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This chapter concerns Genesis 9:6

Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image

The first issue he considers is whether statement is the institution of capital punishment by a government, or merely an observation that private vendetta will occur. He considers the objection of Professor Mr. J. Domela Nieuwenhuis who argued tha statement was a concession to ancient cultural norms, which has no continuing significance for us living after Jesus.

Kuyer first rests upon the general principle in the Reformed Tradition that the moral content of the law remains intact, even if the culture for the moral principle works out has changed: “That form has now passed away, but that principle has remained, and we continue to be bound only to those principles, since they have been established by God.”

Addressing the argument from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus argues, You have heard, but I say: Kuyper explains that Jesus does not disagree with the Mosaic Law, but rather the traditional gloss which had been placed upon the Law. Kuyper also notes that the Old Testament provides evidence that one is to love one’s enemy. See, e.g., Prov. 25:21, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.”

Kuyper then returns to the interpretation of the 9:6, is this a command or a concession? To answer that question, he returns to the context:

Genesis 9:5–6 (ESV)

And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

   “Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,

       for God made man in his own image.

Verse five states that God will require a reckoning for murder “I will require a reckoning for the life of a man”. Verse six then specifies the manner by which this reckoning will be made, “by man shall his blood be shed”.

But that alone does not settle the issue: does the verse meant that this will be the normal course of events or is this a command to institute capital punishment?

Kuyper sees the critical element here being the basis for the command: “For God made man in his own image.” If this was merely an observation, then the basis for the proposition does not follow.


Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,


Because people normally take revenge. Because people are sinful and not forgiving. Because that is just what will happen.

Instead, the basis for the statement is God’s action in creating human beings in the image of God. God will require a reckoning, because human beings are in God’s image. The movement of the argument controls the understanding of “by man shall his blood be shed.” In context, this is what must happen, because of God’s honor. The obligation to perform the act is independent of human motivation: it both requires and limits conduct.