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Laws for Going to War

Moses said to Israel:

20 If you have to go to war, you may find yourselves facing an enemy army that is bigger than yours and that has horses and chariots. But don’t be afraid! The Lord your God rescued you from Egypt, and he will help you fight. Before you march into battle, a priest will go to the front of the army and say, “Soldiers of Israel, listen to me! Today when you go into battle, don’t be afraid of the enemy, and when you see them, don’t panic. The Lord your God will fight alongside you and help you win the battle.”

Then the tribal officials will say to the troops:

If any of you have built a new house, but haven’t yet moved in, you may go home. It isn’t right for you to die in battle and for somebody else to live in your new house.

If any of you have planted a vineyard but haven’t had your first grape harvest, you may go home. It isn’t right for you to die in battle and for somebody else to enjoy your grapes.

If any of you are engaged to be married, you may go back home and get married. It isn’t right for you to die in battle and for somebody else to marry the woman you are engaged to.

Finally, if any of you are afraid, you may go home. We don’t want you to discourage the other soldiers.

When the officials are finished giving these orders, they will appoint officers to be in command of the army.

10-15 Before you attack a town that is far from your land, offer peace to the people who live there. If they surrender and open their town gates, they will become your slaves. But if they reject your offer of peace and try to fight, surround their town and attack. Then, after the Lord helps you capture it, kill all the men. Take the women and children as slaves and keep the livestock and everything else of value.

16 Whenever you capture towns in the land the Lord your God is giving you, be sure to kill all the people and animals. 17 He has commanded you to completely wipe out the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 18 If you allow them to live, they will persuade you to worship their disgusting gods, and you will be unfaithful to the Lord.

19 When you are attacking a town, don’t chop down its fruit trees, not even if you have had the town surrounded for a long time. Fruit trees aren’t your enemies, and they produce food that you can eat, so don’t cut them down. 20 You may need wood to make ladders and towers to help you get over the walls and capture the town. But use only trees that you know are not fruit trees.

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