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I heard there's no halacha that punishes a Jew who kills a non-Jew. Is this true?

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    There are many crimes, including various cases of homicide (e.g. someone who murders another person in an indirect manner) that didn't carry a dedicated biblical punishment for a sanhedrin to carry out (even 2000 years ago when a sanhedrin was authorized to judge capital cases). (Nowadays, Jewish courts aren't empowered to preside over murder cases anyway.) Either way, it is absolutely forbidden for a Jew to murder anyone, whether Jew or non-Jew. The Mechilta implies that it is indeed considered murder, and the Ra'avan maintains that it is subsumed under the prohibition of murder.
    – Fred
    Dec 25, 2022 at 3:10
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    @Fred perhaps you might post this as an answer rather than a comment?
    – user19234
    Dec 25, 2022 at 17:08

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When Saul killed innocent Gibeonites, who were not Israelites, David surrendered seven of Saul's descendants for execution and permitted them to display their bodies as a warning to never molest Gibeonites. When Samson killed Philistines, the bitter enemies of Israel, Judah surrendered him to the Philistines to face the music. The punishment is perhaps not specified by the halacha, but the sanctity of human life requires appropriate punishment for murder of any human. As God told Noah: 'He who sheds human blood by humans his blood be shed for in Elohim's image did he make humans.'

It should be recalled that halacha does not have an automatic punishment for every conceivable offence. The Torah gives the authorities some wiggle room to allow them to govern in accordance with the needs of the time.

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It is important to understand that the Torah is a book of laws for the Jewish people, therefore many if not all of the halachot bring cases between a Jew and their fellow Jew, or between a Jew and God.

Mishnah Torah codifies that a Beit Din does not issue the death penalty to a Jew who murdered a non-Jew, but this does not mean that such a murder is excused; rather that a Jewish court cannot accurately try such a case as that is beyond the scope of a Beit Din's authority.

The prohibition against murder is contained within the Seven Laws of Noah, which is incumbent upon all humankind. To say that "there is no punishment" is not really accurate; rather such a case should be tried by a non-Jewish court (and there is a mitzvah for non-Jews to set up courts of justice for themselves).

Finally, the murder of anyone is not condoned by God or by Jewish authorities, and even if a Jew cannot be punished by a Beit Din for such an act, a Jew is still accountable to both God and a non-Jewish court, should they pursue to try the Jew for their murder.

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  • There is an obligation to care for righteous gentiles among us. But no clear halacha to punish Jews who kill non Jews. The Rambam says if a Jew kills a non Jew he gets judged in the afterlife but not on earth, so, no. He is not punished according to halacha.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 25, 2022 at 3:12
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    @Shmuel Yes, which is what I said. There is no Jewish, earthly punishment for this sin. That does not mean that it is acceptable or that the Jew will be free from heavenly judgment.
    – ezra
    Dec 25, 2022 at 3:17
  • I agree with you that if they get away with it on earth they have another thing coming in the heavenly court.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 25, 2022 at 3:20
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    @Shmuel Under certain circumstances, a court was empowered to carry out punishments outside of normal legal parameters (see, for example, here), and it is conceivable that that authority could have been used to punish a Jew who killed a non-Jew.
    – Fred
    Dec 25, 2022 at 4:01
  • @Fred Thank you. This is interesting.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 25, 2022 at 16:18
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The Mechilta says that killing a non-Jew is punishable by the death penalty in the hands of heaven. As mentioned above, there are many variations of homicide and other capital crimes, where the punishment is in the hands of heaven, not in the courts. In fact, even murder of a Jew, if done without witnesses and a warning was punishable only in the hands of heaven. Remarkably, the Meshech Chochmah (Mishpatim) goes so far as to suggest that the fact that there is no punishment in the courts for killing a gentile, is precisely because it is so bad - even worse than kiling a Jew in a sense because in addition to the murder there is a terrible Chillul Hashem - that he doesn't deserve atonement.

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  • I liked your answer. Why is killing a gentile worse than a Jew? Aren't they both human beings? If they are equally human the murder of either should be a terrible Chillul Hashem.
    – Shmuel
    Aug 3, 2023 at 0:38
  • I think there are 2 reasons why there is a bigger Chillul Hashem by kiling a gentile. Firstly, for a Jew to kill another Jew is something which people are more likely to realize is not condoned by the Torah. For a Jew to kill a gentile, though, is something which can mislead people to think that the Torah Chas Veshalom has no respect for the lives of people of other faiths. Secondly, for a Jew to kill a gentile is something which is guaranteed to be broadcasted and talked about by all non-Jews, thus increasing the Chillul Hashem.
    – user29098
    Aug 4, 2023 at 18:49

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