Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Appointing Judges and Officials
18 “Appoint judges and officials for your tribes in all your towns the Lord your God is giving you. They are to judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 Do not deny justice or show partiality to anyone. Do not accept a bribe, for it blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. 20 Pursue justice and justice alone, so that you will live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.
21 “Do not set up an Asherah of any kind of wood next to the altar you will build for the Lord your God, 22 and do not set up a sacred pillar; the Lord your God hates them.
17 “You must not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or sheep with a defect or any serious flaw, for that is detestable to the Lord your God.
The Judicial Procedure for Idolatry
2 “If a man or woman among you in one of your towns that the Lord your God will give you is discovered doing evil in the sight of the Lord your God and violating His covenant 3 and has gone to worship other gods by bowing down to the sun, moon, or all the stars in the sky—which I have forbidden— 4 and if you are told or hear about it, you must investigate it thoroughly. If the report turns out to be true that this detestable thing has happened in Israel, 5 you must bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing and stone them to death. 6 The one condemned to die is to be executed on the testimony of two or three witnesses. No one is to be executed on the testimony of a single witness. 7 The witnesses’ hands are to be the first in putting him to death, and after that, the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from you.
8 “If a case is too difficult for you—concerning bloodshed, lawsuits, or assaults—cases disputed at your gates, you must go up to the place the Lord your God chooses. 9 You are to go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who presides at that time. Ask, and they will give you a verdict in the case. 10 You must abide by the verdict they give you at the place the Lord chooses. Be careful to do exactly as they instruct you. 11 You must abide by the instruction they give you and the verdict they announce to you. Do not turn to the right or the left from the decision they declare to you. 12 The person who acts arrogantly, refusing to listen either to the priest who stands there serving the Lord your God or to the judge, must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. 13 Then all the people will hear about it, be afraid, and no longer behave arrogantly.
Appointing a King
14 “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, take possession of it, live in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations around me,’ 15 you are to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. Appoint a king from your brothers. You are not to set a foreigner over you, or one who is not of your people. 16 However, he must not acquire many horses for himself or send the people back to Egypt to acquire many horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are never to go back that way again.’ 17 He must not acquire many wives for himself so that his heart won’t go astray. He must not acquire very large amounts of silver and gold for himself. 18 When he is seated on his royal throne, he is to write a copy of this instruction for himself on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to remain with him, and he is to read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes. 20 Then his heart will not be exalted above his countrymen, he will not turn from this command to the right or the left, and he and his sons will continue ruling many years[a] over Israel.
Provisions for the Levites
18 “The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, will have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They will eat the Lord’s fire offerings; that is their[b][c] inheritance. 2 Although Levi has no inheritance among his brothers, the Lord is his inheritance, as He promised him. 3 This is the priests’ share from the people who offer a sacrifice, whether it is an ox, a sheep, or a goat; the priests are to be given the shoulder, jaws, and stomach. 4 You are to give him the firstfruits of your grain, new wine, and oil, and the first sheared wool of your flock. 5 For Yahweh your God has chosen him and his sons from all your tribes to stand and minister in His name from now on.[d] 6 When a Levite leaves one of your towns where he lives in Israel and wants to go to the place the Lord chooses, 7 he may serve in the name of Yahweh his God like all his fellow Levites who minister there in the presence of the Lord. 8 They will eat equal portions besides what he has received from the sale of the family estate.[e]
Occult Practices versus Prophetic Revelation
9 “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not imitate the detestable customs of those nations. 10 No one among you is to make his son or daughter pass through the fire,[f] practice divination, tell fortunes, interpret omens, practice sorcery, 11 cast spells, consult a medium or a familiar spirit, or inquire of the dead. 12 Everyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and the Lord your God is driving out the nations before you because of these detestable things. 13 You must be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 Though these nations you are about to drive out listen to fortune-tellers and diviners, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do this.
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. 16 This is what you requested from the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the Lord our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’ 17 Then the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to My words that he speaks in My name. 20 But the prophet who dares to speak a message in My name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods—that prophet must die.’ 21 You may say to yourself, ‘How can we recognize a message the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the Lord’s name, and the message does not come true or is not fulfilled, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
Cities of Refuge
19 “When the Lord your God annihilates the nations whose land He is giving you, so that you drive them out and live in their cities and houses, 2 you are to set apart three cities for yourselves within the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3 You are to determine the distances[g] and divide the land the Lord your God is granting you as an inheritance into three regions, so that anyone who commits manslaughter can flee to these cities.[h]
4 “Here is the law concerning a case of someone who kills a person and flees there to save his life, having killed his neighbor accidentally without previously hating him: 5 If he goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings the ax to chop down a tree, but the blade flies off the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies, that person may flee to one of these cities and live. 6 Otherwise, the avenger of blood in the heat of his anger[i] might pursue the one who committed manslaughter, overtake him because the distance is great, and strike him dead. Yet he did not deserve to die,[j] since he did not previously hate his neighbor. 7 This is why I am commanding you to set apart three cities for yourselves. 8 If the Lord your God enlarges your territory as He swore to your fathers, and gives you all the land He promised to give them— 9 provided you keep every one of these commands I am giving you today and follow them, loving the Lord your God and walking in His ways at all times—you are to add three more cities to these three. 10 In this way, innocent blood will not be shed, and you will not become guilty of bloodshed in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. 11 But if someone hates his neighbor, lies in ambush for him, attacks him, and strikes him fatally, and flees to one of these cities, 12 the elders of his city must send for him, take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood and he will die. 13 You must not look on him with pity but purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, and you will prosper.
14 “You must not move your neighbor’s boundary marker, established at the start in the inheritance you will receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.
Witnesses in Court
15 “One witness cannot establish any wrongdoing or sin against a person, whatever that person has done. A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
16 “If a malicious witness testifies against someone accusing him of a crime, 17 the two people in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and judges in authority at that time. 18 The judges are to make a careful investigation, and if the witness turns out to be a liar who has falsely accused his brother, 19 you must do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from you. 20 Then everyone else will hear and be afraid, and they will never again do anything evil like this among you. 21 You must not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot.
Rules for War
20 “When you go out to war against your enemies and see horses, chariots, and an army larger than yours, do not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you. 2 When you are about to engage in battle, the priest is to come forward and address the army. 3 He is to say to them: ‘Listen, Israel: Today you are about to engage in battle with your enemies. Do not be cowardly. Do not be afraid, alarmed, or terrified because of them. 4 For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.’
5 “The officers are to address the army, ‘Has any man built a new house and not dedicated it? Let him leave and return home. Otherwise, he may die in battle and another man dedicate it. 6 Has any man planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy its fruit?[k] Let him leave and return home. Otherwise he may die in battle and another man enjoy its fruit.[l] 7 Has any man become engaged to a woman and not married her? Let him leave and return home. Otherwise he may die in battle and another man marry her.’ 8 The officers will continue to address the army and say, ‘Is there any man who is afraid or cowardly? Let him leave and return home, so that his brothers’ hearts won’t melt like his own.’ 9 When the officers have finished addressing the army, they will appoint military commanders to lead it.
10 “When you approach a city to fight against it, you must make an offer of peace. 11 If it accepts your offer of peace and opens its gates to you, all the people found in it will become forced laborers for you and serve you. 12 However, if it does not make peace with you but wages war against you, lay siege to it. 13 When the Lord your God hands it over to you, you must strike down all its males with the sword. 14 But you may take the women, children, animals, and whatever else is in the city—all its spoil—as plunder. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies that the Lord your God has given you. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are far away from you and are not among the cities of these nations. 16 However, you must not let any living thing survive among the cities of these people the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. 17 You must completely destroy them—the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite—as the Lord your God has commanded you, 18 so that they won’t teach you to do all the detestable things they do for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God.
19 “When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can get food from them. You must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human, to come under siege by you? 20 But you may destroy the trees that you know do not produce food. You may cut them down to build siege works against the city that is waging war against you, until it falls.
21 “If a murder victim is found lying in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him, 2 your elders and judges must come out and measure the distance from the victim to the nearby cities. 3 The elders of the city nearest to the victim are to get a young cow that has not been yoked or used for work. 4 The elders of that city will bring the cow down to a continually flowing stream, to a place not tilled or sown, and they will break its neck there by the stream. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, will come forward, for Yahweh your God has chosen them to serve Him and pronounce blessings in His name, and they are to give a ruling in[m] every dispute and case of assault. 6 All the elders of the city nearest to the victim will wash their hands by the stream over the young cow whose neck has been broken. 7 They will declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood; our eyes did not see it. 8 Lord, forgive Your people Israel You redeemed, and do not hold the shedding of innocent blood against them.’ Then they will be absolved of responsibility for bloodshed. 9 You must purge from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, for you will be doing what is right in the Lord’s sight.