Deuteronomy 20:1-20

Rules for war

1 Do not be afraid when you go out to fight a war against your enemies. You may see that their armies have more horses, chariots and soldiers than you have. Do not be afraid of them! Remember that the Lord your God is with you. He rescued you from Egypt. 2 As you prepare to fight a battle, the priest must come to speak to your soldiers. 3 He must say, ‘Israelites, listen to me! Today you are going to fight against your enemies. Do not be afraid. Be brave! Do not shake with fear because your enemy is so strong. 4 The Lord your God is going into battle with you. He will fight for you against your enemies. He will cause you to win.’

5 Then the officers must say to the soldiers, ‘Has any of you built a new house but he has not yet asked God to bless it? If so, he may go home. If he does not, he may die in the battle. Then someone else will ask God to bless his home. 6 Has anyone planted a field with grapes but he has not yet picked any fruit? He also may go home. If he does not, he may die in the battle. Then someone else will enjoy the fruit. 7 Has anyone promised to marry a woman? If he has not married her yet, he may go home too. If not, he may die in the battle. Then another man will marry her.’

8 Then the officers must also say to the soldiers, ‘Is any of you afraid? Does anyone not feel brave? He may go home. Then he will not cause other men to be afraid like him.’

9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they must choose other officers to lead the groups of soldiers.

10 Before you start to attack a city, you must do this: Offer peace to the people who live there. Tell them what they must do to stop you attacking them. 11 If they agree, they will open the city's gates to let you go in. Then all the people in the city will become your slaves, to do hard work for you. 12 But they may refuse to agree. They may start to fight against you. If they do that, you must put your soldiers all around the city. 13 The Lord your God will give the city to you. Then you must kill all the men there. 14 But you can take for yourselves the women, the children, the animals and other valuable things in the city. You can take all these things from your enemies that God gives to you. 15 You must do this to all the cities that are far away from you. But it is different for the cities that belong to the nations of Canaan where you will live.

16 You will take for yourselves the cities in the land that the Lord your God is giving to you as your home. In those cities, you must kill everything that is alive, people and animals. 17 You must completely destroy all the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. The Lord your God has commanded you to do this to the people of those nations. 18 If not, they would teach you all the evil things that they do to worship their gods. They would cause you to do bad things against the Lord your God.

20:17God had promised to give the whole of Canaan to the Israelites. They must kill the people of other nations who were living there. Israelites must not mix with them by marriage and they must not pray to their gods.

19 Perhaps you are preparing to attack a city. Your soldiers may have their camp around the city for a long time. If so, you must not cut down the fruit trees. Then you can eat the fruit from them. These trees are not people, like your enemies! So do not attack them! 20 But you can cut down the other trees that do not provide any food. You can use the wood to make things that will help you to attack the city. You can do this until you go into the city and you take it for yourselves.