Does God Forgive Murderers?

According to the Bible, murder is a serious sin. God prohibited killing an innocent person when he included “thou shall not murder” in the 10 Commandments. Because murder is so strongly forbidden in Scripture, many people wonder if murder is a sin that God won’t forgive.

God forgives murderers. By means of the cross of Jesus Christ, God offers mercy and grace to those who are sincerely repentant, including those guilty of murder. Murderers may be imprisoned for the rest of their life or even in some cases receive the death penalty for their crimes.

Are there different degrees of murder? Is manslaughter a sin? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also see Does God Forgive Adultery? to learn more.

The 10 Commandments
Is manslaughter a sin? See below

Why is murder such a serious sin?

All sin is serious in the eyes of God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) because all offenses against him are expressions of rebellion that negatively impact a person’s relationship with him. However, not all sins have the same degree of consequences.

What is an example of the different degrees of consequences for sin? Sometimes children lie to their parents, and sometimes adults lie under oath in a court of law. While all lying is wrong (e.g. Prov. 12:22), certain expressions of it have the potential for a greater negative impact and consequences than others.

Why is murder especially wicked? A murder takes the life of an innocent person who bears God’s image. As John MacArthur teaches, “To take the life of a fellow human being is to assault the sacredness of the image of God (see Gen. 6:9).”

Are there different degrees of murder? Murder is commonly defined as killing an innocent person. There are, however, “degrees” of killing another person. For example, many theologians make a distinction between killing an innocent person and taking life in the midst of warfare. Another difference is intentionally killing an innocent person and accidentally doing so (i.e. manslaughter).

“This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past—” Deuteronomy 19:4, ESV

Is manslaughter a sin? It can be the result of sin. For example, a person who drives drunk and hits and kills an innocent person in another vehicle is guilty of sin. However, if a sober driver loses control due to black ice and hits and kills another person, while tragic, isn’t a sin.

Pastor and author John Piper writes, “A clear distinction is preserved between legal ‘putting to death’ and illegal ‘murder.’ For example, Numbers 35:19 says, ‘The murderer shall certainly be put to death.’ The word ‘murderer’ comes from rahaz which is forbidden in the Ten Commandments. The word ‘put to death’ is a general word that can describe legal executions.”

Also see Why Did God Hate Esau? to learn more.

Does God forgive murderers
What does the Bible say about forgiveness? See below

Examples of murder in the Bible

  • Pharaoh viewed Moses’ killing of an Egyptian as a crime (Exod 2:14-15)
  • Joab’s spilling of the blood of Abner was condemned (2 Sam 3:30; 1 Kings 2:5)
  • David was responsible for the death of Uriah, although he did not physically kill him (2 Sam 12:9)
  • Judicial murder was also condemned (Exod 23:7; Psalm 10:8; 94:6)
  • Harag was the term used for Cain’s crime against Abel (Gen 4:8), and for the murderers of Ishbosheth (2 Sam 4:11-12)
  • Striking a parent (possibly with the intent to murder Exod 21:15), inducing death by miscarriage (Exod 21:22-23), and sacrificing children to a foreign god (Lev 20:2-3) were apparently considered murder and were capital crimes
  • If a man beat a slave to death, he was probably punished (or better avenged) by being put to death by the covenant community (Exod 21:20)

Source: Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

How does a person receive God’s forgiveness for murder? Forgiveness starts with confession. Confession means to acknowledge the sin to God and admit that it was wrong: 1 John 1:9 reads, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

To “repent” means to turn away from the behavior. Of course, this implies not murdering any more people. It also implies facing the consequences of sin.

Also see Why Does God Allow Suffering? to learn more.

7 Bible verses about murder

  • Leviticus 24:17, “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.”
  • Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.”
  • Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”
  • 1 John 3:12, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
  • Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
  • 1 John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
  • Genesis 9:6, ““Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

Also see Why Does God Hate Me? to learn more.

10 Bible verses about God’s forgiveness

  • 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Hebrews 8:12, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
  • Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
  • Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
  • Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
  • Acts 10:43, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
  • Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”
  • 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
  • Psalm 130:1-8, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope”

Also see How Tall Is God? to learn more.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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