Deuteronomy 12-18 New Living Translation (NLT)
The Lord’s Chosen Place for Worship
12 “These are the decrees and regulations you must be careful to obey when you live in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must obey them as long as you live.
2 “When you drive out the nations that live there, you must destroy all the places where they worship their gods—high on the mountains, up on the hills, and under every green tree. 3 Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. Burn their Asherah poles and cut down their carved idols. Completely erase the names of their gods!
4 “Do not worship the Lord your God in the way these pagan peoples worship their gods. 5 Rather, you must seek the Lord your God at the place of worship he himself will choose from among all the tribes—the place where his name will be honored. 6 There you will bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your sacred offerings, your offerings to fulfill a vow, your voluntary offerings, and your offerings of the firstborn animals of your herds and flocks. 7 There you and your families will feast in the presence of the Lord your God, and you will rejoice in all you have accomplished because the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 “Your pattern of worship will change. Today all of you are doing as you please, 9 because you have not yet arrived at the place of rest, the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession. 10 But you will soon cross the Jordan River and live in the land the Lord your God is giving you. When he gives you rest from all your enemies and you’re living safely in the land, 11 you must bring everything I command you—your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your sacred offerings, and your offerings to fulfill a vow—to the designated place of worship, the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored.
12 “You must celebrate there in the presence of the Lord your God with your sons and daughters and all your servants. And remember to include the Levites who live in your towns, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings just anywhere you like. 14 You may do so only at the place the Lord will choose within one of your tribal territories. There you must offer your burnt offerings and do everything I command you.
15 “But you may butcher your animals and eat their meat in any town whenever you want. You may freely eat the animals with which the Lord your God blesses you. All of you, whether ceremonially clean or unclean, may eat that meat, just as you now eat gazelle and deer. 16 But you must not consume the blood. You must pour it out on the ground like water.
17 “But you may not eat your offerings in your hometown—neither the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, nor the firstborn of your flocks and herds, nor any offering to fulfill a vow, nor your voluntary offerings, nor your sacred offerings. 18 You must eat these in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose. Eat them there with your children, your servants, and the Levites who live in your towns, celebrating in the presence of the Lord your God in all you do. 19 And be very careful never to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.
20 “When the Lord your God expands your territory as he has promised, and you have the urge to eat meat, you may freely eat meat whenever you want. 21 It might happen that the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—is a long way from your home. If so, you may butcher any of the cattle, sheep, or goats the Lord has given you, and you may freely eat the meat in your hometown, as I have commanded you. 22 Anyone, whether ceremonially clean or unclean, may eat that meat, just as you do now with gazelle and deer. 23 But never consume the blood, for the blood is the life, and you must not consume the lifeblood with the meat. 24 Instead, pour out the blood on the ground like water. 25 Do not consume the blood, so that all may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what pleases the Lord.
26 “Take your sacred gifts and your offerings given to fulfill a vow to the place the Lord chooses. 27 You must offer the meat and blood of your burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord your God. The blood of your other sacrifices must be poured out on the altar of the Lord your God, but you may eat the meat. 28 Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.
29 “When the Lord your God goes ahead of you and destroys the nations and you drive them out and live in their land, 30 do not fall into the trap of following their customs and worshiping their gods. Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations worship their gods? I want to follow their example.’ 31 You must not worship the Lord your God the way the other nations worship their gods, for they perform for their gods every detestable act that the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods.
32 [a]“So be careful to obey all the commands I give you. You must not add anything to them or subtract anything from them.
A Warning against Idolatry
13 [b]“Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, 2 and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before— 3 do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul. 4 Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. 5 The false prophets or visionaries who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the Lord your God, who redeemed you from slavery and brought you out of the land of Egypt. Since they try to lead you astray from the way the Lord your God commanded you to live, you must put them to death. In this way you will purge the evil from among you.
6 “Suppose someone secretly entices you—even your brother, your son or daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend—and says, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known. 7 They might suggest that you worship the gods of peoples who live nearby or who come from the ends of the earth. 8 But do not give in or listen. Have no pity, and do not spare or protect them. 9 You must put them to death! Strike the first blow yourself, and then all the people must join in. 10 Stone the guilty ones to death because they have tried to draw you away from the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear about it and be afraid, and no one will act so wickedly again.
12 “When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, you may hear 13 that scoundrels among you are leading their fellow citizens astray by saying, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods you have not known before. 14 In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find that the report is true and such a detestable act has been committed among you, 15 you must attack that town and completely destroy[c] all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. 16 Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the open square and burn it. Burn the entire town as a burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. 17 Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a large nation, just as he swore to your ancestors.
18 “The Lord your God will be merciful only if you listen to his voice and keep all his commands that I am giving you today, doing what pleases him.
Ceremonially Clean and Unclean Animals
14 “Since you are the people of the Lord your God, never cut yourselves or shave the hair above your foreheads in mourning for the dead. 2 You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.
3 “You must not eat any detestable animals that are ceremonially unclean. 4 These are the animals[d] you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the addax, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.
6 “You may eat any animal that has completely split hooves and chews the cud, 7 but if the animal doesn’t have both, it may not be eaten. So you may not eat the camel, the hare, or the hyrax.[e] They chew the cud but do not have split hooves, so they are ceremonially unclean for you. 8 And you may not eat the pig. It has split hooves but does not chew the cud, so it is ceremonially unclean for you. You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses.
9 “Of all the marine animals, you may eat whatever has both fins and scales. 10 You may not, however, eat marine animals that do not have both fins and scales. They are ceremonially unclean for you.
11 “You may eat any bird that is ceremonially clean. 12 These are the birds you may not eat: the griffon vulture, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 13 the kite, the falcon, buzzards of all kinds, 14 ravens of all kinds, 15 the eagle owl, the short-eared owl, the seagull, hawks of all kinds, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the barn owl, 17 the desert owl, the Egyptian vulture, the cormorant, 18 the stork, herons of all kinds, the hoopoe, and the bat.
19 “All winged insects that walk along the ground are ceremonially unclean for you and may not be eaten. 20 But you may eat any winged bird or insect that is ceremonially clean.
21 “You must not eat anything that has died a natural death. You may give it to a foreigner living in your town, or you may sell it to a stranger. But do not eat it yourselves, for you are set apart as holy to the Lord your God.
“You must not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
The Giving of Tithes
22 “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. 23 Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.
24 “Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship he chooses for his name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. 25 If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the Lord your God has chosen. 26 When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household. 27 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you.
28 “At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. 29 Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work.
Release for Debtors
15 “At the end of every seventh year you must cancel the debts of everyone who owes you money. 2 This is how it must be done. Everyone must cancel the loans they have made to their fellow Israelites. They must not demand payment from their neighbors or relatives, for the Lord’s time of release has arrived. 3 This release from debt, however, applies only to your fellow Israelites—not to the foreigners living among you.
4 “There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. 5 You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. 6 The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.
7 “But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. 9 Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. 11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.
Release for Hebrew Slaves
12 “If a fellow Hebrew sells himself or herself to be your servant[f] and serves you for six years, in the seventh year you must set that servant free.
13 “When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. 14 Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.
16 “But suppose your servant says, ‘I will not leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and he has done well with you. 17 In that case, take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door. After that, he will be your servant for life. And do the same for your female servants.
18 “You must not consider it a hardship when you release your servants. Remember that for six years they have given you services worth double the wages of hired workers, and the Lord your God will bless you in all you do.
Sacrificing Firstborn Male Animals
19 “You must set aside for the Lord your God all the firstborn males from your flocks and herds. Do not use the firstborn of your herds to work your fields, and do not shear the firstborn of your flocks. 20 Instead, you and your family must eat these animals in the presence of the Lord your God each year at the place he chooses. 21 But if this firstborn animal has any defect, such as lameness or blindness, or if anything else is wrong with it, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God. 22 Instead, use it for food for your family in your hometown. Anyone, whether ceremonially clean or unclean, may eat it, just as anyone may eat a gazelle or deer. 23 But you must not consume the blood. You must pour it out on the ground like water.
Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread
16 “In honor of the Lord your God, celebrate the Passover each year in the early spring, in the month of Abib,[g] for that was the month in which the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 Your Passover sacrifice may be from either the flock or the herd, and it must be sacrificed to the Lord your God at the designated place of worship—the place he chooses for his name to be honored. 3 Eat it with bread made without yeast. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast, as when you escaped from Egypt in such a hurry. Eat this bread—the bread of suffering—so that as long as you live you will remember the day you departed from Egypt. 4 Let no yeast be found in any house throughout your land for those seven days. And when you sacrifice the Passover lamb on the evening of the first day, do not let any of the meat remain until the next morning.
5 “You may not sacrifice the Passover in just any of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you. 6 You must offer it only at the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored. Sacrifice it there in the evening as the sun goes down on the anniversary of your exodus from Egypt. 7 Roast the lamb and eat it in the place the Lord your God chooses. Then you may go back to your tents the next morning. 8 For the next six days you may not eat any bread made with yeast. On the seventh day proclaim another holy day in honor of the Lord your God, and no work may be done on that day.
The Festival of Harvest
9 “Count off seven weeks from when you first begin to cut the grain at the time of harvest. 10 Then celebrate the Festival of Harvest[h] to honor the Lord your God. Bring him a voluntary offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him. 11 This is a time to celebrate before the Lord your God at the designated place of worship he will choose for his name to be honored. Celebrate with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites from your towns, and the foreigners, orphans, and widows who live among you. 12 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, so be careful to obey all these decrees.
The Festival of Shelters
13 “You must observe the Festival of Shelters[i] for seven days at the end of the harvest season, after the grain has been threshed and the grapes have been pressed. 14 This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns. 15 For seven days you must celebrate this festival to honor the Lord your God at the place he chooses, for it is he who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all.
16 “Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he chooses, but they must not appear before the Lord without a gift for him. 17 All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the Lord your God.
Justice for the People
18 “Appoint judges and officials for yourselves from each of your tribes in all the towns the Lord your God is giving you. They must judge the people fairly. 19 You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly. 20 Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
21 “You must never set up a wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build for the Lord your God. 22 And never set up sacred pillars for worship, for the Lord your God hates them.
17 “Never sacrifice sick or defective cattle, sheep, or goats to the Lord your God, for he detests such gifts.
2 “When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman among you might do evil in the sight of the Lord your God and violate the covenant. 3 For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden. 4 When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death. 6 But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses. 7 The witnesses must throw the first stones, and then all the people may join in. In this way, you will purge the evil from among you.
8 “Suppose a case arises in a local court that is too hard for you to decide—for instance, whether someone is guilty of murder or only of manslaughter, or a difficult lawsuit, or a case involving different kinds of assault. Take such legal cases to the place the Lord your God will choose, 9 and present them to the Levitical priests or the judge on duty at that time. They will hear the case and declare the verdict. 10 You must carry out the verdict they announce and the sentence they prescribe at the place the Lord chooses. You must do exactly what they say. 11 After they have interpreted the law and declared their verdict, the sentence they impose must be fully executed; do not modify it in any way. 12 Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the Lord your God must die. In this way you will purge the evil from Israel. 13 Then everyone else will hear about it and be afraid to act so arrogantly.
Guidelines for a King
14 “You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ 15 If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.
16 “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ 17 The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.
18 “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. 20 This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.
Gifts for the Priests and Levites
18 “Remember that the Levitical priests—that is, the whole of the tribe of Levi—will receive no allotment of land among the other tribes in Israel. Instead, the priests and Levites will eat from the special gifts given to the Lord, for that is their share. 2 They will have no land of their own among the Israelites. The Lord himself is their special possession, just as he promised them.
3 “These are the parts the priests may claim as their share from the cattle, sheep, and goats that the people bring as offerings: the shoulder, the cheeks, and the stomach. 4 You must also give to the priests the first share of the grain, the new wine, the olive oil, and the wool at shearing time. 5 For the Lord your God chose the tribe of Levi out of all your tribes to minister in the Lord’s name forever.
6 “Suppose a Levite chooses to move from his town in Israel, wherever he is living, to the place the Lord chooses for worship. 7 He may minister there in the name of the Lord his God, just like all his fellow Levites who are serving the Lord there. 8 He may eat his share of the sacrifices and offerings, even if he also receives support from his family.
A Call to Holy Living
9 “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. 10 For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering.[j] And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, 11 or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the Lord your God will drive them out ahead of you. 13 But you must be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 The nations you are about to displace consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the Lord your God forbids you to do such things.”
True and False Prophets
15 Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you yourselves requested of the Lord your God when you were assembled at Mount Sinai.[k] You said, ‘Don’t let us hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore or see this blazing fire, for we will die.’
17 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘What they have said is right. 18 I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. 19 I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf. 20 But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’
21 “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ 22 If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.
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