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Deuteronomy 20-22 Common English Bible (CEB)

Rules for warfare

20 When you march out to battle your enemies and you see horses, chariots, and a fighting force larger than yours, don’t be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, the one who brought you up from Egypt, is with you. As you advance toward the war, the priest will come forward and will address the troops. He will say to them: “Listen, Israel: Right now you are advancing to wage war against your enemies. Don’t be discouraged! Don’t be afraid! Don’t panic! Don’t shake in fear on account of them, because the Lord your God is going with you to fight your enemies for you and to save you.”

The officials will also say to the troops: “Is there anyone here who has just built a new house but hasn’t yet dedicated it? He can leave and go back to his house; otherwise, he might die in the war and someone else would dedicate the house. Or is there anyone here who has planted a vineyard but hasn’t yet put it to good use? He can leave and go back to his house; otherwise, he might die in the battle and someone else would use the vineyard. Or is there anyone here who is engaged but not yet married? He may leave and go back to his house; otherwise, he might die in the battle and someone else would marry his fiancée.”

The officials will continue to address the troops, stating: “Is there anyone here who is afraid and discouraged? He can leave and go back to his house; otherwise, his comrades might lose courage just as he has.” Once the officials have completed their speech to the troops, the army commanders will assume leadership of the forces.

10 When you approach a city to fight against it, you should first extend peaceful terms to it. 11 If the city responds with peaceful terms and surrenders to you, then all the people in the city will serve you as forced laborers. 12 However, if the city does not negotiate peacefully with you but makes war against you, you may attack it. 13 The Lord your God will hand it over to you; you must kill all the city’s males with the sword. 14 However, you can take for yourselves the women, the children, the animals, and all that is in the city—all its plunder. You can then enjoy your enemies’ plunder, which the Lord your God has given you.

15 That’s what you must do to all the cities that are located far away from you—specifically, those cities that don’t belong to these nations here. 16 But in the case of any of the cities of these peoples—the ones the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance—you must not spare any living thing. 17 Instead, you must place these under the ban:[a] Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—just as the Lord your God commanded you. 18 Then they can’t teach you to do all the detestable things they did for their gods, with the result that you end up sinning against the Lord your God.

19 Now if you have been attacking a city for some time, fighting against it and trying to conquer it, don’t destroy its trees by cutting them down with axes. You can eat from those trees; don’t cut them down! Do you think a tree of the field is some sort of warrior to be attacked by you in battle? 20 That said, if you know that a tree is not a food-producing tree, you are allowed to destroy it, cutting it down and using it in the siege against the city that is fighting against you until it falls.

Unsolved homicides

21 If a corpse is found on the ground the Lord your God is giving you to possess, lying in a field, and the identity of the killer is unknown, your elders and judges must come out and measure the distances to the cities nearest the body. Once it is determined which city is closest to the dead body, its elders must take a young cow that hasn’t been used or yet pulled a plow, and those elders will take the cow down to a ravine with a flowing stream—one that has not been plowed or planted—and they will break the cow’s neck right there in the river valley. Then the priests, the descendants of Levi, will step forward because the Lord your God selected them to minister for him and to bless in the Lord’s name, and because every legal dispute and case of assault is decided by them. All the elders of the city closest to the corpse will wash their hands over the cow whose neck was broken in the river valley. They will then solemnly state: “Our hands did not shed this blood. Our eyes did not see it happen. Lord, please forgive your people Israel, whom you saved. Don’t put the guilt of innocent bloodshed on your people Israel.”

Then the bloodguilt will be forgiven them.

But you must remove[b] innocent bloodshed from your community; do only what is right in the Lord’s eyes.

Foreign wives

10 When you wage war against your enemies and the Lord hands them over to you and you take prisoners, 11 if you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you fall in love with her and take her as your wife, 12 bringing her into your home, she must shave her head, cut her nails, 13 remove her prisoner’s clothing, and live in your house, mourning her father and her mother for one month. After that, you may consummate the marriage. You will be her husband, and she will be your wife. 14 But if you aren’t pleased with her, you must send her away as she wishes. You are not allowed to sell her for money or treat her as a slave because you have humiliated her.

Right of the oldest son

15 Now suppose a man has two wives—one of them loved and the other unloved. Both wives bear children, but the oldest male is the unloved wife’s child. 16 On the day when the man decides what will go to each of his children as an inheritance, he isn’t allowed to treat his loved wife’s son as the oldest male rather than his unloved wife’s son, who is the real oldest male. 17 Instead, he must acknowledge the unloved wife’s son as the oldest male, giving to him two-thirds of everything that he owns, because that son is the earliest produce of his physical power. The oldest male’s rights belong to that son.

Rebellious children

18 Now if someone has a consistently stubborn and rebellious child, who refuses to listen to their father and mother—even when the parents discipline him, he won’t listen to them— 19 the father and mother will take the son before the elders of that city at its gates. 20 Then they will inform the city’s elders: “This son of ours is consistently stubborn and rebellious, refusing to listen to us. What’s more, he’s wild and a drunkard.”

21 Then all the people of that town will stone him until he dies.

Remove[c] such evil from your community! All Israel will hear about this and be afraid.


22 Now if someone is guilty of a capital crime, and they are executed, and you then hang them on a tree, 23 you must not leave the body hanging on the tree but must bury it the same day because God’s curse is on those who are hanged.[d] Furthermore, you must not pollute the ground that the Lord your God is giving to you as an inheritance.

Rules for property and mixtures

22 Don’t just watch your fellow Israelite’s ox or sheep wandering around and do nothing about it. You must return the animal to its owner. If the owner doesn’t live nearby, or you don’t know who owns the animal, then you must take care of it. It should stay with you until your fellow Israelite comes looking for it, at which point you must return it to him.

Do the same thing in the case of a donkey. Do the same thing in the case of a piece of clothing. Do the same thing in the case of anything that your fellow Israelite loses and you end up finding. You are not allowed to sit back and do nothing about it.

Don’t just watch your fellow Israelite’s donkey or ox fall down in the road and do nothing about it. You must help your fellow Israelite get the animal up again.

Women must not wear men’s clothes, and men must not wear women’s clothes. Everyone who does such things is detestable to the Lord your God.

If you come across a bird’s nest along your way, whether in a tree or on the ground, with baby birds or eggs, and the mother is sitting on the baby birds or eggs, do not remove the mother from her young. You must let the mother go, though you may take the young for yourself so that things go well for you and so you can prolong your life.

Whenever you build a new house, you must build a railing for the roof so that you don’t end up with innocent blood on your hands because someone fell off of it.

Don’t plant your vineyards with two types of seed; otherwise, the entire crop that you have planted and the produce of the vineyard will be unusable.[e]

10 Don’t plow with an ox and a donkey together.

11 Don’t wear clothes that mix wool and linen together.

12 Make tassels for the four corners of the coat you wear.

Virgin bride

13 Suppose a man gets married and consummates the marriage but subsequently despises his wife. 14 He then spreads false claims about her to the point that she has a bad reputation, because he said such things as, “I married this woman, but when I went to have sex with her, I couldn’t find any proof that she was a virgin.”

15 At that point, the young woman’s father and mother will bring proof of her virginity to the city’s elders at the city gate. 16 The young woman’s father will say to the elders: “I gave my daughter to this man to be his wife, but he doesn’t like her anymore. 17 That’s why he has spread false claims about her, saying, ‘I couldn’t find any proof that your daughter was a virgin.’ But look! Here’s proof of my daughter’s virginity.” At that point they will spread out the blanket in front of the city’s elders. 18 The city’s elders must then take that husband and punish him. 19 They will fine him one hundred silver shekels, giving that to the young woman’s father, because that husband gave one of Israel’s virgin daughters a bad reputation. Moreover, she must remain his wife; he is never allowed to divorce her.

20 However, if the claim is true and proof of the young woman’s virginity can’t be produced, 21 then the city’s elders will bring the young woman to the door of her father’s house. The citizens of that city must stone her until she dies because she acted so sinfully in Israel by having extramarital sex while still in her father’s house.

Remove[f] such evil from your community!

Inappropriate sexual behavior

22 If a man is found having sex with a woman who is married to someone else, both of them must die—the man who was having sex with the woman and the woman herself.

Remove such evil from Israel!

23 If a young woman who is a virgin is engaged to one man and another man meets up with her in a town and has sex with her, 24 you must bring both of them to the city gates there and stone them until they die—the young woman because she didn’t call for help in the city, and the man because of the fact that he humiliated his neighbor’s wife.

Remove such evil from your community!

25 But if the man met up with the engaged woman in a field, grabbing her and having sex with her there, only the man will die. 26 Don’t do anything whatsoever to the young woman. She hasn’t committed any capital crime—rather, this situation is exactly like the one where someone attacks his neighbor and kills him.[g] 27 Since the man met up with her in a field, the engaged woman may well have called out for help, but there was no one to rescue her.

28 If a man meets up with a young woman who is a virgin and not engaged, grabs her and has sex with her, and they are caught in the act, 29 the man who had sex with her must give fifty silver shekels to the young woman’s father. She will also become his wife because he has humiliated her. He is never allowed to divorce her.

30 [h] A man cannot marry his father’s former wife so that his father’s private matters are not exposed.[i]


  1. Deuteronomy 20:17 See note at Deut 2:34.
  2. Deuteronomy 21:9 Or burn
  3. Deuteronomy 21:21 Or burn
  4. Deuteronomy 21:23 LXX, Vulg, Tg Neofiti God’s curse is on those who are hanged; Syr, Tg Onqelos those who curse God are to be hanged; Heb uncertain
  5. Deuteronomy 22:9 Or sanctified
  6. Deuteronomy 22:21 Or burn; so also 22:22, 24
  7. Deuteronomy 22:26 See 19:11.
  8. Deuteronomy 22:30 23:1 in Heb
  9. Deuteronomy 22:30 Or so that he doesn’t uncover his father’s skirt
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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