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20 Moses: This is how you should act during wartime: When you go to battle against your enemies, if you see their army is larger than yours and they have horses and chariots, don’t be afraid of them! The Eternal your God is with you—the same God who defeated Pharaoh and brought you out of Egypt. As you are approaching the battlefield, your priest will come over to you and address you: “Listen, Israel! Today you’re going to fight a battle against your enemies. Don’t be intimidated by them! Don’t be afraid! Don’t run away! Don’t let them terrify you! The Eternal, your True God, has come out here with you, and He’ll fight for you against your enemies and save you.” Then the officials will say to the people who are eligible for a deferment, “Has anyone just built a new house but hasn’t begun to use it yet? Go back to your house, because if you died in this battle, someone else would dedicate it. Has anyone planted a vineyard but hasn’t enjoyed its fruit yet? Go back to your house, because if you died in this battle, someone else would be the first to enjoy its fruit. Has anyone become engaged to a woman but hasn’t consummated the marriage? Go back to your house, because if you died in this battle, someone else would take her.” They’ll continue, “Is anyone here afraid or intimidated? You can go back home too! We don’t want you to make everyone else as scared as you are!” When the officials have finished speaking to the troops, they’ll appoint commanders to lead each section of the army.

10 When you first approach a city you’re going to fight against, shout out, “Peace!” 11 If they shout back, “Peace!” and open their gates to you, then you must let them surrender. Make everyone in the city your slaves, and put them to work for you. 12 But if the city doesn’t surrender, if it resists you instead, then lay siege to it. 13 When the Eternal your God enables you to capture the city, kill all the men who are left in it with your swords. 14 But you can take the women, children, livestock, all the other goods in the city, and all of its spoils as your plunder for your use. The Eternal your God has given you these spoils from your enemies.

15 This is what you’re to do with cities that are a great distance from you that don’t belong to the nations living here. 16 But when you conquer one of the cities the Eternal, your True God, is giving you to live in and pass on to your children, don’t spare anything that breathes! 17 If it’s a city that belongs to the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, or the Jebusites, then completely destroy the inhabitants as He has commanded you. 18 If you don’t, they’ll teach you to do all the horrible things they do for their gods, and you’ll sin against Him.

19 When you’re fighting against a city, and it hasn’t fallen to you even after a long siege, don’t chop down all the trees around it. You can eat the fruit and nuts they produce, so don’t cut them down. Are these trees humans who are resisting your siege? Of course not! 20 Only cut down the trees you know don’t produce any food. You can use them to build siege machines against the city you’re fighting with until it falls.

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