Hannah Asks Digger Doug about Murder
Dear Digger Doug,
In Ecclesiastes 3:3, the Bible says there is “a time to kill,” but in Exodus 20:13, it says not to murder. Can you explain this?
—Hannah, Cookeville, TN
This is a wonderful question. Sometimes, people who disbelieve that the Bible is the Word of God try to prove that one part of the Bible contradicts another part. These critics then say that, since the God of the Bible never would contradict Himself, the Bible cannot be from Him. When a critic makes such an accusation, it is called an “alleged contradiction” or an “alleged discrepancy.” The truth is, however, that the Bible writers never contradicted themselves. In fact, no critic ever has proven that the Bible writers made mistakes. There is no contradiction between Exodus 20:13 and Ecclesiastes 3:3.
Remember, there were occasions when God commanded the Israelites to take the lives of certain people. For example, they were to execute murderers and other offenders (Exodus 21:15-17,23; Deuteronomy 22:26; Numbers 35:30). Also, when Israel invaded their land of promise, they were to kill the people who lived there. In Deuteronomy 20:17, we read God’s command: “But you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you.” This was a time to kill, but remember that there was a godly reason for killing: “[L]est they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God” (20:18). In instances when God instructed the Israelites to go to war, they killed by the authority of God (read Exodus 17:8-16).
So the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” does not mean that there is never a time when it is right to kill. It is wrong to purposefully take innocent human lives, or to wish harm on them (see Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 4:20). We are responsible for studying God’s Word to learn His will about how we should treat others. You can read about many more alleged discrepancies, and learn their solutions, at www.apologeticspress.org/allegeddiscrepancies.