A Time to Kill

Is it okay to kill, like David killing Goliath or Joshua eliminating Canaanites? Or is killing forbidden?

“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13; NASB).

“If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed” (Exodus 22:2).

“Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:15–16).

“Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:17).

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him (1 Samuel 17:50).

In order to answer this apparent contradiction, we must make a distinction between killing someone and committing murder. Murder is the unlawful taking of a life, while killing may be lawful or unlawful. The establishment of capital punishment actually extends back to the Noahic Covenant when God declared, “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:5–6).

Even before this, Cain was afraid of the other members of his family seeking to kill him after he had murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:13–15).[5] In the cases outlined in Scripture, taking the life of another in the name of justice was not murder. The question poses a false dilemma in that killing does not have to be always right or always wrong — God has provided qualifications.

Because man is made in the image of God, the death of a human is not taken lightly. In the laws given to Israel through Moses, those sins that were worthy of death were detailed. Leviticus 19 is one such place where these commands are given. Since these are commands directly from God and God cannot lie, we understand that there must be no contradiction in the commands. Those who committed sexual sins were to be justly killed, but only upon the clear affirmation of their crime established by witnesses.

As the author of the first five books of the Bible, Moses would not have written contradictory ideas. If we allow for killing to be wrong in every case, when a person carried out capital punishment, as commanded by God, they would have to be killed for the taking of a life. Then their life would be demanded, and so on until humanity was left with one. Extending the logic allows us to see how absurd the claim of a contradiction truly is.

The Bible provides many circumstances under which the taking of a life is legally allowed by Scripture. Killing another person in an act of self-defense (Exodus 22:2) was permitted with no consequences. There are examples of God calling the people to war against other nations to punish them for their sins. When Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, God commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy the idolatrous peoples who inhabited the land (Deuteronomy 20:16–17). A list of their sins can be found in Leviticus 18, including incest, murdering children, and so on. When God called Israel to war against those in the Promised Land, then He was permitting the killing in this situation, making men His agents of justice, as in the case with capital punishment.

The killing of Goliath by the young David was, likewise, justified in the eyes of God. In fact, David was angered by the way that Goliath blasphemed God and met him in battle. David did not trust in himself, but in the Lord to deliver Goliath into his hands. This is an example of continuance of the war the Israelites had been engaged in with the inhabitants of the Promised Land, as directed by God.

God repeatedly chose war and capital punishment as a way to bring judgment on peoples and individuals who were acting in defiance of His will by doing great sin. He ordained the killing as a punishment to accomplish His purposes in the world.

This should give an idea of seriousness of sin. In the eyes of a perfect and holy God, one sin is worthy of death (Genesis 2:17). Since we are all sinners, we are all under the death sentence already. In essence, we are all on “death row,” and those who murder or do other terrible sins as described in Scripture simply had their wait on “death row” shortened.

God hates sin, especially those that lead to any situation where a human life is lost. His holy nature and subsequent hatred of sin make the taking of a life acceptable only in the rarest of cases. We should never seek to minimize the taking of a life — a life made in the image of God. Remember that taking a life for justifiable reasons is only necessary because we live in a world of sin. The perfect creation would not have required death for any reason.


The Firstborn Creator?

How could Jesus be the Creator (John 1:1–3) if He was the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15)?

Christ being the creator should be nothing new or surprising. Some important texts pertinent to this are:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1–3).

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:15–16).

“Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’ ” (Psalm 2:6–7).

For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him” (Hebrews 1:5–6).

Off the cuff, the first thing that needs to be established is that Christ is the Creator God as these passages reveal. Otherwise, Christ would have been the uncreated creator of the resultant created being, which is obviously illogical!

The alleged contradiction results from an improper understanding of the phrase “firstborn over all of creation” and the meaning and date of the “begetting.” Do these really mean the “first created entity” at a time near creation, which some claim is implied here? Absolutely not. A Christian apologist has even pointed out that there is a Greek word for “first created,” and it was not used in this instance.[33]

The context of the Psalms and Hebrews passages is clearly of the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, indicating His incarnation some 2,000 years ago, not the beginning or not an alleged beginning to His actual existence. Consider this passage:

I have found My servant David; with My holy oil I have anointed him. . . . Also I will make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth (Psalm 89:20–27).

Take notice how David has been allotted the position of firstborn! However, David was the youngest— and not the firstborn — of Jesse, his father; the firstborn was Eliab, as indicated in 1 Samuel 17:13. Take notice in Psalm 89:27 how God assigns this title. Consider also Ephraim’s inheritance of the title of firstborn (Jeremiah 31:9), even though he was the younger (Genesis 41:51–52).

Like David and Ephraim, Jesus also received this title. David and Ephraim were obviously not the first created entities, and so it would be illogical to make the claim that Jesus was created due merely to the endowment of this title. Hence, there is no contradiction. Jesus is both the Creator and the One who inherited this elite title.

Accounts Payable

Can man be held accountable for his sinful actions, and yet have Christ act as a substitute for his sins?

Relevant passages:
Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man (Genesis 9:5–6).

[Jesus Christ] then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:26–28).

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18–19).

In Genesis 9:5–6, we read that each man will be held responsible for his actions if he kills another human. It is also clear in Scripture that sin will not be held against those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross. It has been asked how men can be held accountable for their own sins, as murder is, and yet Christ can act as a substitute to remove the consequences of sin. The answer comes as we examine the context.

As God is making His covenant with Noah and his descendants in Genesis 9, the institution of capital punishment is given. Man has inherent worth because he is made in the image of God. The civil law given to the Israelites and other passages of Scripture make it clear that each person is accountable for his own actions and their consequences. God sets up the temporal punishments that accompany the violation of these civil laws. Civil authority is given to punish those who break the laws. In the case of Genesis 9, the authority is being given to mankind to execute capital punishment. This is a temporal consequence for a temporal action. We can place this in the category of civil justice.

The murder of another human is not only an offense against man, but also an offense against God. When King David had sinned by having Uriah killed and committing adultery with Bathsheba, he recognized his sin against God:

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight (Psalm 51:2–4).

Although there was a temporal sin, David recognized that all sins are ultimately an offense against a holy God. In Psalm 7:11 we read that “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”

If a man were to commit murder in our society, he would be violating two laws: the civil law of the government and the holy Law of God (Exodus 20:13). For the act of murder the civil authorities will execute justice through the courts, and the penalty may include capital punishment.

For violating the Law of God, the consequence is much harsher, since the authority is higher. God’s eternal justice demands the penalty of eternal death in hell. Because everyone has sinned against a perfectly holy God (Romans 3:23), every person deserves that just punishment.

However, Jesus Christ died on the Cross, and God’s wrath against sin was poured out on Him. Those who will repent and put their trust in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the Cross can avoid that judgment and spend an eternity in heaven with God (John 3:16–18). The righteousness of Christ and His sacrifice are imputed to us (credited to our account, though we don’t deserve it), and God’s justice is satisfied (2 Corinthians 5:20–21). There will still be consequences for all who break the civil laws, but those who are in Christ have no fear of the final judgment (1 John 4:17–18).

The Order of Nations

The charge has been made that there is a contradiction in Genesis 10–11. The accusation is that if people had already spread around the world (as recorded in Genesis 10), fulfilling God’s command, why was mankind judged with the confusion of languages as recorded in Genesis 11? This is actually an easy “contradiction” to clear up.
Genesis 10, often called “the Table of Nations,” traces the origins of nations and people groups as they dispersed around the world after the Flood. It is a historical narrative of the descendants of Noah’s three sons. That chapter concludes with this statement:

These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood (Genesis 10:32).

After the descendants of each of the sons of Noah are mentioned, the text says that they were dispersed “according to their families, according to their languages” (Genesis 10:5, 20, 31). So, if Noah and his sons all spoke the same language, where did all of these other languages come from? Genesis 11 gives us the answer.

These groups of people did not willingly and obediently separate to fill the earth. Rather, we learn in Genesis 11:1–9 why these families separated from each other and how it came to be that there were so many languages in the world.

There is no contradiction here; Moses merely put the effect before the cause. Genesis 10 gives an overview, and then Genesis 11 fills in the details. You often find the same technique in other history books. One chapter might contain an overview of World War I — along with a list of major events. But the very next chapter might detail what the world was like in the years before the war and what events led up to it.

There may also be another reason why the order of these two events is switched. Keith Krell explains:

The actual outworking of the genealogies of Genesis 10 occurs after the events at the Tower of Babel (cf. 11:1 with 10:5, 20, 31). This interspersal of narrative (11:1–9) separates the two genealogies of Shem (10:21–31; 11:10–26), paving the way for the particular linkage between the Terah (Abraham) clan and the Shemite lineage (11:27). The story of the tower also looks ahead by anticipating the role that Abram (12:1–3) will play in restoring the blessing to the dispersed nations. By placing the Tower of Babel incident just prior to the stories of Abram and his descendants, the biblical writer is suggesting, in the first place, that post-flood humanity is as wicked as pre-flood humanity. Rather than sending something as devastating as a flood to annihilate mankind, however, God now places His hope in a covenant with Abraham as a powerful solution to humanity’s sinfulness. This problem (Genesis 11) and solution (Genesis 12) are brought into immediate juxtaposition, and the forcefulness of this structural move would have been lost had Genesis 10 intervened between the two.[4]

Location, Location, Location

Why do names of places appear in both the pre-Flood and post-Flood world? Does this refute a global Flood that should have destroyed such places?

When we read Genesis 6–9, it is obvious that there was a global Flood.

So the alleged contradiction is that some pre-Flood place names rea

ppear after the Flood. For example, table 1 illustrates the most common ones.
Table 1. Pre-Flood and Post-Flood References

Name Reference Person
Pre-Flood Post-Flood
Havilah Genesis 2:11 Genesis 10:7, 29 Noah’s grandson through Ham; Noah’s great, great, great, great grandson through Shem
Cush Genesis 2:13 Genesis 10:6 Noah’s grandson through Ham
Asshur Genesis 2:14 Genesis 10:22 Noah’s grandson through Shem
Tigris Genesis 2:14 Genesis 10:4 River in modern-day Iraq
Euphrates Genesis 2:14 Genesis 15:18 River in modern-day Iraq

The answer to this conundrum is quite simple, but let’s use some illustrations so that we can better understand this.

Names of places often transfer. For example, Versailles, Illinois, was named for Versailles, Kentucky, when settlers moved from Kentucky into Illinois. And before that Versailles, Kentucky, was named for Versailles, France. If someone said to meet me in Versailles, you may have to ask “which one?”

Names of places often come from names of people as well. The land of Canaan was named form Noah’s grandson Canaan. St. Louis, Missouri, was named for King Louis IX of France.

Names of people sometimes came from places. Consider the name London that many people today have and its origin as a city in England.

With this in mind, it should be fairly easy to see how names could easily have been transferred through the Flood. Ham’s grandson was likely named after the land of Havilah. Cush was Ham’s son, and Asshur was Shem’s son. Noah, Ham, and Shem lived before the Flood and would have been aware of these regions. And of course, these names have gone on to become names of regions where some of these people settled after the dispersal of the Tower of Babel. Cush is modern-day Ethiopia, Asshur was where Assyria developed into a great nation, and so on.

For example, if I were to mention the “Thames River,” most people would quickly think of a river in southern England. However, the state of Connecticut in the United States, as well as Ontario, Canada, each have a river named “Thames.” When people settled in the Americas from Europe, they named some of these rivers for rivers they were familiar with. Why would we expect Noah and his descendants to do any differently? The Tigris and Euphrates that we know today in modern-day Iraq were named for the famous headwaters in the Garden of Eden.

There is no contradiction, but merely a situation of renaming new places, rivers, and people with previously used names.