Numbers 35 – Does God Command Murder or Ratsach?

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gavelThe argument is made that God cannot kill because this is a violation of the sixth commandment which reads “Thou shall not kill” (Exo 20:13) But there is an issue here.

The Hebrew for “kill” in the commandment is the word “ratsach” and the strongs concordance tells us that it means “especially to murder”.   That same word “ratsach” is used also in the following verse.  Notice what it says:

Num 35:16  And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer (heb: ratsach): the murderer (heb: ratsach) shall surely be put to death. (heb: muwth)

This verse clearly distinguishes the difference between “murder” (heb: ratsach) and “put to death” (heb: muwth).   The bible justifies killing or (muwth) sometimes, but it does not justify murder (ratsach) which is violation of the sixth commandment.

The Hebrew word “muwth” is also used in the following verse describing an attribute of God.

Deut 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, (muwth) and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.

It has been said that this refers to the spiritual birth.  But actually, it refers to the judgment, and God’s vengeance. (See verses 35-41)  Furthermore notice how Ellen White talks about God “taking life”.

“How carefully God protects the rights of men! He has attached a penalty to wilful murder. ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed’ (Gen. 9:6). If one murderer were permitted to go unpunished, he would by his evil influence and cruel violence subvert others. This would result in a condition of things similar to that which existed before the flood. God must punish murderers. He gives life, and He will take life, if that life becomes a terror and a menace. Mercy shown to a wilful murderer is cruelty to his fellow men. ” Ellen White, Manuscript 126, 1901

He kills and makes alive, He gives life and He will take life she says.   It isn’t talking about a spiritual death and being born again for the murderer.

This verse plainly says that God kills.  But notice the word here is actually the word (muwth) which means to “put to death”.  Not the same word used in the sixth commandment which is “Ratsach.”   So if we are to believe the bible, then we can understand 2 things here:

1.  God does not murder (ratsach) or violate his law.  (Exo 20:16)
2.  God does kill (muwth) which upholds his law.  (Num 35:16)

Our Father in mercy upholds His law.   He does not violate his law.

Now some have wrote about the problems with the muth and ratsach  especially in Numbers 35:30 and have said that the murderer was to be ratsached. They have also shared that Muth can be murder.   “Muth can mean Murder”  because sometimes Muth is Ratsach.

To say that murder is not muth as they’ve suggested  would be like saying “murder is not killing”.   I would never say that.  Sometimes muth is murder.  BUT NOT ALWAYS.

As we’ve said above, sometimes killing someone is not murder.  Sometimes it is ratsach, sometimes its not.

All Murder is Killing.
Not all Killing is Murder.  Again, the government that enforces the death penalty is not guilty of murder.

So therefore:
All Ratsach is Muah
Not all Muah is Ratsach
But only sometimes Muah is Ratsach.

We need to be clear again… God does not Ratsach.  That would be violation of the sixth commandment. Now why does Numbers 35:30 seem to suggest that the judgement is Ratsach(Murder).  It seems to be telling us that God is employing murder while telling us not to do it at the same time.

In Numbers 35:30 the word RATSACH (H7523) seems to suggest judgment but we need to be careful.  What do we get when we follow the rule of other verses where this word “Ratsach” is used in the same way as Numbers 35:30?  What is the literal translation?  This is what we need to examine carefully.

There is a RULE that needs to be followed when the Hebrew 7523(Ratsach) is used twice in a row.  If we study the following three verses carefully we’ll see it, then we can apply that rule in verse 30 and everything harmonizes.

Num_35:16  And ifH518 he smiteH5221 him with an instrumentH3627 of iron,H1270 so that he die,H4191 heH1931 ****is a murderer:H7523 the murdererH7523 ****shall surely be put to death.H4191 H4191

Notice that when Ratsach is used twice in a row here it is translated “murderer”.   Notice again the same in the next two verses.

Num_35:17  And ifH518 he smiteH5221 him with throwingH3027 a stone,H68 wherewithH834 he may die,H4191 and he die,H4191 heH1931 ****is a murderer:H7523 the murdererH7523**** shall surely be put to death.H4191 H4191

Num_35:18  OrH176 if he smiteH5221 him with an handH3027 weaponH3627 of wood,H6086 wherewithH834 he may die,H4191 and he die,H4191 heH1931 ****is a murderer:H7523 the murdererH7523**** shall surely be put to death.H4191 H4191

When the Hebrew 7523 is used twice in a row, it is always Murderer as we shall see, though H4191 Muth can sometimes refer to murder as discussed above, sometimes it refers alone to justice and not murder as in these verses.

In Numbers 35:30 however, there seems to be a discrepancy where the translators seem to have translated H7523 Ratsach as “Put to Death” or to refer it to the judgment and not to murder.  We don’t build doctrine on seeming discrepancies where merely one verse is used to prove the point.  “In the mouth of two or three witnesses should the thing be established.” as the verse itself even suggests.  But we will take a closer look here to see if this discrepancy can easily be harmonized.   Let’s first look at the original reading.

Num_35:30  WhosoH3605 killethH5221 any person,H5315 (H853) ****the murdererH7523 shall be put to deathH7523**** by the mouthH6310 of witnesses:H5707 but oneH259 witnessH5707 shall notH3808 testifyH6030 against any personH5315 to cause him to die.H4191

As for the english the translators did fine just the way it is, but the second time Ratsach is used in that verse it is “put to death” and not “murderer.”  So why is there a seeming discrepancy in this verse?
If I put the original meaning of the words in, which I will do below we see that there is no discrepancy, and it would read just as well.  Notice it as it follows the rule I mentioned with the earlier verses quoted which were Numbers 35:16-18 where Ratsach H7523 was used twice in a row.

Num_35:30  WhosoH3605 killethH5221 any person,H5315 (H853) ****is a murdererH7523, the murdererH7523**** by the mouthH6310 or testimonyH5707 of but oneH259 witnessH5707 shall notH3808 testifyH6030 against any personH5315 to cause him to be put to death.H4191

It still says the same in the english, except the words from their original Hebrew are in their proper order. And that is the original Hebrew.  There is no problem with this verse.

There would be a problem however if the English read “the murderer shall surely be murdered.”  Or the Hebrew was actually saying “The ratsach shall surely be ratsached”.   Then the justice system becomes completely guilty of commanding us to break the very law that we are commanded to keep and this creates confusion.   This creates major issues to believe that.  Then Satan’s accusations would become justified, that God is unjust.

The word H7523 is actually referring to the “murderer” just as the verses above and everything harmonizes, and there is no discrepency.  God does not Ratsach, nor does He command His people to Ratsach.   If we follow the same rule when H7523 is used twice in a row, we will not come to use this verse to make the judgment (murder).  It’s not murder.

The literal interpretation above does no harm to the original English reading of the verse.  It merely puts the English words in their proper place with the original Hebrew.

The bible tells us that God does “Muah”.  (Deu 32:35-42)
Does the Bible say God commits “Ratsach”?  No.
The bible tells us of God commanding his people to kill “Muah”.
Did God command his people to “Ratsach”?  No WAY…

There is no injustice with God.

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