Glenn Holland, a friend and brother in the Lord, posted to his Facebook wall after the last presidential debate. Regarding Hillary Clinton, he observed, and I quote, “So we had a presidential candidate unashamedly and proudly defend the unconscionable practice of unrestricted late term abortion all the way up to the point of birth.”

Glenn and others have addressed the issue of abortion according to Biblical principles and commands, as well they should. More specifically, they apply the sixth commandment to the abortion issue, again, rightly so. And it seems that many English-speaking people quote the sixth commandment from the King James Version of the Bible: “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17.) It’s a short verse in English (just four words), even shorter in the original Hebrew (just two words). So, let’s take a minute to look more closely at this commandment.

The Hebrew text behind the English translation of Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 is Lō’ tiretsāh [לֹ֥֖א תִּרְצָֽ֖ח].[1] The first word lō’ is a common adverb of negation, “used regularly for the objective, unconditional negation,”[2] and used here in this emphatic negative command. A milder Hebrew adverb of negation (’al [אַל]) could have been used, but here the more emphatic word was used.[3] And when lō’ is used with the second person imperfect of a verb (as it is here), it can “express an unconditional prohibition.”[4] So here it can have the impact of “you shall not ever…”

And speaking of the Hebrew verb in this verse, the form tiretsāh that I mentioned earlier is the second person masculine singular imperfect form of the Hebrew verb root ratsāch [רָצַח], to murder, to slay.[5] The Jewish commentator Nahum M. Sarna elaborates: “The Hebrew stem r-ts-ḥ, as noted by Rashbam and Bekhor Shor, applies only to illegal killing and, unlike other verbs for the taking of life, is never used in the administration of justice or for killing in war. Also, it is never employed when the subject of the action is God or an angel.”[6] Clearly, then, the force of the original Hebrew meant to convey an emphatic prohibition to murder.

Furthermore, how the Hebrew has been translated gives us an indication of what that original meaning was. And the translation into Greek, the earliest translation commonly called the Septuagint, goes back to the third century BC. When it came to rendering the Hebrew verb ratsāch into Greek, the translators chose the Greek word phoneuseis [φονεύσεις],[7] the second person singular future indicative active form of the verb phoneuō [φονεύω]. The verb phoneuō is defined as follows: “to deprive a person of life by illegal, intentional killing – to murder, to commit murder[8]; to murder, kill, slay[9]; to kill, slay, murder; absolutely, to commit murder.[10]

And before we move on from considering the insights from the Greek language, let’s turn our attention to the Greek New Testament. The books of the New Testament (hereafter, NT) were written in Greek, and many times when NT authors quoted from the Old, they did so with verbatim or near verbatim quotes from the Septuagint. So the Greek verb phoneuō is found in NT quotes of the sixth commandment a number of times: Matthew 5:21; 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11.[11] And many of the English versions from the late nineteenth century on have chosen to translate this as “murder.”

So, the Hebrew Scriptures, and the Greek NT in quoting the Old, both use terms that clearly mean “murder.” Furthermore, Jewish scribes and commentators, Hebrew and Greek scholars and Bible translators from the earliest times on down to the present day have understood both the Hebrew ratsāch and the Greek phoneuō to refer to murder. And while the King James Version of the Bible in English uses the less precise rendering “kill” in its translation of the sixth commandment (as do several other English versions before the late nineteenth century), beginning at least with the English Revised Version of 1885, the rendering “murder” was used in both Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17. Since that time, the rendering “murder” for the sixth commandment has become the standard.[12]

All right. I have put quite a bit of time and effort into an exposition of a two-word sentence. I gave it this much attention because I wanted to establish beyond doubt what the Scriptures meant by this prohibition before moving on to its application. Thank you for sticking with me.

So, putting all this semantical and grammatical information together, we see that the sixth of the ten commandments is an emphatic and unconditional prohibition of murder. “You shall not ever commit murder” may be awkward in its literalness, but it is an accurate way to translate this command.

Now how does this apply to us today? Well, there are several applications to be made. The verses we have just been considering absolutely have a bearing on a discussion of capital punishment. Likewise, they apply to the subjects of self-protection and warfare. I will address those subjects at another time, perhaps, but for our purposes here, I’m going to come full circle and apply the sixth commandment to the subject of abortion.

Thanks to technological developments such as ultrasound imaging and intrauterine videography, the development of a child in the womb is very well documented. Around the time that a woman can take a pregnancy test to determine if she’s pregnant, the infant growing within her has a beating heart, with other vital organs beginning to develop. Obviously, the child needs to develop a lot more before it can survive outside the womb, but that is precisely why God designed the baby to grow and be nurtured in a safe place—the womb—until ready for birth.

Abortion is literally the death of all that. As the saying goes, “Abortion stops a beating heart.” Those with a vested interest in the abortion industry attempt to disguise the truth, using the ploy of language substitution (i.e., terms of Greek and Latin derivation, embryo and fetus) instead of plain English. Or else they refer to the child as “just tissue.” But the plain and undeniable fact is that it is an innocent child in the womb, a life that is as innocent as human life gets. Abortion is the taking of that innocent life; it is murder.

And as I said before, according to the grammar and semantics of the original language of the sixth commandment, this prohibition of murder is both emphatic and unconditional: “You shall not ever commit murder.” Applying that understanding to the abortion arguments of the day means that there never is a condition under which murder is acceptable.

  • So even if a pregnancy occurs due to rape or incest, murdering the baby produced by the crime/sin is also a crime, and sin; it is still prohibited.
  • The life of the mother might be endangered, you say? Well, it is my understanding that such a scenario is an extremely rare occurrence, but even in such an unlikely event, that’s still no excuse to murder the baby.
  • All other excuses—shame, embarrassment, inconvenience—are obviously not conditions warranting the murder of an innocent.
  • The claim “It’s a woman’s right to choose” is a lie. The Scriptures say that is not true. According to God’s Word, there are no conditions where murdering your baby is acceptable.

So that’s it. End of story. Case closed. Abortion is murder, and there are no conditions where murder is acceptable. Hillary Clinton advocates abortion through all nine months of the pregnancy, and so she is the pro-murder candidate. There are many other aspects of her politics, her actions and her character (or lack thereof) that are objectionable, many reasons not to vote for her. But on this point alone, this issue of abortion, she should be considered immoral and not worthy of our vote.

[1] Kittel, Rudolf, Elliger, Karl & Rudolph, Wilhelm, [BHS] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Fünfte verbesserte auflage (“Fifth improved edition”). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (“German Bible Society”), © 1969/77, 1997. Pgs. 119, 295.

[2] Gesenius, Wilhelm, Kautzsch, E. & Cowley, A. E. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. Second English edition. Oxford: At The Clarendon Press, 1910, 1970. §152, p. 478.

[3] Harris, R. Laird, Archer, Gleason L., Jr. & Waltke, Bruce K. [TWOT] Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Vol. II. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980, 1981.

[4] Koehler, Ludwig & Baumgartner, Walter, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1958. The quote “express an unconditional prohibition” is translated from Koehler & Baumgartner’s statement in German drückt das unbedingte Verbot aus, p. 466.

[5] Brown, Francis, Driver, S. R., Briggs, Charles A. & Gesenius, Wilhelm [B-D-B-G], The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979.  p. 953.

[6] Sarna, Nahum M. The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus. Philadelphia • New York • Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 5751/1991. p. 113.

[7] Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint Version: Greek and English. Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, a division of Zondervan Publishing House, 1970, pgs. 96, 238.

[8] Louw, Johannes E. & Nida, Eugene A. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains. Second edition. New York: United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989. Electronic edition. #6790, φονεύω.

[9] Liddell, Henry George & Scott, Robert, A Greek-English Lexicon. Seventh edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1883, p. 1687.

[10] Thayer, Joseph Henry, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, being Gimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, Translated, revised and Enlarged. Corrected Edition. New York • Cincinnati • Chicago: American Book Company, n.d. Harper & Brothers, 1886, 1889, p. 657. See also: Friberg, Barbara, Friberg, Timothy, Miller, Neva F. Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000. Electronic edition. #28205, φονεύω. Abbott-Smith, G. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1921, 1950, p. 472. Bauer, Walter, Arndt, William F., Gingrich, F. Wilbur, Danker, Frederick W. [BAGD], A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1957, 1979. p. 864.

[11] Robinson, Maurice A. & Pierpont, William G. The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform. Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing, 2005, pgs. 8, 42, 96, 172, 372 & 325.

[12] See also Young’s Literal Translation, The Jewish Publication Society’s 1917 English version (also the 1955 revision), Rotherham’s 1902 Emphasized Bible, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New King James Version, The Tanakh (the 1985 JPS version), New Revised Standard Version, God’s Word for the Nations, David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible, the New English Translation [NET Bible], Holman Christian Standard Bible, English Standard Version.