Deuteronomy 21

Rules about murder, marriage and sons who refuse to obey

1 You may find the dead body of a man that is lying in a field. Someone has killed him, in the country that the Lord your God is giving to you. 2 You may not know who has killed him. If you do not know, you must do this: Your leaders and judges must measure how far the dead man is from the nearest towns. 3 Then the leaders from the nearest town must take a young cow that has never pulled a plough. 4 They must lead her down to a valley that no one has ploughed or planted. There must be a stream full of water. There they must break her neck.

5 The priests from the tribe of Levi must go there too. The Lord your God has chosen them to do his work. They must also decide what is right and wrong among you. 6 All the leaders of that town must wash their hands over the cow whose neck they have broken.

21:6Someone has done a bad thing. But nobody knows who has done it. When an Israelite washed his hands in clean water, he was showing something to everyone: He had not done the bad thing. And he had not agreed to it.

7 And they will say, ‘We did not kill the man. We did not see anyone kill him. 8 Please accept this animal as a gift, Lord, from your people Israel, that you saved from Egypt. This man has not done anything wrong. But do not think that we have killed him.’ You could not kill the person who did the murder. So you have killed the young cow instead. And so God will not remember this bad thing against you. 9 You will show that you have made yourselves right with God. You have not done this bad thing. And God has seen that you have done the right thing.

When you marry a woman whom you have taken in war

10 When you go to war against your enemies, the Lord your God will deliver them to you. You will take some of them to keep for yourselves. 11 You may see among them a beautiful woman that you like. If you do see one, you can make her your wife. 12 You must bring her into your home. Then she must cut off her hair and cut the hard material at the end of her fingers. 13 And she must change her clothes. Let her live in your house and weep for her parents for a whole month. Then you can become her husband and she can become your wife. 14 You may not like her. You must let her go where she wants. You must not sell her or make her into a slave. You must not do that because she has had sex with you, as your wife.

The rule about the son who is born first

15 A man may have two wives but he may love only one of them. Each wife may give birth to a son. The first son may be the son of the wife that he does not love. 16 But the man must make this promise: After his own death, the first son will have twice as many of his good things as the second son. This is because that son was born first. The man must not promise twice as much to the son of the wife that he loves. Her son was not born first. 17 The man must remember the son of the wife that he does not love. This son was born first and he must have twice as many of his father's good things. He has a special place in the family because he was born first.

The son who refuses to obey his parents

18 Perhaps a man has a bad son who will not obey his parents. They try to teach him right things. But he refuses to listen to them. 19 If that is true, his parents must take him to the leaders of his town. 20 They must say to the leaders, ‘This is our son. He wants to do bad things and he will not obey us. He is a drunk and he wastes our money.’ 21 Then all the men in his town must throw stones at him until he is dead. You must remove these bad things from among you. Then all Israel's people will hear about it and they will be afraid.

22 You may have killed a man who has sinned. If you have hung his dead body on a tree, 23 you must not leave it there during the night. Be careful to bury it on the same day. This is because God is very angry with anyone who is hanging on a tree. You must not let bad things destroy your own good country. This is the country that God is giving to you.