Deuteronomy 21

Laws Concerning Unsolved Murder

21:1 If a homicide victim1 should be found lying in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you,2 and no one knows who killed3 him, 21:2 your elders and judges must go out and measure how far it is to the cities in the vicinity of the corpse.4 21:3 Then the elders of the city nearest to the corpse5 must take from the herd a heifer that has not been worked – that has never pulled with the yoke – 21:4 and bring the heifer down to a wadi with flowing water,6 to a valley that is neither plowed nor sown.7 There at the wadi they are to break the heifer’s neck. 21:5 Then the Levitical priests8 will approach (for the Lord your God has chosen them to serve him and to pronounce blessings in his name,9 and to decide10 every judicial verdict11) 21:6 and all the elders of that city nearest the corpse12 must wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley.13 21:7 Then they must proclaim, “Our hands have not spilled this blood, nor have we14 witnessed the crime.15 21:8 Do not blame16 your people Israel whom you redeemed, O Lord, and do not hold them accountable for the bloodshed of an innocent person.”17 Then atonement will be made for the bloodshed. 21:9 In this manner you will purge out the guilt of innocent blood from among you, for you must do what is right before18 the Lord.

Laws Concerning Wives

21:10 When you go out to do battle with your enemies and the Lord your God allows you to prevail19 and you take prisoners, 21:11 if you should see among them20 an attractive woman whom you wish to take as a wife, 21:12 you may bring her back to your house. She must shave her head,21 trim her nails, 21:13 discard the clothing she was wearing when captured,22 and stay23 in your house, lamenting for her father and mother for a full month. After that you may have sexual relations24 with her and become her husband and she your wife. 21:14 If you are not pleased with her, then you must let her go25 where she pleases. You cannot in any case sell26 her;27 you must not take advantage of28 her, since you have already humiliated29 her.

Laws Concerning Children

21:15 Suppose a man has two wives, one whom he loves more than the other,30 and they both31 bear him sons, with the firstborn being the child of the less loved wife. 21:16 In the day he divides his inheritance32 he must not appoint as firstborn the son of the favorite wife in place of the other33 wife’s son who is actually the firstborn. 21:17 Rather, he must acknowledge the son of the less loved34 wife as firstborn and give him the double portion35 of all he has, for that son is the beginning of his father’s procreative power36 – to him should go the right of the firstborn.

21:18 If a person has a stubborn, rebellious son who pays no attention to his father or mother, and they discipline him to no avail,37 21:19 his father and mother must seize him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his city. 21:20 They must declare to the elders38 of his city, “Our son is stubborn and rebellious and pays no attention to what we say – he is a glutton and drunkard.” 21:21 Then all the men of his city must stone him to death. In this way you will purge out39 wickedness from among you, and all Israel40 will hear about it and be afraid.

Disposition of a Criminal’s Remains

21:22 If a person commits a sin punishable by death and is executed, and you hang the corpse41 on a tree, 21:23 his body must not remain all night on the tree; instead you must make certain you bury42 him that same day, for the one who is left exposed43 on a tree is cursed by God.44 You must not defile your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

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