Deuteronomy 21

Rules about murder

1 In the land that the Lord your God is giving to you, you may find someone's dead body lying in a field. Someone has killed him but you do not know who the murderer is. 2 Your leaders and your judges must then go to the field. They must measure how far the place is from the nearest towns. 3 Then the leaders from the town that is nearest to the body must take a young cow that has never done work on a farm. 4 They must lead the cow down to a valley where no one has ploughed the ground or planted seed. There must be a stream of water in the valley. There they must break the cow's neck.

5 The Levite priests must go there too. The Lord your God has chosen them to serve him and to ask him to bless his people. They also decide as judges what is right. 6 After the leaders of the town have broken the cow's neck, they must wash their hands over it.

21:6When 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 Then they will say, ‘We did not kill this person. We did not see who killed him. 8 Please Lord, accept this animal from your people, Israel, that you have rescued. Do not say that we are guilty of this murder. This person did not deserve to die like this.’

When they do that, the Lord will accept their gift and he will forgive you. 9 In this way, you will not be guilty of the murder. You will remove this evil act from among you. You must do what the Lord says is right.


10 When you go to fight a battle against your enemies, the Lord your God will give you power over them. You will take some of them as prisoners. 11 You may see among them a beautiful woman that you want to take as your wife. 12 Then you must bring her into your home. She must cut the hair off her head. She must cut her fingernails. 13 She must change the clothes that she was wearing when you found her. Let her live in your house and weep for her parents for a whole month. Then you may have sex with her. You will be her husband and she will be your wife. 14 Later, you may not be pleased with her. If so, you must let her go wherever she wants. You must never sell her or make her become a slave. You must not do that, because you have made her have sex with you, as your wife.

21:12‘Fingernails’ are the hard pieces at the end of a person's fingers.

Firstborn sons

15 A man may have two wives, but he may love only one of them. Each wife may give birth to a son. The firstborn son may be the son of the wife that he does not love. 16 But when the man shares his things with his children, he must promise this: After his death, the firstborn son will receive what he should have. The man may not choose to give the double share of his things to the son of the wife that he loves. 17 He must recognize that his firstborn son is the son of the wife that he does not love. This son was the first son born to that man. So he must receive the double share of his father's things. That is what God's Law says must happen.

21:17‘Double share’ means that the firstborn son would receive twice as much as other sons when his father died.

A son who turns against his parents

18 Perhaps a man has a son who refuses to obey his parents. They punish him to teach him what is right, but he refuses to listen to them. 19 If so, his parents must take their son to the leaders at the city gate. 20 They must say to the leaders, ‘This is our son. He refuses to obey us. He does not do what we tell him. He only wants to do what will please himself. He drinks too much and he becomes drunk.’

21 Then all the men of the city must throw stones at the son until he is dead. In this way, you must remove all evil things like that from among you. Then all Israel's people will hear about what has happened. They will be afraid.

22 A person may do an evil thing so that you punish him with death. 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 that he died. If someone's body is hanging on a tree, it shows that God has cursed him. So do not leave it there. The Lord your God is giving the land to you so that it belongs to you. So do not let evil things spoil your land.