There are, basically, two English translations of the Sixth Commandment - "לא תרצח" (Ex 20:13 and Deut 5:17): some read "kill", some read "murder".

  • Murder seems more accurate since there is premeditation involved.
  • Killing can be unintentional and accidental or self-defense.

Is a concept of Shogeg included for this Commandment in its literal lecture?

For example: - Sources: Stone Edition Artscroll Tanach reads "kill." - Judaica Press online Tanach (Chabad.org) reads "murder." - Jewish Publication Society Tanakh reads "murder." - The Koren Jerusalem Tanakh reads "kill."

What is the correct translation - Kill or murder?

  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/61641/is-tirtzach-murder
    – rosends
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 14:12
  • Your question seems to be looking for the distinction between murder (רצח) and kill (חלל). If you look at the sources found in Jastrow for word usage, you will see the distinctions. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 15:51
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Is "tirtzach" 'murder'?
    – DonielF
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 22:20
  • This question seems more like a premise of the other question.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 1:53
  • Aryeh Kaplan: do not commit murder.
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 15:05

6 Answers 6


See "Chizkuni" (Shemos 20:13)

ולשון זה של "רציחה" לא שייך רק במיתה שלא כדין, אבל לשון מיתה ולשון הריגה, בין בדין בין שלא כדין

Chizkuni differentiates between הריגה ("killing") and רציחה ("murder"). He states that "murder" only refers to killing when it is unlawful. But if a person kills lawfully, he does not violate the commandment.

Accordingly, the correct translation of the verse is: "Thou shalt not murder".


Neither "do not kill" nor "do not murder" is really an accurate translation of "לא תרצח" (at least according to common understandings of those English words). There are certainly times when it's permitted (and even required) to kill people (e.g. executions, self-defense, war, etc.) so this is clearly not a blanket prohibition on killing. On the other hand, someone who accidentally kills someone is called a רוצח despite this not really matching up with the English word "murder".

It's clear from the fact that there are so many cases when killing is permitted that the word can't really be translated as "kill". "Murder" is probably more accurate, but with the caveat that it doesn't really mean the same thing as it means in English. Really, לא תרצח means לא תרצח.


There are certain people for which the prohibition falls aside. (I’m not even referring to capital punishment here, or extralegal punishment performed by Beis Din.)

One is obligated to kill in self-defense (Sanhedrin 72a) and if one is chasing after someone else to kill, rape, or some other of a specific list of sins (Sanhedrin 73a).

With that category alone, I might argue that the positive commandment to kill them overrules the negative one not to kill (אתי עשה ודחי לא תעשה, ex. Yevamos 84a), as both are phrased in the positive (and the negative, but the point is that there’s a positive here as well). Further, in the case of self-defense, the perpetrator is considered to already be dead (Shemos 22:1 as expounded by Sanhedrin 72a-b), and as such, לא תרצח couldn’t apply anyway.

In other words: the prohibition really is “thou shalt not kill,” but because a positive commandment overrules a negative one, these cases are exceptions.

However, we find cases in which it is permissible, but not obligatory, to kill:

  • If someone steals from the Beis HaMikdash, curses with a sorcerer, or is intimate with a non-Jewess, while one is advised against killing them, one would be allowed to do so (Sanhedrin 81b-82a, with further exposition on Pinchas through 82b)
  • If a Kohen serves in the Beis HaMikdash while Tamei, the young Kohanim take him outside and pierce his brain with wooden planks (Sanhedrin 81b)
  • A Goel HaDam is allowed to kill his close relative’s accidental murderer (Makkos 11a cites a dispute in this regard, but the Halacha follows R’ Akiva that it’s merely permissible; see further here)

Given that there are so many cases where it’s permissible to kill, not just obligatory, we can no longer apply אתי עשה ודחי לא תעשה. It must be that לא תרצח means “thou shalt not murder,” rather than “thou shalt not kill.”

  • In your 1st example for self-defense, or saving the victim from the rapist, the perpetrator is already considered to be dead. The prohibition against murdering is not relevant to the circumstance. Killing is ending a life without torture or violence. It is the same concept that applies to shechita. Consider the comparison between executioner, butcher and surgeon found in Shas (one who sheds blood). Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 16:35
  • @YaacovDeane Perhaps self-defense I could hear אין לו דמים, but where do we find that principle applied to a רודף?
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 16:38
  • Are you referring to the specific category of 'Goel HaDam" or the generic concept of a 'Rodef'? If you are really interested in this subject, you would probably enjoy learning the sefer, Baruch HaGever. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 16:51
  • @YaacovDeane I refer to a רודף in my first category, where it’s obligatory to kill such a person, and a גואל הדם in the second, where it’s permissible for him to kill a רוצח בשוגג. I realize the way that I phrased the latter is a bit unclear, so I’ll go ahead and rephrase that. Either way, which are you referring to?
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 16:53
  • 1
    Unlikely any Jew who loves and lives Torah will be interested in reading the book Baruch Hagever
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 20:27

There are two words - הרג and רצח. Whereas 'הרג' connotes killing, and 'רצח' denotes murder. (I have seen evidence for this in the writings of R' Saadya Gaon, particularly in אמונה ודעות)


Your problem stems from the inconsistent use of this word in the Torah itself. Compare:

Num 35:31 - premeditated murder:

"וְלֹא־תִקְחוּ כֹפֶר לְנֶפֶשׁ רֹצֵחַ אֲשֶׁר־הוּא רָשָׁע לָמוּת כִּי־מוֹת יוּמָת׃
You may not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of a capital crime; he must be put to death.

Num 35:11 - unintentional murder:

וְהִקְרִיתֶם לָכֶם עָרִים עָרֵי מִקְלָט תִּהְיֶינָה לָכֶם וְנָס שָׁמָּה רֹצֵחַ מַכֵּה־נֶפֶשׁ בִּשְׁגָגָה׃
You shall provide yourselves with places to serve you as cities of refuge to which a manslayer who has killed a person unintentionally may flee.

As you can see the term רצח is used both in intentional and unintentional cases, hence the problem with translating. As לא תרצח in the Torah text has no connotation, unlike the aforementioned verses, the translator must decide what to use.

Interestingly, the Hebrew word להרוג (kill) is also used interchangeably for a murder or a killing. So both are not precise definitions, sorry.

  • 2
    And therefore...?
    – robev
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 0:59
  • 1
    @robev I’m guessing what he meant is that the Hebrew term includes both
    – mroll
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 3:07
  • 1
    @robev I added the conclusion please revise your voting
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 8:05
  • 1
    רצח is also used for killing that's allowed, and according to some even a mitzvah. ורצח גאל הדם את-הרצח
    – Heshy
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 14:16
  • 1
    @Heshy And even of killing by non-human actors - ארי בחוץ בתוך רחובות ארצח (Mishlei 22:13).
    – Meir
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 14:36

Why is that a problem? The Torah mandates the death penalty for certain infractions. As a result, the executioner has to kill. So the commandment can't be "Do not kill". It has to be "Do not murder".

  • I'm not sure I follow. Do you mean that, because a Sanhedrin might order someone to be killed, then the 6th commandment cannot be "Do not kill" ? Is that what you meant?
    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 13:24
  • @mbloch - Yes, that's what I mean. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 14:11
  • Then maybe it could be clarified. But in any case I'm not sure this is a proof. When a Sanhedrin orders someone to be killed, it doesn't fall within the prohibition of "do not kill" or "do not murder". No one would say that an av beit din is a "killer" because his beit din condemned someone
    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 14:15
  • אתי עשה ודחי לא תעשה
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 14:48
  • @mbloch Please see the distinction between murder (רצח) and kill (חלל). If you look at the sources found in Jastrow for word usage, you will see the distinctions. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 16:06

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