(man’-sla-er) (meratstseach, from ratsach [Num. 35:6,12]; androphonos [1 Tim 1:9]): A term employed with reference to both premeditated and accidental or justifiable killing. In the latter case, an asylum was granted [Num. 35:6,12] until the death of the high priest, after which the slayer was allowed to “return into the land of his possession” (verse 28). The cases in which the manslayer was to be held clearly immune from the punishment imposed on willful killing were: (1) death by a blow in a sudden quarrel [Num. 35:22]; (2) death by anything thrown at random [um. 35:22-23]; (3) death by the blade of an axe flying from the handle [Deut 19:5]. Among the cases in which one would be held responsible for the death of another, is to be counted the neglectful act of building a house without a parapet [Deut 22:8].

Manslaughter, as a modern legal term, is employed to distinguish unpremeditated killing from cold-blooded murder, but formerly (2 Esd1:26) it was used in a more general sense. See MURDER.




(mur’-der) (haragh, “to smite,” “destroy,” “kill,” “slay” ([Ps 10:8; Hos 9:13] AV), ratsach, “to dash to pieces,” “kill,” especially with premeditation ([Num. 35:16] and frequently; [Job 24:14; Ps 94:6; Jer 7:9; Hos 6:9]); phoneus, “criminal homicide,” from phoneuo, “to kill,” “slay”; phonos, from pheno, has the same meaning; anthropoktonos, “manslayer,” “murderer,” is used to designate Satan [Jn. 8:44] and him that hates his brother [1 Jn 3:15]; a matricide is designated as metraloas [1 Tim 1:9]; compare adelphokionos, “fratricidal” (Wisd 10:3).

1. Terms: The plural of phonos, “murders,” occurs in [Mt.15:19; Mk7:21; Gal5:21] the King James Version; [Rev 9:21]; compare 2 Macc 4:3,38; 12:6):

2. The Hebrew Law: The Hebrew law recognized the distinction between willful murder and accidental or justifiable homicide [Num. 25:16]; but in legal language no verbal distinction is made. Murder was always subject to capital punishment ([Lev. 24:17]; compare [Gen. 9:6]). Even if the criminal sought the protection of the sanctuary, he was to be arrested before the altar, and to be punished [Exo.21:12,14; Lev 24:17,21; Num. 35:16,18,21,31]. The Mishna says that a mortal blow intended for another than the victim is punishable with death; but such a provision is not found in the Law. No special mention is made of (a) child murder; (b) parricide; or (c) taking life by poison; but the intention of the law is clear with reference to all these eases [Exo 21:15,17; 1 Tim 1:9; Mt 15:4]. No punishment is mentioned for attempted suicide (compare [1 Sam 31:4] f; [1 Kin16:18; Mt 27:5]); yet Josephus says (BJ, III, viii, 5) that suicide was held criminal by the Jews (see also [Exo21:23]). An animal known to be vicious must be confined, and if it caused the death of anyone, the animal was destroyed and the owner held guilty of murder [Exo21:29,31]. The executioner, according to the terms of the Law, was the “revenger of blood”; but the guilt must be previously determined by the Levitical tribunal. Strong protection was given by the requirement that at least two witnesses must concur in any capital question [Num. 35:19-30; Deut 17:6-12;19:12,17]. Under the monarchy the duty of executing justice on a murderer seems to have been assumed to some extent by the sovereign, who also had power to grant pardon [2 Sam 13:39; 14:7,11; 1 Kin 2:34]. See MANSLAYER.


(from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia)



shachat ^7819^, “to slaughter, kill.” This word is common to both ancient and modern Hebrew, as well as ancient Ugaritic. The idea that the ancient Akkadian term shachashu (“to flay”) may be related appears to have some support in the special use of shachat in [1 Kings10:16-17]: “beaten gold” (see also [2 Chr.9:15-16]). Shachat occurs in the Hebrew Bible approximately 80 times. It first appears in [Gen. 22:10]: “And Abraham… took the knife to slay his son.” Expressing “slaying” for sacrifice is the most frequent use of shachat (51 times); and as might be expected, the word is found some 30 times in the Book of Leviticus alone.

Shachat sometimes implies the “slaughtering” of animals for food [1 Sam.14:32,34; Isa.22:13]. The word is used of the “killing” of people a number of times [Judg. 12:6; 1 Kings18:40; 2 Kings 10:7,14]. Sometimes God is said “to slay” people [Num.14:16]. BacksliddenJudahwent so far as “to slaughter” children as sacrifices to false gods [Ezek.16:21;23:39; Isa. 57:5].

harag ^2026^, “to kill, slay, destroy.” This term is commonly used in modern Hebrew in its verb and noun forms to express the idea of “killing, slaughter.” The fact that it is found in the Old Testament some 170 times reflects how commonly this verb was used to indicate the taking of life, whether animal or human. Harag is found for the first time in the Old Testament in the Cain and Abel story [Gen. 4:8]; also [vv. 14-15].

Rarely suggesting premeditated killing or murder, this term generally is used for the “killing” of animals, including sacrificially, and for ruthless personal violence of man against man. Harag is not the term used in the sixth commandment [Exod.20:13; Deut.5:17]. The word there is rashach, and since it implies premeditated killing, the commandment is better translated: “Do not murder,” as most modern versions have it.

The word harag often means wholesale slaughter, both in battle and after battle [Num. 31:7-8; Josh. 8:24; 2 Sam. 10:18]. The word is only infrequently used of men’s killing at the command of God. In such instances, the causative form of the common Hebrew verb for “to die” is commonly found. In general, harag refers to violent “killing” and destruction, sometimes even referring to the “killing” of vines by hail [Ps. 78:47].

rashach ^7523^, “to kill, murder, slay.” This verb occurs more than 40 times in the Old Testament, and its concentration is in the Pentateuch. Rashach is rare in rabbinic Hebrew, and its usage has been increased in modern Hebrew with the exclusive meaning of “to murder.” Apart from Hebrew, the verb appears in Arabic with the meaning of “to bruise, to crush.”

Rashach occurs primarily in the legal material of the Old Testament. This is not a surprise, as God’s law included regulations on life and provisions for dealing with the murderer. The Decalogue gives the general principle in a simple statement, which contains the first occurrence of the verb: “Thou shalt not kill [murder]” [Exod.20:13]. Another provision pertains to the penalty: “Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses…” [Num. 35:30]. However, before a person is put to death, he is assured of a trial.

The Old Testament recognizes the distinction between premeditated murder and unintentional killing. In order to assure the rights of the manslayer, who unintentionally killed someone, the law provided for three cities of refuge [Num. 35; Deut. 19; Josh. 20; 21] on either side of the Jordan, to which a manslayer might flee and seek asylum: “…that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares” [Num. 35:11] The provision gave the manslayer access to the court system, for he might be “killed” by the blood avenger if he stayed within his own community [Num. 35:21]. He is to be tried [Num. 35:12], and if he is found to be guilty of unintentional manslaughter, he is required to stay in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest [Num. 35:28]. The severity of the act of murder is stressed in the requirement of exile even in the case of unintentional murder. The man guilty of manslaughter is to be turned over to the avenger of blood, who keeps the right of killing the manslayer if the manslayer goes outside the territory of the city of refuge before the death of the high priest. On the other hand, if the manslayer is chargeable with premeditated murder (examples of which are given in [Num. 35:16-21]), the blood avenger may execute the murderer without a trial. In this way the Old Testament underscores the principles of the sanctity of life and of retribution; only in the cities of refuge is the principle of retribution suspended.

The prophets use rashach to describe the effect of injustice and lawlessness inIsrael: “…because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery…” [Hos. 4:1-2]; cf. [Isa.1:21; Jer. 7:9]. The psalmist, too, metaphorically expresses the deprivation of the rights of helpless murder victims: “They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless” [Ps. 94:6].

The Septuagint gives the following translation: phoneuein (“murder; kill; put to death”). The KJV gives these senses: “kill; murder; be put to death; be slain.”

(from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)




1. apokteino ^615^, “to kill,” is used (a) physically, e. g., [Matt. 10:28; 14:5], “put… to death,” similarly rendered in [John 18:31]; often of Christ’s death; in [Rev. 2:13], RV “was killed” (KJV, “was slain”); [9:15], RV, “kill” (KJV, “slay”); [11:13], RV, “were killed” (KJV, “were slain”); so in [19:21]; (b) metaphorically, [Rom. 7:11], of the power of sin, which is personified, as “finding occasion, through the commandment,” and inflicting deception and spiritual death, i. e., separation from God, realized through the presentation of the commandment to conscience, breaking in upon the fancied state of freedom; the argument shows the power of the Law, not to deliver from sin, but to enhance its sinfulness; in [2 Cor. 3:6], “the letter killeth,” signifies not the literal meaning of Scripture as contrasted with the spiritual, but the power of the Law to bring home the knowledge of guilt and its punishment; in [Eph. 2:16] “having slain the enmity” describes the work of Christ through His death in annulling the enmity, “the Law” [v. 15], between Jew and Gentile, reconciling regenerate Jew and Gentile to God in spiritual unity “in one body.” See DEATH, C, No. 4, SLAY.

2. anaireo ^337^ denotes (a) “to take up” (ana, “up,” haireo, “to take”), said of Pharaoh’s daughter, in “taking up” Moses, [Acts 7:21]; (b) “to take away” in the sense of removing, [Heb. 10:9], of the legal appointment of sacrifices, to bring in the will of God in the sacrificial offering of the death of Christ; (c) “to kill,” used physically only (not metaphorically as in No. 1), e. g., [Luke 22:2]; in [2 Thes. 2:8], instead of the future tense of this verb, some texts (followed by RV marg.) read the future of analisko, “to consume.” See DEATH, C, No. 2, SLAY.

3. thuo ^2380^ primarily denotes “to offer firstfruits to a god”; then (a) “to sacrifice by slaying a victim,” [Acts 14:13,18], to do sacrifice; [1 Cor. 10:20], to sacrifice; [1 Cor. 5:7], “hath been sacrificed,” of the death of Christ as our Passover; (b) “to slay, kill,” [Matt. 22:4]; [Mark 14:12; Luke 15:23,27,30; 22:7; John 10:10; Acts 10:13; 11:7].#

4. phoneuo ^5407^, “to murder,” akin to phoneus, “a murderer,” is always rendered by the verb “to kill” (except in [Matt. 19:18], KJV, “do… murder,” and in [Matt. 23:35], KJV and RV, “ye slew”); [Matt. 5:21] (twice); [23:31; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9; Jas. 2:11] (twice); [4:2; 5:6].#

5. thanatoo ^2289^, “to put to death” (from thanatos, “death”), is translated “are killed” in [Rom.8:36]; “killed” in [2 Cor. 6:9]. See DEATH, C, No. 1.

6. diacheirizo ^1315^, primarily, “to have in hand, manage” (cheir, “the hand”), is used in the middle voice, in the sense of “laying hands on” with a view to “kill,” or of actually “killing,” [Acts 5:30], “ye slew”; [26:21], “to kill.” See SLAY.#

7. sphazo, or sphatto ^4969^, “to slay, to slaughter,” especially victims for sacrifice, is most frequently translated by the verb “to slay”; so the RV in [Rev. 6:4] (KJV, “should kill”), in [13:3], RV, “smitten unto death” (KJV, “wounded”). See SLAY, WOUND. Cf. katasphazo, “to kill off,” [Luke19:27];# sphage, “slaughter,” e. g., [Acts8:32], and sphagion, “a victim for slaughter,” [Acts7:42].#

(from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)

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