God is just, so we should look to His word for justice. God is love, so we should look to His word for benevolence. Let’s apply this method to murder.
Murder is the first sin we have record of after the fall. Genesis 4 is an appropriate place to say, “Well, that escalated quickly.”
Cain killed his brother Abel in cold blood and God cursed Cain because of it (Gen 4:8-23). God later tells Israel, “you shall not murder,” and gives specific instructions on how to handle murderers. What were those instructions?
How should we respond to murder in a biblical society?
Beginning with God’s Law
God says, “Thou shalt not kill.” This command isn’t abrogated simply because the supreme court has ruled it’s just to destroy 3,000-4,000 babies each day.
Just punishment for murder is death: ”Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Gen 9:6) Liberals scoff at the idea of taking the life of men who take life: it’s the two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right-argument.
What liberals (and some conservatives) fail to realize is that they actually devalue life by refusing to avenge it. The life of the murderer is forfeit because of their sin against the life of the murdered.
This commandment is repeated in Leviticus: “he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.” (Lev 24:21) And again in the book of Numbers: “And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.” (Num 35:16)
What’s Required for Conviction
Men can only be convicted of murder if there are two or more witnesses: “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)
If someone wrongfully accuses another of murder and testified falsely against them, the accuser must die: “If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:16-19)
This is wildly different from the murder mystery nonsense that we see in courts today. Injustice abounds when men are put to death for murders they did not commit. Without two or three witnesses, there can be no conviction of murder.
Consequence of Disregarding Sanctions Against Murder
If we do not follow God’s commands and put murderers to death, we pollute the land with blood. Numbers 35:33 says “the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.”
Pity for manslayers is out of place in God’s world: “Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.” (Deuteronomy 19:13)
Though we choose injustice in our pity, God will kill the murderer’s soul. They are still murderers, which “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:21) This justice is poured out on individuals (Psalm 10) and entire lands (Is 26:21). Nations must be quick to execute murderers, lest they receive God’s wrath.
Nations should not be slow in punishment. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says that when we fail to quickly execute justice, “the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” So even though it seems like we should extend a person’s life in order to give them time to repent, we should instead follow God’s commands to establish justice in the land.
Finally, we are to show partiality toward the righteous and not the wicked. So often we pity the murderer and not the murdered. The life of the one killed is devalued when we pity the murderer. We show partiality to wicked when we pity them. Instead, we are to obey the commands of the Lord and establish righteousness and justice in the land as God has commanded. Isaiah 26:10 says that when we show favor to the wicked, he will not learn to be righteous. So we must be obedient to the stated will of God.
Question 14 of the Shorter Catechism is “Q. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”
We must conform to the Law of God and not transgress his explicit commands. We must see that justice is shown to murderers and favor is shown to the righteous.