Laws of Warfare

20 “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see (A)horses, chariots, and people more numerous than you, (B)do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people. He shall say to them, ‘Hear, Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. (C)Do not be afraid, or panic, or be terrified by them, for the Lord your God (D)is the One who is going with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ The officers also shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Who is the man that has built a new house but has not (E)dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would dedicate it. And who is the man that has planted a vineyard but has not [a]put it to use? Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man [b]would put it to use. (F)And who is the man that is [c]betrothed to a woman and has not [d]married her? Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would [e]marry her.’ Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say, ‘(G)Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, so that [f]he does not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart!’ And 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 [g]offer it terms of peace. 11 And if it [h]agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your (H)forced labor and 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, (I)you shall strike all the [i]men in it with the edge of the sword. 14 However, the women, the children, (J)the animals, and everything that is in the city, all of its spoils, you shall take as plunder for yourself; and you shall [j]use the spoils of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you. 15 This is what you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations [k]nearby. 16 (K)Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave anything that breathes alive. 17 Instead, you shall [l]utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, 18 so that they will not teach you to do [m](L)all the same detestable practices of theirs which they have done for their gods, [n]by which you would (M)sin against the Lord your God.

19 “When you besiege a city for 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, so you shall not cut them down. For [o]is the tree of the field a human, that it should [p]be besieged by you? 20 Only the trees that you know [q]are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, so that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war against you until it falls.


  1. Deuteronomy 20:6 Lit treat(ed) it as common
  2. Deuteronomy 20:6 Lit treat(ed) it as common
  3. Deuteronomy 20:7 A betrothed couple was considered legally married, but did not yet live together
  4. Deuteronomy 20:7 Lit taken
  5. Deuteronomy 20:7 Lit take
  6. Deuteronomy 20:8 As in LXX and other ancient versions; MT his brothers’ hearts do not melt like
  7. Deuteronomy 20:10 Lit call to it for peace
  8. Deuteronomy 20:11 Lit answers peace to you
  9. Deuteronomy 20:13 Lit males
  10. Deuteronomy 20:14 Lit eat
  11. Deuteronomy 20:15 Lit here
  12. Deuteronomy 20:17 Or put them under the ban
  13. Deuteronomy 20:18 Lit according to all the detestable
  14. Deuteronomy 20:18 Lit and you would
  15. Deuteronomy 20:19 Read as interrogative with ancient versions; MT the tree of the field is man
  16. Deuteronomy 20:19 Lit come before you in the siege
  17. Deuteronomy 20:20 Lit that it is not a tree of food

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