Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
Parashah 48: Shof’tim (Judges) 16:18–21:9
18 “You are to appoint judges and officers for all your gates [in the cities] Adonai your God is giving you, tribe by tribe; and they are to judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You are not to distort justice or show favoritism, and you are not to accept a bribe, for a gift blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of even the upright. 20 Justice, only justice, you must pursue; so that you will live and inherit the land Adonai your God is giving you.
21 “You are not to plant any sort of tree as a sacred pole beside the altar of Adonai your God that you will make for yourselves. 22 Likewise, do not set up a standing-stone; Adonai your God hates such things.
17 “You are not to sacrifice to Adonai your God a cow or sheep that has a defect or anything wrong with it; that would be an abomination to Adonai your God.
2 “If there is found among you, within any of your gates [in any city] that Adonai your God gives you, a man or woman who does what Adonai your God sees as wicked, transgressing his covenant 3 by going and serving other gods and worshipping them, the sun, the moon, or anything in the sky — something I have forbidden — 4 and it is told to you, or you hear about it; then you are to investigate the matter diligently. If it is true, if it is confirmed that such detestable things are being done in Isra’el; 5 then you are to bring the man or woman who has done this wicked thing to your city gates, and stone that man or woman to death. 6 The death sentence is to be carried out only if there was testimony from two or three witnesses; he may not be sentenced to death on the testimony of only one witness. 7 The witnesses are to be the first to stone him to death; afterwards, all the people are to stone him. Thus you will put an end to this wickedness among you.
8 “If a case comes before you at your city gate which is too difficult for you to judge, concerning bloodshed, civil suit, personal injury or any other controversial issue; you are to get up, go to the place which Adonai your God will choose, 9 and appear before the cohanim, who are L’vi’im, and the judge in office at the time. Seek their opinion, and they will render a verdict for you. 10 You will then act according to what they have told you there in that place which Adonai will choose; you are to take care to act according to all their instructions. 11 In accordance with the Torah they teach you, you are to carry out the judgment they render, not turning aside to the right or the left from the verdict they declare to you. 12 Anyone presumptuous enough not to pay attention to the cohen appointed there to serve Adonai your God or to the judge — that person must die. Thus you will exterminate such wickedness from Isra’el — 13 all the people will hear about it and be afraid to continue acting presumptuously.
(ii) 14 “When you have entered the land Adonai your God is giving you, have taken possession of it and are living there, you may say, ‘I want to have a king over me, like all the other nations around me.’ 15 In that event, you must appoint as king the one whom Adonai your God will choose. He must be one of your kinsmen, this king you appoint over you — you are forbidden to appoint a foreigner over you who is not your kinsman. 16 However, he is not to acquire many horses for himself or have the people return to Egypt to obtain more horses, inasmuch as Adonai told you never to go back that way again. 17 Likewise, he is not to acquire many wives for himself, so that his heart will not turn away; and he is not to acquire excessive quantities of silver and gold.
18 “When he has come to occupy the throne of his kingdom, he is to write a copy of this Torah for himself in a scroll, from the one the cohanim and L’vi’im use. 19 It is to remain with him, and he is to read in it every day, as long as he lives; so that he will learn to fear Adonai his God and keep all the words of this Torah and these laws and obey them; 20 so that he will not think he is better than his kinsmen; and so that he will not turn aside either to the right or to the left from the mitzvah. In this way he will prolong his own reign and that of his children in Isra’el.
18 (iii) The cohanim, who are L’vi’im, and indeed the whole tribe of Levi, is not to have a share or an inheritance with Isra’el. Instead, their support will come from the food offered by fire to Adonai and from whatever else becomes his. 2 They will have no inheritance with their brothers, because Adonai is their inheritance — as he has said to them.
3 “The cohanim will have the right to receive from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether ox or sheep, the shoulder, the jowls and the stomach. 4 You will also give him the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the first of the fleece of your sheep. 5 For Adonai your God has chosen him from all your tribes to stand and serve in the name of Adonai, him and his sons forever.
(iv) 6 “If a Levi from one of your towns anywhere in Isra’el where he is living comes, highly motivated, to the place which Adonai will choose, 7 then he will serve there in the name of Adonai his God, just like his kinsmen the L’vi’im who stand and serve in the presence of Adonai. 8 Such a Levi will receive the same share as they do, in addition to what he may receive from selling his inherited ancestral property.
9 “When you enter the land Adonai your God is giving you, you are not to learn how to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There must not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, a diviner, a soothsayer, an enchanter, a sorcerer, 11 a spell-caster, a consulter of ghosts or spirits, or a necromancer. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to Adonai, and because of these abominations Adonai your God is driving them out ahead of you. 13 You must be wholehearted with Adonai your God. (v) 14 For these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to soothsayers and diviners; but you, Adonai your God does not allow you to do this.
15 “Adonai will raise up for you a prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to him, 16 just as when you were assembled at Horev and requested Adonai your God, ‘Don’t let me hear the voice of Adonai my God any more, or let me see this great fire ever again; if I do, I will die!’ 17 On that occasion Adonai said to me, ‘They are right in what they are saying. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I order him. 19 Whoever doesn’t listen to my words, which he will speak in my name, will have to account for himself to me.
20 “‘But if a prophet presumptuously speaks a word in my name which I didn’t order him to say, or if he speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet must die.’ 21 You may be wondering, ‘How are we to know if a word has not been spoken by Adonai?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of Adonai, and the prediction does not come true — that is, the word is not fulfilled — then Adonai did not speak that word. The prophet who said it spoke presumptuously; you have nothing to fear from him.
19 “When Adonai your God cuts off the nations whose land Adonai your God is giving you, and you take their place and settle in their cities and houses, 2 you are to set aside three cities for yourselves in your land that Adonai your God is giving you to possess. 3 Divide the territory of your land, which Adonai your God is having you inherit, into three parts; and prepare the roads, so that any killer can flee to these cities. 4 The killer who will live if he flees there is someone who has killed his fellow member of the community by mistake, who did not hate him in the past. 5 An example would be if a man goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood and takes a stroke with the axe to fell a tree, but the head of the axe flies off the handle, hits his neighbor and kills him. Then he is to flee to one of these cities and live there. 6 Otherwise the next-of-kin avenger, in the heat of his anger, may pursue the killer, overtake him because the distance [to the city of refuge] is long, and strike him dead — even though he didn’t deserve to die, inasmuch as he hadn’t hated him in the past. 7 This is why I am ordering you to set aside for yourselves three cities.
8 “If Adonai your God expands your territory, as he swore to your ancestors that he would, and gives you all the land he promised to give to your ancestors — 9 provided you keep and observe all these mitzvot I am giving you today, loving Adonai your God and always following his ways — then you are to add three more cities for yourselves, besides these three; 10 so that innocent blood will not be shed in the land Adonai your God is giving you as an inheritance, and thus blood guilt be on you.
11 “However, if someone hates his fellow member of the community, lies in wait for him, attacks him, strikes him a death blow, and then flees into one of these cities; 12 then the leaders of his own town are to send and bring him back from there and hand him over to the next-of-kin avenger, to be put to death. 13 You are not to pity him. Rather, you must put an end to the shedding of innocent blood in Isra’el. Then things will go well with you.
(vi) 14 “You are not to move your neighbor’s boundary marker from the place where people put it long ago, in the inheritance soon to be yours in the land Adonai your God is giving you to possess.
15 “One witness alone will not be sufficient to convict a person of any offense or sin of any kind; the matter will be established only if there are two or three witnesses testifying against him.
16 “If a malicious witness comes forward and gives false testimony against someone, 17 then both the men involved in the controversy are to stand before Adonai, before the cohanim and the judges in office at the time. 18 The judges are to investigate carefully. If they find that the witness is lying and has given false testimony against his brother, 19 you are to do to him what he intended to do to his brother. In this way, you will put an end to such wickedness among you. 20 Those who remain will hear about it, be afraid and no longer commit such wickedness among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
20 “When you go out to fight your enemies and see horses, chariots and a force larger than yours, you are not to be afraid of them; because Adonai your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the cohen is to come forward and address the people. 3 He should tell them, ‘Listen, Isra’el! You are about to do battle against your enemies. Don’t be fainthearted or afraid; don’t be alarmed or frightened by them; 4 because Adonai your God is going with you to fight on your behalf against your enemies and give you victory.’
5 “Then the officials will speak to the soldiers. They are to say, ‘Is there a man here who has built a new house, but hasn’t dedicated it yet? He should go back home now; otherwise he may die fighting, and another man will dedicate it.
6 “‘Is there a man here who has planted a vineyard, but hasn’t yet made use of its fruit? He should go back home; otherwise he may die fighting, and another man will use it.
7 “‘Is there a man here who is engaged to a woman, but hasn’t married her yet? He should go back home; otherwise he may die fighting, and another man will marry her.’
8 “The officials will then add to what they have said to the soldiers: ‘Is there a man here who is afraid and fainthearted? He should go back home; otherwise his fear may demoralize his comrades as well.’ 9 When the officials have finished speaking with the soldiers, commanders are to be appointed to lead the army.
(vii) 10 “When you advance on a town to attack it, first offer it terms for peace. 11 If it accepts the terms for peace and opens its gates to you, then all the people there are to be put to forced labor and work for you. 12 However, if they refuse to make peace with you but prefer to make war against you, you are to put it under siege. 13 When Adonai your God hands it over to you, you are to put every male to the sword. 14 However, you are to take as booty for yourself the women, the little ones, the livestock, and everything in the city — all its spoil. Yes, you will feed on your enemies’ spoil, which Adonai your God has given you. 15 This is what you are to do to all the towns which are at a great distance from you, which are not the towns of these nations.
16 “As for the towns of these peoples, which Adonai your God is giving you as your inheritance, you are not to allow anything that breathes to live. 17 Rather you must destroy them completely — the Hitti, the Emori, the Kena‘ani, the P’rizi, the Hivi and the Y’vusi — as Adonai your God has ordered you; 18 so that they won’t teach you to follow their abominable practices, which they do for their gods, thus causing you to sin against Adonai your God.
19 “When, in making war against a town in order to capture it, you lay siege to it for a long time, you are not to destroy its trees, cutting them down with an axe. You can eat their fruit, so don’t cut them down. After all, are the trees in the field human beings, so that you have to besiege them too? 20 However, if you know that certain trees provide no food, you may destroy them and cut them down, in order to build siege-works against the town making war with you, until it falls.
21 “If, in the land Adonai your God is giving you to possess, a murder victim is found lying in the countryside; and the perpetrator of the murder is not known; 2 then your leaders and judges are to go out and measure the distance between it and the surrounding towns. 3 After it has been determined which town is the closest, the leaders of that town are to take a young female cow that has never been put to work or yoked for use as a draft animal. 4 The leaders of that town are to bring the heifer down to a vadi with a stream in it that never dries up, to a place that is neither plowed nor sown; and they are to break the cow’s neck there in the vadi. 5 Then the cohanim, who are L’vi’im, are to approach; for Adonai your God has chosen them to serve him and to pronounce blessings in the name of Adonai; they will decide the outcome of every dispute and matter involving violence. 6 All the leaders of the town nearest the murder victim are to wash their hands over the cow whose neck was broken in the vadi. (Maftir) 7 Then they are to speak up and say, ‘This blood was not shed by our hands, nor have we seen who did it. 8 Adonai, forgive your people Isra’el, whom you redeemed; do not allow innocent blood to be shed among your people Isra’el.’ And they will be forgiven this bloodshed. 9 Thus you will banish the shedding of innocent blood from among you, by doing what Adonai sees as right.
Haftarah Shof’tim: Yesha‘yahu (Isaiah) 51:12–52:12 [Messianic adaptation: conclude the reading at 53:12]
B’rit Hadashah suggested readings for Parashah Shof’tim: Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:38–42; 18:15–20; Acts 3:13–26; 7:35–53; 1 Corinthians 5:9–13; 1 Timothy 5:17–22; Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 10:28–31
Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 New International Version (NIV)
18 Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. 19 Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. 20 Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Worshiping Other Gods
21 Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God, 22 and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates.
17 Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him.
2 If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the Lord gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God in violation of his covenant, 3 and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars in the sky, 4 and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. 6 On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.
8 If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the Lord your God will choose. 9 Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. 10 You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the Lord will choose. Be careful to do everything they instruct you to do. 11 Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. 12 Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. 13 All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.
14 When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” 15 be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. 16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
Offerings for Priests and Levites
18 The Levitical priests—indeed, the whole tribe of Levi—are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel. They shall live on the food offerings presented to the Lord, for that is their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their fellow Israelites; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.
3 This is the share due the priests from the people who sacrifice a bull or a sheep: the shoulder, the internal organs and the meat from the head. 4 You are to give them the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the first wool from the shearing of your sheep, 5 for the Lord your God has chosen them and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the Lord’s name always.
6 If a Levite moves from one of your towns anywhere in Israel where he is living, and comes in all earnestness to the place the Lord will choose, 7 he may minister in the name of the Lord his God like all his fellow Levites who serve there in the presence of the Lord. 8 He is to share equally in their benefits, even though he has received money from the sale of family possessions.
9 When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the Lord your God.
14 The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
Cities of Refuge
19 When the Lord your God has destroyed the nations whose land he is giving you, and when you have driven them out and settled in their towns and houses, 2 then set aside for yourselves three cities in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3 Determine the distances involved and divide into three parts the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, so that a person who kills someone may flee for refuge to one of these cities.
4 This is the rule concerning anyone who kills a person and flees there for safety—anyone who kills a neighbor unintentionally, without malice aforethought. 5 For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life. 6 Otherwise, the avenger of blood might pursue him in a rage, overtake him if the distance is too great, and kill him even though he is not deserving of death, since he did it to his neighbor without malice aforethought. 7 This is why I command you to set aside for yourselves three cities.
8 If the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he promised on oath to your ancestors, and gives you the whole land he promised them, 9 because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the Lord your God and to walk always in obedience to him—then you are to set aside three more cities. 10 Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land, which the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance, and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed.
11 But if out of hate someone lies in wait, assaults and kills a neighbor, and then flees to one of these cities, 12 the killer shall be sent for by the town elders, be brought back from the city, and be handed over to the avenger of blood to die. 13 Show no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.
14 Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.
15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Going to War
20 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by 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 shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. 7 Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.” 8 Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” 9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall appoint commanders over it.
10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.
19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?[b] 20 However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.
Atonement for an Unsolved Murder
21 If someone is found slain, lying in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who the killer was, 2 your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distance from the body to the neighboring towns. 3 Then the elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked and has never worn a yoke 4 and lead it down to a valley that has not been plowed or planted and where there is a flowing stream. There in the valley they are to break the heifer’s neck. 5 The Levitical priests shall step forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister and to pronounce blessings in the name of the Lord and to decide all cases of dispute and assault. 6 Then all the elders of the town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7 and they shall declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. 8 Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, Lord, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent person.” Then the bloodshed will be atoned for, 9 and you will have purged from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the Lord.