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Sacrifices That Have Something Wrong with Them

Moses said to Israel:

17 If an ox or a sheep has something wrong with it, don’t offer it as a sacrifice to the Lord your God—he will be disgusted!

Put To Death People Who Worship Idols

Moses said to Israel:

2-3 The Lord your God is giving you towns to live in. But later, a man or a woman in your town may start worshiping other gods, or even the sun, moon, or stars.[a] I have warned you not to worship other gods, because whoever worships them is disobeying the Lord and breaking the agreement he made with you. So when you hear that someone in your town is committing this disgusting sin, you must carefully find out if that person really is guilty. 5-7 But you will need two or three witnesses—one witness isn’t enough to prove a person guilty.

Get rid of those who are guilty of such evil. Take them outside your town gates and have everyone stone them to death. But the witnesses must be the first to throw stones.

Difficult Cases

Moses said to Israel:

8-12 It may be difficult to find out the truth in some legal cases in your town. You may not be able to decide if someone was killed accidentally or murdered. Or you may not be able to tell whether an injury or some property damage was done by accident or on purpose. If the case is too difficult, take it to the court at the place where the Lord your God chooses to be worshiped.

This court will be made up of one judge and several priests[b] who serve at the Lord’s altar. They will explain the law to you and give you their decision about the case. Do exactly what they tell you, or you will be put to death. 13 When other Israelites hear about it, they will be afraid and obey the decisions of the court.

The King

Moses said:

14 People of Israel, after you capture the land the Lord your God is giving you, and after you settle on it, you will say, “We want a king, just like the nations around us.”

15 Go ahead and appoint a king, but make sure that he is an Israelite and that he is the one the Lord has chosen.

16 The king should not have many horses, especially those from Egypt. The Lord has said never to go back there again. 17 And the king must not have a lot of wives—they might tempt him to be unfaithful to the Lord.[c] Finally, the king must not try to get huge amounts of silver and gold.

18 The official copy of God’s laws[d] will be kept by the priests of the Levi tribe. So, as soon as anyone becomes king, he must go to the priests and write out a copy of these laws while they watch. 19 Each day the king must read and obey these laws, so that he will learn to worship the Lord with fear and trembling 20 and not think that he’s better than everyone else.

If the king completely obeys the Lord’s commands, he and his descendants will rule Israel for many years.

Special Privileges for Priests and Levites

Moses said to Israel:

18 The people of the Levi tribe, including the priests, will not receive any land. Instead, they will receive part of the sacrifices that are offered to the Lord, because he has promised to provide for them in this way.

When you sacrifice a bull or sheep, the priests will be given the shoulder, the jaws, and the stomach.[e] In addition, they will receive the first part of your grain harvest and part of your first batches of wine and olive oil.[f] You must also give them the first wool that is cut from your sheep each year. Give these gifts to the priests, because the Lord has chosen them and their descendants out of all the tribes of Israel to be his special servants at the place of worship.

Any Levite can leave his hometown, and go to the place where the Lord chooses to be worshiped, and then be a special servant of the Lord[g] there, just like all the other Levites. Some Levites may have money from selling family possessions, and others may not. But all Levites serving at the place of worship will receive the same amount of food from the sacrifices and gifts brought by the people.

Don’t Do Disgusting Things

Moses said to Israel:

Soon you will go into the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The nations that live there do things that are disgusting to the Lord, and you must not follow their example. 10-11 Don’t sacrifice your son or daughter. And don’t try to use any kind of magic or witchcraft to tell fortunes[h] or to cast spells or to talk with spirits of the dead.

12 The Lord is disgusted with anyone who does these things, and that’s why he will help you destroy the nations that are in the land. 13 Never be guilty of doing any of these disgusting things!

A Prophet like Moses

Moses said to Israel:

14 You will go in and take the land from nations that practice magic and witchcraft. But the Lord your God won’t allow you to do those things. 15 Instead, he will choose one of your own people to be a prophet just like me, and you must do what that prophet says. 16 You were asking for a prophet the day you were gathered at Mount Sinai[i] and said to the Lord, “Please don’t let us hear your voice or see this terrible fire again—if we do, we will die!”

17 Then the Lord told me:

Moses, they have said the right thing. 18 So when I want to speak to them, I will choose one of them to be a prophet like you. I will give my message to that prophet, who will tell the people exactly what I have said. 19 Since the message comes from me, anyone who doesn’t obey the message will have to answer to me.

20 But if I haven’t spoken, and a prophet claims to have a message from me, you must kill that prophet, and you must also kill any prophet who claims to have a message from another god.

Moses said to Israel:

21 You may be asking yourselves, “How can we tell if a prophet’s message really comes from the Lord?” 22 You will know, because if the Lord says something will happen, it will happen. And if it doesn’t, you will know that the prophet was falsely claiming to speak for the Lord. Don’t be afraid of any prophet whose message doesn’t come from the Lord.

Safe Towns

Moses said to Israel:

19 Soon you will go into the land and attack the nations. The Lord your God will destroy them and give you their lands, towns, and homes. Then after you are settled, 2-4 you must choose three of your towns to be Safe Towns. Divide the land into three regions with one Safe Town near the middle of each, so that a Safe Town can be easily reached from anywhere in your land.

Then, if one of you accidentally kills someone, you can run to a Safe Town and find protection from being put to death. But you must not have been angry with the person you killed.

For example, suppose you and a friend go into the forest to cut wood. You are chopping down a tree with an ax, when the ax head slips off the handle, hits your friend, and kills him. You can run to one of the Safe Towns and save your life. You don’t deserve to die, since you did not mean to harm your friend. But he did get killed, and his relatives might be very angry. They might even choose one of the men from their family to track you down and kill you. If it is too far to one of the Safe Towns, the victim’s relative might be able to catch you and kill you. That’s why I said there must be three Safe Towns.

8-9 Israel, the Lord your God has promised that if you obey his laws and teachings I’m giving you, and if you always love him, then he will give you the land he promised your ancestors. When that happens, you must name three more Safe Towns in the new territory. 10 You will need them, so innocent people won’t be killed on your land while they are trying to reach a Safe Town that is too far away. You will be guilty of murder, if innocent people lose their lives because you didn’t name enough Safe Towns in the land the Lord your God will give you.

11 But what if you really do commit murder? Suppose one of you hates a neighbor. So you wait in a deserted place, kill the neighbor, and run to a Safe Town. 12 If that happens, the leaders of your town must send messengers to bring you back from the Safe Town. They will hand you over to one of the victim’s relatives, who will put you to death.

13 Israel, for the good of the whole country, you must kill anyone who murders an innocent person. Never show mercy to a murderer!

Property Lines

Moses said to Israel:

14 In the land the Lord is giving you, there are already stones set up to mark the property lines between fields. So don’t move those stones.

Witnesses Must Tell the Truth

Moses said to Israel:

15 Before you are convicted of a crime, at least two witnesses must be able to testify that you did it.

16 If you accuse someone of a crime, but seem to be lying, 17-18 then both you and the accused must be taken to the court at the place where the Lord is worshiped. There the priests and judges will find out if you are lying or telling the truth.

If you are lying and the accused is innocent, 19-21 then you will be punished without mercy. You will receive the same punishment the accused would have received if found guilty, whether it means losing an eye, a tooth, a hand, a foot, or even your life.

Israel, the crime of telling lies in court must be punished. And when people hear what happens to witnesses that lie, everyone else who testifies in court will tell the truth.

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.

Footnotes

  1. 17.2,3 sun, moon, or stars: Some people thought these were gods and worshiped them.
  2. 17.8-12 several priests: The Hebrew text has “the priests, the Levites” ; priests belonged to the Levi tribe.
  3. 17.17 a lot of wives. . . unfaithful to the Lord: A king would often marry the daughter of another king that he was making a treaty with. These foreign women would naturally want to worship their own gods, and would want their husband the king to do so as well.
  4. 17.18 God’s laws: Or “God’s laws for the king.”
  5. 18.3 stomach: Certain portions of the stomach were considered a delicacy.
  6. 18.4 grain. . . olive oil: An Israelite was supposed to offer the first part of the harvest as a gift to the Lord (see Leviticus 23.10,11).
  7. 18.7 a special servant of the Lord: Or “one of the Lord’s priests.”
  8. 18.10,11 tell fortunes: Fortunetellers thought they could learn secrets or learn about the future by watching the flight of birds or looking at the livers of animals or in many other ways.
  9. 18.16 Mount Sinai: See the note at 1.1-5.