Very little has been said about the homicide law of the Decalogue. Upon reading the sixth commandment, it is often assumed that the prohibition of killing is absolute. If this is so, then serious problems are raised, not only for an act of killing itself, but also for things like self-defense, punishment by death, abortion, and suicide.

It is the purpose of this paper to deal in the following manner with the issue of killing: The first task is to begin with the obvious starting point, the sixth commandment itself. After noting the language used, as well as Hebrew expressions not used, presumably on purpose, it will be seen that the prohibition of killing applies only to the shedding of the innocent blood of a human being within the covenant community.

The second chapter will explore an additional aspect of killing, that is, abortion. There is some discussion as to whether or not Moses directly addressed the issue and if, in fact, abortion is considered to be the taking of innocent life. It is the position of this paper that abortion is not, according to Mosaic law, an act of murder.

The third chapter, in an attempt to deal with the question of suicide, will have to go outside of the Pentateuch for evidence since Moses is silent on this point. Indeed, information in the entire Old Testament is scant and it appears that no completely satisfactory answer can be provided.

Chapter four will examine several cases in which the lawcode is applied, and then the paper will summarize the conclusions reached.

The conclusions of this paper are that (1) all life is from God and belongs to him, (2) the shedding of the innocent blood of a covenant community member is illegal, (3) other types of killing, such as vengeance or punishment, rather than going contrary to the lawcode, are required by it, (4) the killing of a non-human or a non-covenant community member was accepted as sometimes being necessary and thus carried out with prudence.


Graduate School

First Advisor

Kenneth Vine

Second Advisor

Niels-Erik Andreasen

Third Advisor

Leon Mashchak

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Homicide (Jewish law); Abortion -- Religious aspects; Suicide -- Moral and ethical aspects



Page Count

v; 47

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives