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Administration of Justice

17 “You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or sheep with a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God.

“If there is discovered among you, within any of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing (violating) His covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, [doing these things] which I have commanded not to do, and if it is told to you and you hear about it, then you shall investigate thoroughly [all the charges]. If it is confirmed [a]beyond doubt that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring that man or that woman who has done this evil thing to the gates [of your city] and you shall stone the man or the woman to death. [b]On the evidence of two or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of [only] one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall remove the evil from among you.

“If any case is too difficult for you to judge—between one kind of homicide and another, between one kind of lawsuit and another, between one kind of assault and another, [c]being controversial issues in your [d]courts—then you shall arise and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. So you shall come to the Levitical priests or to the judge who is in office at that time, and you shall consult them and they will declare to you the [e]verdict in the case. 10 You shall act in accordance with the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the Lord chooses. You shall be careful to act in accordance with all of their instructions. 11 You shall act in accordance with the law which they teach you and the judgment which they tell you. You shall not turn aside from their verdict, to the right or to the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously and insolently by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; so you shall remove the evil from Israel. 13 Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.

14 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and you take possession of it and live there, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15 you shall most certainly set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses. You shall set a king over you from among your countrymen (brothers); you may not choose a foreigner [to rule] over you who is not your countryman. 16 Further, he shall not [f]acquire many [war] horses for himself, nor make the people return to Egypt in order to acquire horses [to expand his military power], since the Lord said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 He shall not acquire multiple wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away [from God]; nor [for the same reason] shall he acquire great amounts of silver and gold.

18 “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear [and worship] the Lord his God [with awe-filled reverence and profound respect], by carefully obeying (keeping foremost in his thoughts and actively doing) all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 so that his heart will not be lifted up above his countrymen [by a false sense of self-importance and self-reliance] and that he will not turn away (deviate) from the commandment, to the right or to the left, so that he and his sons may continue [to reign] for a long time in his kingdom in Israel.

Portion of the Levites

18 “The Levitical priests, the entire tribe of Levi, shall own [privately] no portion [of land] or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the Lord’s offerings by fire and His portion. They shall have no inheritance [of land] among their countrymen (brothers, brethren); the Lord is their [g]inheritance, as He promised them.

“Now this shall be the priests’ portion from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, either an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. You shall also give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine [the first of the season], and your [olive] oil, and the first sheared fleece of your sheep. For the Lord your God has chosen him, him and his sons from all your tribes, to stand and serve in the name of the Lord forever.

“Now if a Levite comes from any of your cities throughout Israel where he resides, and comes whenever [h]he wishes to [the sanctuary] the place which the Lord chooses; then he shall serve in the name of the Lord his God, like all his fellow Levites who [i]stand there before the Lord. They shall have [j]equal portions to eat, except what they receive from the sale of their fathers’ estates.(A)

Spiritism Forbidden

“When you enter the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable (repulsive) practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire [as a sacrifice], one who uses divination and fortune-telling, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a charm or spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or a necromancer [who seeks the dead]. 12 For everyone who does these things is utterly repulsive to the Lord; and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless (complete, perfect) before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you shall dispossess listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners and fortune-tellers, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.

15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a [k]prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen (brothers, brethren). You shall listen to him.(B) 16 This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb (Mount Sinai) on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear the voice of the Lord my God again, nor see this great fire anymore, so that I will not die.’ 17 The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him [and there will be consequences]. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods—that prophet shall die.’ 21 If you say in your heart, ‘How will we know and recognize the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord and the thing does not happen or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Cities of Refuge

19 “When the Lord your God cuts off (destroys) the nations whose land He is giving you, and you dispossess them and live in their cities and in their houses, you shall designate three cities for yourself in the central area of the land, which the Lord your God is giving you to possess. You shall prepare and maintain for yourself the roads [to these cities], and divide the territory of your land into three parts, so that anyone who kills another unintentionally may escape there [for asylum].

“Now this is the case of the offender (manslayer) who may escape there and live [protected from vengeance]: when he kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him previously— as [for example] when a man goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down the tree, but the iron head slips off the wooden handle and hits his companion and he dies—the offender may escape to one of these cities and live; otherwise the [l]avenger of blood might pursue the offender in the heat of anger, and overtake him, because it is a long way, and take his life, even though he did not deserve to die, since he did not hate his neighbor beforehand. Therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall set aside three cities [of refuge] for yourself.’

“If the Lord your God enlarges your border, as He has sworn to your fathers to do, and gives you all the land which He promised to give to your fathers— if you keep and carefully observe all these commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God, and to walk [that is, to live each and every day] always in His ways—then you shall add three more cities [of refuge] for yourself, besides these three, 10 so that innocent blood will not be shed [by blood avengers] in your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and blood guilt will not be on you [for the death of an innocent man].

11 “But if there is a man who hates his neighbor and lies in wait and ambush for him and attacks him and strikes him down so that he dies, and the assailant escapes to one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his own city shall send for him and have him taken back from there and turn him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may be put to death. 13 You shall not pity him [the guilty one], but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, so that it may go well with you.

Laws of Landmark and Testimony

14 “You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the forefathers [who first divided the territory] have set, in the land which you will inherit in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

15 “A single witness shall not appear in a trial against a man for any wrong or any sin which he has committed; [only] [m]on the testimony or evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be confirmed. 16 If a malicious witness rises up against a man to [falsely] accuse him of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office at that time. 18 The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness, and he has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. So you shall remove the evil from among you. 20 Those who remain will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. 21 You shall not show pity [to the guilty one]: it shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Laws of Warfare

20 “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, 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 approach the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people, and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: you are advancing today to battle against your enemies. Do not lack courage. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble [in terror] before them, for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’(C) The officers shall also speak to the [n]soldiers, saying, ‘What man is there who has built a new house and has not yet [o]dedicated it? [p]Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would dedicate it. What man has planted a vineyard and has not put it to use [harvesting its fruit]? Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would begin to use its fruit. And who is the man who is engaged (legally promised) to a woman and has not married her? Let him go and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would marry her.’ Then the officers shall speak further to the soldiers and say, ‘Who is the man who is afraid and lacks courage? Let him go and return to his house, so that he does not cause his brothers’ courage to fail like his own.’ And it shall be when the officers have finished speaking to the soldiers, they shall appoint commanders of armies over them.

10 “When you advance to a city to fight against it, you shall [first] offer it terms of peace. 11 If that city accepts your terms of peace and opens its gates to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. 12 However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall lay siege to it. 13 When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike down all the men in it with the edge of the sword. 14 Only the women and the children and the animals and everything that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you. 15 That is what you shall do to all the cities that are very far away from you, which are not among the cities of these nations nearby [which you are to dispossess]. 16 Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, 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 act in accordance with all the detestable practices which they have done [in worship and service] for their gods, and in this way cause you to sin against the Lord your God.

19 “When you besiege a city for [q]a long time, making war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its [fruit-bearing] trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged (destroyed) by you? 20 Only the trees which you know are not [r]fruit trees shall you destroy and cut down, so that you may build [s]siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.


  1. Deuteronomy 17:4 Lit the word is certain.
  2. Deuteronomy 17:6 Lit By the mouth of.
  3. Deuteronomy 17:8 Lit any words of judgment.
  4. Deuteronomy 17:8 Lit gates.
  5. Deuteronomy 17:9 Lit the word of judgment.
  6. Deuteronomy 17:16 Lit multiply for himself and so throughout.
  7. Deuteronomy 18:2 Certain towns and grazing lands were designated for the Levites’ use, as well as portions of the tithes and sacrifices of the people.
  8. Deuteronomy 18:6 Lit it pleases his soul.
  9. Deuteronomy 18:7 The literal Hebrew here is “stand before the face of,” and in this context it implies “stand ready to serve.”
  10. Deuteronomy 18:8 They were to share equally in the benefits of the priesthood.
  11. Deuteronomy 18:15 Or Prophet, if this is a prophetic reference to Jesus.
  12. Deuteronomy 19:6 The nearest male relative of the victim, known as the “kinsman-redeemer” (Heb go’el), was responsible to find the guilty party and put him to death (Num 35:19). The person who had committed the homicide was protected until his trial, so long as he remained in one of the three cities. After that, if he was judged innocent of any premeditation (like someone today judged guilty of manslaughter, but not murder), he was to remain in the city under protection from the avenger until the death of the high priest, at which time he could return to his home as a free man (Num 35:28).
  13. Deuteronomy 19:15 Lit in the mouth of.
  14. Deuteronomy 20:5 Lit people and so throughout.
  15. Deuteronomy 20:5 I.e. to the temple. The rabbis said that ownership of a house was required for dedication. Here, dedication seems to have established ownership when the original owner died.
  16. Deuteronomy 20:5 The point of the admonitions in vv 5-8 is that with the Lord’s help, Israel would have no need of a large military force, and the officers could afford to dismiss anyone who was not completely prepared for battle.
  17. Deuteronomy 20:19 Lit many days.
  18. Deuteronomy 20:20 Lit trees for eating.
  19. Deuteronomy 20:20 I.e. battering rams, ladders, towers, etc.

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