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Laws concerning the Cities of Refuge

19 “When the Lord your God has cut off the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you and you have dispossessed them and settled in their towns and in their houses,(A) you shall set apart three cities in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.(B) You shall calculate the distances[a] and divide into three regions the land that the Lord your God gives you as a possession, so that any homicide can flee to one of them.

“Now this is the case of a homicide who might flee there and live, that is, someone who has killed another person unintentionally when the two had not been at enmity before.(C) Suppose someone goes into the forest with another to cut wood, and when one of them swings the ax to cut down a tree, the head slips from the handle and strikes the other person, who then dies; the killer may flee to one of these cities and live. But if the distance is too great, the avenger of blood in hot anger might pursue and overtake and put the killer to death, although a death sentence was not deserved, since the two had not been at enmity before.(D) Therefore I command you: You shall set apart three cities.

“If the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he swore to your ancestors—and he will give you all the land that he promised your ancestors to give you, provided you diligently observe this entire commandment that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God and walking always in his ways—then you shall add three more cities to these three,(E) 10 so that the blood of an innocent person may not be shed in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, thereby bringing bloodguilt upon you.(F)

11 “But if someone at enmity with another lies in wait and attacks and takes the life of that person and flees into one of these cities, 12 then the elders of the killer’s city shall send to have the culprit taken from there and handed over to the avenger of blood to be put to death. 13 Show no pity; you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may go well with you.(G)

Property Boundaries

14 “You must not move your neighbor’s boundary marker, set up by former generations, on the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.(H)

Law concerning Witnesses

15 “A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offense that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.(I) 16 If a malicious witness comes forward to accuse someone of wrongdoing,(J) 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days,(K) 18 and the judges shall make a thorough inquiry. If the witness is a false witness, having testified falsely against another, 19 then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.(L) 20 The rest shall hear and be afraid, and a crime such as this shall never again be committed among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.(M)

Rules of Warfare

20 “When you go out to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots, an army larger than your own, do not fear them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.(N) Before you engage in battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the troops and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. Do not lose heart or be afraid or panic or be in dread of them,(O) for it is the Lord your God who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.’(P) Then the officers shall address the troops, saying, ‘Has anyone built a new house but not dedicated it? He should go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another dedicate it. Has anyone planted a vineyard but not yet enjoyed its fruit? He should go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another be first to enjoy its fruit.(Q) Has anyone become engaged to a woman but not yet married her? He should go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another marry her.’(R) The officers shall continue to address the troops, saying, ‘Is anyone afraid or disheartened? He should go back to his house, or he might cause the heart of his comrades to melt like his own.’(S) When the officers have finished addressing the troops, then the commanders shall take charge of them.

10 “When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace.(T) 11 If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor. 12 But if it does not accept your terms of peace and makes war against you, then you shall besiege it, 13 and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. 14 You may, however, take as your plunder the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you.(U) 15 Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of these nations here. 16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive.(V) 17 Indeed, you shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods and you thus sin against the Lord your God.(W)

19 “If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you? 20 You may destroy only the trees that you know do not produce food; you may cut them down for use in building siegeworks against the town that makes war with you, until it falls.

Law concerning Murder by Persons Unknown

21 “If, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess, a body is found lying in open country, and it is not known who struck the person down,(X) then your elders and your judges shall come out to measure the distances to the towns that are near the body. The elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked, one that has not pulled in the yoke; the elders of that town shall bring the heifer down to a wadi with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the wadi. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to him and to pronounce blessings in the name of the Lord, and by their decision all cases of dispute and assault shall be settled.(Y) All the elders of that town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the wadi, and they shall declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor were we witnesses to it. Absolve, O Lord, your people Israel, whom you redeemed; do not let the guilt of innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.’ Then they will be absolved of bloodguilt.(Z) So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, because you must do what is right in the sight of the Lord.(AA)

Female Captives

10 “When you go out to war against your enemies and the Lord your God hands them over to you and you take them captive, 11 suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry, 12 and so you bring her home to your house: she shall shave her head, pare her nails,(AB) 13 discard her captive’s garb, and remain in your house a full month mourning for her father and mother; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you are not satisfied with her, you shall let her go free and certainly not sell her for money. You must not treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

The Right of the Firstborn

15 “If a man has two wives, one of them loved and the other disliked, and if both the loved and the disliked have borne him sons, the firstborn being the son of the one who is disliked, 16 then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he is not permitted to treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the disliked, who is the firstborn.(AC) 17 He must acknowledge as firstborn the son of the one who is disliked, giving him a double portion[b] of all that he has; since he is the first issue of his virility, the right of the firstborn is his.(AD)

Rebellious Children

18 “If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him,(AE) 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. 20 They shall say to the elders of his town, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear and be afraid.(AF)

Miscellaneous Laws

22 “When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed and you hang him on a tree, 23 his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you must bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for possession.(AG)


  1. 19.3 Or prepare roads to them
  2. 21.17 Heb two-thirds

21 And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’[a] or ‘Look! There he is!’—do not believe it.(A) 22 False messiahs[b] and false prophets will appear and produce signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.(B) 23 But be alert; I have already told you everything.(C)

The Coming of the Son of Man

24 “But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light,(D)
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.(E) 27 Then he will send out the angels and gather the[c] elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[d] is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.(F) 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.(G)

The Necessity for Watchfulness

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.(H) 33 Beware, keep alert,[e] for you do not know when the time will come.(I) 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.(J) 35 Therefore, keep awake, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight or at cockcrow or at dawn,(K) 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

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  1. 13.21 Or the Christ
  2. 13.22 Or christs
  3. 13.27 Other ancient authorities read his
  4. 13.29 Or it
  5. 13.33 Other ancient authorities add and pray