Whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
"Whoso sheddeth blood, by man shall his blood be shed." "A prediction," say some, "not a command." Nay, we reply, not so; for what says God in the preceding verse? "Your blood of your lives will I require." Yes; and so sacred is human life, that even the unreasoning beast who kills a man is to be put to death, and no use made of his carcass. "At the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man." It is, then, a distinct command.
I. Now notice THE GROUND UPON WHICH THE COMMAND IS BASED; and notice also, in passing, how completely applicable it is to present as well as former times.
1. In the first place, murder is a sin against human brotherhood. God made men members of one family, and this particular offence strikes at the very root of the tie which binds us together. "At the hand of every man's brother" — he is brother to the man he has slain — "will I require the life of man."
2. God made man in His own image; and though man has fallen, he still retains something of the heavenly resemblance. Murder, in its essence, if you trace it far enough, is not merely an injury inflicted on our fellow — not merely an act by which pain and deprivation are caused to the individual, and loss to society. It is all this, of course; but it is also more than this — it is a striking at God in the person of him who was made in the image of God. Now it is obvious that these two reasons assigned for the treatment of the murderer are of universal and permanent application. Men are brethren now, men are made in the image of God now; and therefore our conclusion is that this commandment given to Noah in the days when God was making a covenant with the whole human race, centred and represented in those eight persons, stands unrepealed on the statute book of heaven, and will stand there so long as there are men to be murdered, and other men who for gain or lust or hatred or malice are willing to murder them.
II. IT IS IDLE TO OBJECT, as some do, that Christianity forbids revenge. It is worse than idle — it is a blundering confusion of thought. Revenge is the gratification of personal feeling, a desire to inflict upon another the suffering which he has inflicted on you; whilst the act which God here commands is the carrying out of a solemn, judicial sentence, the assertion of Divine justice, the practical announcement of God's eternal wrath against unrighteousness. More idle still is it to say, as some do, that the murderer too is made in the image of God, and is therefore to be spared. Accept this view, and the Divine command before us becomes a nullity. God says expressly that he is not to be spared; God demands his life in return for the life he has taken; God affirms that the offence committed will not be expiated except by the murderer's death, that the land in which such a thing is done will remain under the curse of pollution, and that "it cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it." Now, if the view thus placed before you be really correct, it follows that there is no room really left for much of the discussion upon the subject of capital punishment which occasionally goes on about us. Let me say that we speak only of the crime of murder. We see no warrant in the Word of God for taking human life for any other offence. But if the view be right, a people, a nation, professing to serve and obey the God revealed to us in the Scripture, has really no option in the matter. It is useless to heap up statistics, to accumulate precedents, to construct elaborate arguments, to make tender and touching appeals — God has spoken, not to Noah only, but to the whole human race; not to one generation only, but to the whole of the successive ages of mankind; and from His authoritative decision there is, and there can be, no possible appeal. And let me say, in conclusion, that I dread these humanitarian views, for this reason, among others — because they seem to shift the basis on which human society rests, and on which alone it can permanently stand. They go upon the assumption that what men decide shall be right, thus ignoring God's eternal laws of right and wrong. But you must go up to God ultimately for the decision of such a question as this.
(G. Calthrop, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.