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Unsolved Murder

Moses said to Israel:

21 Suppose the body of a murder victim is found in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you, and no one knows who the murderer is. The judges and other leaders from the towns around there must find out what town is the closest to where the body was found. The leaders from that town will go to their cattle herds and choose a young cow that has never been put to work.[a] 4-5 They and some of the priests will take this cow to a nearby valley where there is a stream, but no crops. Once they reach the valley, the leaders will break the cow’s neck.

The priests must be there, because the Lord your God has chosen them to be his special servants at the place of worship. The Lord has chosen them to bless the people in his name and to be judges in all legal cases, whether property or injury is involved.

The town leaders will wash their hands over the body of the dead cow and say, “We had no part in this murder, and we don’t know who did it. 8-9 But since an innocent person was murdered, we beg you, our Lord, to accept this sacrifice and forgive Israel. We are your people, and you rescued us. Please don’t hold this crime against us.”

If you obey the Lord and do these things, he will forgive Israel.

Marrying a Woman Taken Prisoner in War

Moses said to Israel:

10 From time to time, you men will serve as soldiers and go off to war. The Lord your God will help you defeat your enemies, and you will take many prisoners. 11-13 One of these prisoners may be a beautiful woman, and you may want to marry her. But first you must bring her into your home, and have her shave her head, cut her nails, get rid of her foreign clothes, and start wearing Israelite clothes. She will mourn a month for her father and mother, then you can marry her.

14 Later on, if you are not happy with the woman, you can divorce her, and she can go free. But you have slept with her as your wife, so you cannot sell her as a slave or make her into your own slave.

Rights of a First-Born Son

Moses said to Israel:

15-17 Suppose a man has two wives and loves one more than the other. The first son of either wife is the man’s first-born son, even if the boy’s mother is the wife the man doesn’t love. Later, when the man is near death and is dividing up his property, he must give a double share to his first-born son, simply because he was the first to be born.

A Son Who Rebels

Moses said to Israel:

18 A father and a mother may have a stubborn and rebellious son who refuses to obey them even after he has been punished. 19 If a son is like that, his parents must drag him to the town gate, where the leaders of the town hold their meetings. 20 The parents will tell the leaders, “This son of ours is stubborn and never obeys. He spends all his time drinking and partying.”

21 The men of the town will stone that son to death, because they must get rid of the evil he brought into the community. Everyone in Israel will be afraid when they hear how he was punished.

The Body of a Criminal

Moses said to Israel:

22 If a criminal is put to death, and you hang the dead body on a tree, 23 you must not let it hang there overnight. Bury it the same day, because the dead body of a criminal will bring God’s curse on the land. The Lord your God is giving this land to you, so don’t make it unclean by leaving the bodies of executed criminals on display.

Helping Others

Moses said to Israel:

22 If you see a cow or sheep wandering around lost, take the animal back to its owner. If the owner lives too far away, or if you don’t know who the owner is, take the animal home with you and take care of it. The owner will come looking for the animal, and then you can give it back. That’s what you should do if you find anything that belongs to someone else. Do whatever you can to help, whether you find a cow or sheep or donkey or some clothing.

Oxen and donkeys that carry heavy loads can stumble and fall, and be unable to get up by themselves. So as you walk along the road, help anyone who is trying to get an ox or donkey back on its feet.

Don’t Pretend To Be the Opposite Sex

Moses said to Israel:

Women must not pretend to be men, and men must not pretend to be women.[b] The Lord your God is disgusted with people who do that.

Don’t Take a Mother Bird

Moses said to Israel:

6-7 As you walk along the road, you might see a bird’s nest in a tree or on the ground. If the mother bird is in the nest with either her eggs or her baby birds, you are allowed to take the baby birds or the eggs, but not the mother bird. Let her go free, and the Lord will bless you with a long and successful life.

Put a Wall around Your Flat Roof

If you build a house, make sure to put a low wall around the edge of the flat roof.[c] Then if someone falls off the roof and is killed, it won’t be your fault.

Laws against Mixing Different Things

Moses said to Israel:

If you plant a vineyard, don’t plant any other fruit tree or crop in it. If you do plant something else there, you must bring to the place of worship everything you harvest from the vineyard.

10 Don’t hitch an ox and a donkey to your plow at the same time.

11 When you weave cloth for clothing, you can use thread made of flax[d] or wool, but not both together. 12 And when you make a coat, sew a tassel on each of the four corners.

When a Husband Accuses His Wife

Moses said to Israel:

13 Suppose a man starts hating his wife soon after they are married. 14 He might tell ugly lies about her, and say, “I married this woman, but when we slept together, I found out she wasn’t a virgin.”

15 If this happens, the bride’s father and mother must go to the town gate to show the town leaders the proof that the woman was a virgin. 16 Her father will say, “I let my daughter marry this man, but he started hating her 17 and accusing her of not being a virgin. But he is wrong, because here is proof that she was a virgin!” Then the bride’s parents will show them the bed sheet from the woman’s wedding night.

18 The town leaders will beat the man with a whip 19 because he accused his bride of not being a virgin. He will have to pay her father one hundred pieces of silver and will never be allowed to divorce her.

20 But if the man was right and there is no proof that his bride was a virgin, 21 the men of the town will take the woman to the door of her father’s house and stone her to death.

This woman brought evil into your community by sleeping with someone before she got married, and you must get rid of that evil by killing her.

Laws about Illegal Sex

Moses said:

22 People of Israel, if a man is caught having sex with someone else’s wife, you must put them both to death. That way, you will get rid of the evil they have done in Israel.

23-24 If a man is caught in town having sex with an engaged woman who isn’t screaming for help, they both must be put to death. The man is guilty of having sex with a married woman.[e] And the woman is guilty because she didn’t call for help, even though she was inside a town and people were nearby. Take them both to the town gate and stone them to death. You must get rid of the evil they brought into your community.

25 If an engaged woman is raped out in the country, only the man will be put to death. 26 Do not punish the woman at all; she has done nothing wrong, and certainly nothing deserving death. This crime is like murder, 27 because the woman was alone out in the country when the man attacked her. She screamed, but there was no one to help her.

28 Suppose a woman isn’t engaged to be married, and a man talks her into sleeping with him. If they are caught, 29 they will be forced to get married. He must give her father fifty pieces of silver as a bride-price and[f] can never divorce her.

30 A man must not marry a woman who was married to his father. This would be a disgrace to his father.

Who Cannot Become One of the Lord’s People

Moses said to Israel:

23 If a man’s private parts have been crushed or cut off,[g] he cannot fully belong to the Lord’s people.

No one born outside of a legal marriage, or any of their descendants for ten generations, can fully belong to the Lord’s people.

No Ammonites or Moabites, or any of their descendants for ten generations, can become part of Israel, the Lord’s people. This is because when you came out of Egypt, they refused to provide you with food and water. And besides, they hired Balaam[h] to put a curse on you. But the Lord your God loves you, so he refused to listen to Balaam and turned Balaam’s curse into a blessing. Don’t even think of signing a peace treaty with Moab or Ammon.

But Edomites are your relatives, and you lived as foreigners in the country of Egypt. Now you must be kind to Edomites and Egyptians and let their great-grandchildren become part of Israel, the Lord’s people.

Keep the Army Camp Acceptable

Moses said to Israel:

When you men go off to fight your enemies, make sure your camp is acceptable to the Lord.

10 For example, if something happens at night that makes a man unclean and unfit for worship, he[i] must go outside the camp and stay there 11 until late afternoon. Then he must take a bath, and at sunset he can go back into camp.

12 Set up a place outside the camp to be used as a toilet area. 13 And make sure that you have a small shovel in your equipment. When you go out to the toilet area, use the shovel to dig a hole. Then, after you relieve yourself, bury the waste in the hole. 14 You must keep your camp clean of filthy and disgusting things. The Lord is always present in your camp, ready to rescue you and give you victory over your enemies. But if he sees something disgusting in your camp, he may turn around and leave.

Runaway Slaves from Other Countries

Moses said:

15 When runaway slaves from other countries come to Israel and ask for protection, you must not hand them back to their owners. 16 Instead, you must let them choose which one of your towns they want to live in. Don’t be cruel to runaway slaves.

Temple Prostitutes

Moses said:

17 People of Israel, don’t any of you ever be temple prostitutes.[j] 18 The Lord your God is disgusted with men and women who are prostitutes of any kind, and he will not accept a gift from them, even if it had been promised to him.

Interest on Loans

Moses said:

19 When you lend money, food, or anything else to another Israelite, you are not allowed to charge interest. 20 You can charge a foreigner interest. But if you charge other Israelites interest, the Lord your God will not let you be successful in the land you are about to take.

Sacred Promises to the Lord

Moses said:

21 People of Israel, if you make a sacred promise to give a gift to the Lord, then do it as soon as you can. If the Lord has to come looking for the gift you promised, you will be guilty of breaking that promise. 22 On the other hand, if you never make a sacred promise, you can’t be guilty of breaking it. 23 You must keep whatever promises you make to the Lord. After all, you are the one who chose to make the promises.

Eating Someone Else’s Produce

24 If you go into a vineyard that belongs to someone else, you are allowed to eat as many grapes as you want while you are there. But don’t take any with you when you leave. 25 In the same way, if you are in a grain field that belongs to someone else, you can pick heads of grain and eat the kernels. But don’t cut down the stalks of grain and take them with you.


  1. 21.3 young cow. . . work: Cows and oxen pulled plows and wagons.
  2. 22.5 pretend to be men. . . pretend to be women: Or “wear men’s clothing. . . wear women’s clothing.”
  3. 22.8 flat roof: Houses usually had flat roofs. In hot dry weather, it was cooler on the roof than in the house, and so roofs were used for sleeping and living quarters, and for entertaining guests.
  4. 22.11 flax: The stalks of flax plants were harvested, soaked in water, and dried, then their fibers were separated and spun into thread, which was woven into linen cloth.
  5. 22.23,24 engaged woman. . . married woman: An engaged woman was legally married, but had not yet slept with her husband or started living with him.
  6. 22.28,29 talks her into sleeping with him. . . bride-price and: Or “forces her to have sex. 29 Then if they are caught, he will have to marry her. He must give her father fifty pieces of silver as a bride-price and.”
  7. 23.1 a man’s private parts have been crushed or cut off: This was sometimes done to show devotion to pagan gods.
  8. 23.4 Balaam: Hebrew “Balaam son of Beor from Pethor.”
  9. 23.10 if something. . . worship, he: Or “if a man has a flow of semen at night, he is unclean and unfit for worship, and he.”
  10. 23.17 temple prostitutes: Some Canaanites worshiped by going to their temples and having sex with prostitutes that represented their gods.

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