Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
18 “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your [a]towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not distort justice; you shall not [b]be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
21 “You shall not plant for yourself an [c]Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make for yourself. 22 You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the Lord your God hates.
Administration of Justice
17 “You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any [d]defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God.
2 “If there is found in your midst, in any of your [e]towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, 4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to [f]death. 6 On the [g]evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the [h]evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
8 “If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between [i]one kind of homicide or another, between [j]one kind of lawsuit or another, and between [k]one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your [l]courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 9 So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. 10 You shall do according to the [m]terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the Lord chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. 11 According to the [n]terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.
14 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your [o]countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your [p]countryman. 16 Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ 17 He shall not multiply wives for himself, [q]or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.
18 “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll [r]in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, [s]by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his [t]countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.
Portion of the Levites
18 “The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the Lord’s offerings by fire and His [u]portion. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their [v]countrymen; the Lord is their inheritance, as He [w]promised them.
3 “Now this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, either an ox or a sheep, of which they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. 4 You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep. 5 For the Lord your God has chosen him and his sons from all your tribes, to stand [x]and serve in the name of the Lord forever.
6 “Now if a Levite comes from any of your [y]towns throughout Israel where he resides, and comes [z]whenever he desires to the place which the Lord chooses, 7 then he shall serve in the name of the Lord his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand there before the Lord. 8 They shall eat [aa]equal portions, except what they receive from the sale of their fathers’ estates.
9 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to [ab]imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. 13 You shall be [ac]blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your [ad]countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16 This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ 17 The Lord said to me, ‘They have [ae]spoken well. 18 I will raise up a prophet from among their [af]countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, [ag]that prophet shall die.’ 21 [ah]You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
Cities of Refuge
19 “When the Lord your God cuts off the nations, whose land the Lord your God gives you, and you dispossess them and settle in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall set aside three cities for yourself in the midst of your land, which the Lord your God gives you to [ai]possess. 3 You shall prepare the [aj]roads for yourself, and divide into three parts the territory of your land which the Lord your God will give you as a possession, [ak]so that any manslayer may flee there.
4 “Now this is the case of the manslayer who may flee there and live: when he [al]kills his friend [am]unintentionally, [an]not hating him previously— 5 as when a man goes into the forest with his friend to cut wood, and his hand [ao]swings the axe to cut down the tree, and the iron head slips off the [ap]handle and [aq]strikes his friend so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live; 6 otherwise the avenger of blood might pursue the manslayer [ar]in the heat of his anger, and overtake him, because the way is long, and [as]take his life, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated him previously. 7 Therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall set aside three cities for yourself.’
8 “If the Lord your God enlarges your territory, just as He has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land which He [at]promised to give your fathers— 9 if you [au]carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in His ways always—then you shall add three more cities for yourself, besides these three. 10 So innocent blood will not be shed in the midst of your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and bloodguiltiness be on you.
11 “But if there is a man who hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and rises up against him and strikes [av]him so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13 [aw]You shall not pity him, but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, that it may go well with you.
Laws of Landmark and Testimony
14 “You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God gives you to [ax]possess.
15 “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin [ay]which he has committed; on the [az]evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. 16 If a malicious witness rises up against a man to [ba]accuse him of [bb]wrongdoing, 17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. 18 The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has [bc]accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. 21 Thus [bd]you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Laws of Warfare
20 “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. 2 When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. 3 He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, 4 for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ 5 The officers also shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Who is the man that has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would dedicate it. 6 Who is the man that has planted a vineyard and has not [be]begun to use its fruit? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man [bf]would begin to use its fruit. 7 And who is the man that is engaged to a woman and has not [bg]married her? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man [bh]would marry her.’ 8 Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say, ‘Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that [bi]he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart.’ 9 When the officers have finished speaking to the people, they shall appoint commanders of armies at the head of the people.
10 “When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall [bj]offer it terms of peace. 11 If it [bk]agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. 12 However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the [bl]men in it with the edge of the sword. 14 Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall [bm]use the spoil of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations [bn]nearby. 16 Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 But you shall [bo]utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you, 18 so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God.
19 “When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. [bp]For is the tree of the field a man, that it should [bq]be besieged by you? 20 Only the trees which you know [br]are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.
Expiation of a Crime
21 “If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the Lord your God gives you to [bs]possess, and it is not known who has struck him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one. 3 It shall be that the city which is nearest to the slain man, that is, the elders of that city, shall take a heifer of the herd, which has not been worked and which has not pulled in a yoke; 4 and the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the Lord your God has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in the name of the Lord; and every dispute and every [bt]assault [bu]shall be settled by them. 6 All the elders of that city [bv]which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; 7 and they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it. 8 [bw]Forgive Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O Lord, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.’ And the bloodguiltiness shall be [bx]forgiven them. 9 So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
It looks like you’re already subscribed to Bible Gateway Plus! To manage your subscription, visit your Bible Gateway account settings.
Want to get the most out of Bible Gateway? Find out why Bible Gateway Plus is the ultimate toolkit for anyone seeking to grow closer to the Word. For less than the cost of a latte, Plus membership gives you access to a complete digital Bible study library and reduced banner ads. Try it free for 30 days!
Three easy steps to start your free trial subscription to Bible Gateway Plus.