Deuteronomy 17

Examples of Legal Cases

16:21 You must not plant any kind of tree as a sacred Asherah pole1 near the altar of the Lord your God which you build for yourself. 16:22 You must not erect a sacred pillar,2 a thing the Lord your God detests. 17:1 You must not sacrifice to him3 a bull or sheep that has a blemish or any other defect, because that is considered offensive4 to the Lord your God. 17:2 Suppose a man or woman is discovered among you – in one of your villages5 that the Lord your God is giving you – who sins before the Lord your God6 and breaks his covenant 17:3 by serving other gods and worshiping them – the sun,7 moon, or any other heavenly bodies which I have not permitted you to worship.8 17:4 When it is reported to you and you hear about it, you must investigate carefully. If it is indeed true that such a disgraceful thing9 is being done in Israel, 17:5 you must bring to your city gates10 that man or woman who has done this wicked thing – that very man or woman – and you must stone that person to death.11 17:6 At the testimony of two or three witnesses they must be executed. They cannot be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. 17:7 The witnesses12 must be first to begin the execution, and then all the people13 are to join in afterward. In this way you will purge evil from among you.

Appeal to a Higher Court

17:8 If a matter is too difficult for you to judge – bloodshed,14 legal claim,15 or assault16 – matters of controversy in your villages17 – you must leave there and go up to the place the Lord your God chooses.18 17:9 You will go to the Levitical priests and the judge in office in those days and seek a solution; they will render a verdict. 17:10 You must then do as they have determined at that place the Lord chooses. Be careful to do just as you are taught. 17:11 You must do what you are instructed, and the verdict they pronounce to you, without fail. Do not deviate right or left from what they tell you. 17:12 The person who pays no attention19 to the priest currently serving the Lord your God there, or to the verdict – that person must die, so that you may purge evil from Israel. 17:13 Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and not be so presumptuous again.

Provision for Kingship

17:14 When you come to the land the Lord your God is giving you and take it over and live in it and then say, “I will select a king like all the nations surrounding me,” 17:15 you must select without fail20 a king whom the Lord your God chooses. From among your fellow citizens21 you must appoint a king – you may not designate a foreigner who is not one of your fellow Israelites.22 17:16 Moreover, he must not accumulate horses for himself or allow the people to return to Egypt to do so,23 for the Lord has said you must never again return that way. 17:17 Furthermore, he must not marry many24 wives lest his affections turn aside, and he must not accumulate much silver and gold. 17:18 When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this law25 on a scroll26 given to him by the Levitical priests. 17:19 It must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and observe all the words of this law and these statutes and carry them out. 17:20 Then he will not exalt himself above his fellow citizens or turn from the commandments to the right or left, and he and his descendants will enjoy many years ruling over his kingdom27 in Israel.

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