Literally: life – kill – give – rob
Alternately: Controlling people according to one’s whim. Having absolute power over others – to keep alive or kill; to give them things or take things away.
Notes: The order of the first two characters may be reversed to give 殺生, sassei. This compound may also be incorporated into a longer phrase by adding ～の権を握る (~no ken wo nigiru), “to hold the authority of ~.”
This yojijukugo comes to us from thewritings of Xunzi (荀子), a.k.a. Xun Kuang.