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.

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?


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 Nov 9 '18 at 0:59
  • 1
    @robev I’m guessing what he meant is that the Hebrew term includes both – mroll Nov 9 '18 at 3:07
  • 1
    @robev I added the conclusion please revise your voting – Al Berko Nov 9 '18 at 8:05
  • רצח is also used for killing that's allowed, and according to some even a mitzvah. ורצח גאל הדם את-הרצח – Heshy Nov 9 '18 at 14:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .