of the crime (Nu 35:16 ff).
See CRIMES .
Frank E. Hirsch