From Bible Encyclopedia
mûr´der (הרג, hāragh, “to smite,” “destroy,” “kill,” “slay” (Psalm 10:8; Hosea 9:13 AV), רצח, rācaḥ, “to dash to pieces,” “kill,” especially with premeditation (Numbers 35:16 and frequently; Job 24:14; Psalm 94:6; Jeremiah 7:9; Hosea 6:9); φονεύς, phoneús, “criminal homicide,” from φονεύω, phoneúō, “to kill,” “slay”; φόνος, phónos, from φένω, phénō, has the same meaning; ἀνθρωποκτόνος, anthrōpoktónos, “manslayer,” “murderer,” is used to designate Satan John 8:44 and him that hates his brother 1 John 3:15; a matricide is designated as μντραλώας, mētralṓas 1 Timothy 1:9; compare ἀδελφοκτόνος, adelphoktónos, “fratricidal” (Wisdom Of Solomon 10:3).
Willful murder was distinguished from accidental homicide, and was invariably visited with capital punishment (Numbers 35:16, Numbers 35:18, Numbers 35:21, Numbers 35:31; Leviticus 24:17). This law in its principle is founded on the fact of man's having been made in the likeness of God (Genesis 9:5, Genesis 9:6; John 8:44; 1 John 3:12, 1 John 3:15). The Mosaic law prohibited any compensation for murder or the reprieve of the murderer (Exodus 21:12, Exodus 21:14; Deuteronomy 19:11, Deuteronomy 19:13; 2 Samuel 17:25; 2 Samuel 20:10). Two witnesses were required in any capital case (Numbers 35:19-30; Deuteronomy 17:6-12). If the murderer could not be discovered, the city nearest the scene of the murder was required to make expiation for the crime committed (Deuteronomy 21:1-9). These offenses also were to be punished with death,
(1) striking a parent;
(2) cursing a parent;
(3) kidnapping (Exodus 21:15-17; Deuteronomy 27:16).
2. The Hebrew Law
The Hebrew law recognized the distinction between willful murder and accidental or justifiable homicide Numbers 25:16; but in legal language no verbal distinction is made. Murder was always subject to capital punishment (Leviticus 24:17; compare Genesis 9:6). Even if the criminal sought the protection of the sanctuary, he was to be arrested before the altar, and to be punished Exodus 21:12, Exodus 21:14; Leviticus 24:17, Leviticus 24:21; Numbers 35:16, Numbers 35:18, Numbers 35:21, Numbers 35:31. 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 Exodus 21:15, Exodus 21:17; 1 Timothy 1:9; Matthew 15:4. No punishment is mentioned for attempted suicide (compare 1 Samuel 31:4; 1 Kings 16:18; Matthew 27:5); yet Josephus says (BJ, III, viii, 5) that suicide was held criminal by the Jews (see also Exodus 21:23). 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 Exodus 21:29, Exodus 21:31. 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 Numbers 35:19-30; Deuteronomy 17:6-12; Deuteronomy 19:12, Deuteronomy 19:17. 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 Samuel 13:39; 2 Samuel 14:7, 2 Samuel 14:11; 1 Kings 2:34.