“Kill” or “Murder” in Exodus 20:13?

"Thou shalt not kill." (Exodus 20:13, KJV)

Critics charge that the Hebrew word “רצח (râtsach)” means “murder.” However, the same word is used in Number 35:30 to refer to a legally justified form of capital punishment. The word clearly has a broader meaning than murder. “Kill” is that correct broader meaning. The English word “Kill” can mean “murder”: e.g. a “serial killer” is a murderer.

Some allege that the choice of “kill” instead of “murder” appears to prohibit the killing of animals. If the same reasoning were followed, however, the command “Thou shalt not steal” would prohibit the taking of eggs, habitat, etc. from animals. It is obvious that the scope of the meaning of “kill” in Exodus 20:13 is read down in consideration of other commands in the Bible that allow certain killings. As Hebrew is a very concrete language, the general word "kill" seems more appropriate than the philosophically and legally charged term "murder".

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