A A A A A
Bible Book List

Deuteronomy 21 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 21

Absolution of Untraced Murder.[a] If the corpse of someone who has been slain is found lying in the open, in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed the person, your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distances to the cities that are in the neighborhood of the corpse. When it is established which city is nearest the corpse, the elders of that city shall take a heifer that has never been put to work or worn a yoke; the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a wadi with an everflowing stream at a place that has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the wadi. The priests, the descendants of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord, your God, has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the Lord, and every case of dispute or assault shall be for them to decide. Then all the elders of that city nearest the corpse shall wash their hands[b] over the heifer whose neck was broken in the wadi, and shall declare, “Our hands did not shed this blood,[c] and our eyes did not see the deed. Absolve, O Lord, your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not let the guilt of shedding innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.” Thus they shall be absolved from the guilt of bloodshed, and you shall purge the innocent blood from your midst, and do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

Marriage with a Female Captive. 10 When you go out to war against your enemies and the Lord, your God, delivers them into your power, so that you take captives, 11 if you see a beautiful woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as a wife, 12 and so you take her home to your house, she must shave her head,[d] cut her nails, 13 lay aside her captive’s garb, and stay in your house, mourning her father and mother for a full month. After that, you may come to her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 If later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; you must not sell her for money. Do not enslave her, since you have violated her.

Rights of the Firstborn. 15 If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and if both the loved and the unloved bear him sons, but the firstborn is the son of the unloved wife: 16 when he comes to bequeath his property to his sons he may not consider as his firstborn the son of the wife he loves, in preference to the son of the wife he does not love, the firstborn. 17 On the contrary, he shall recognize as his firstborn the son of the unloved wife, giving him a double share of whatever he happens to own, since he is the first fruits of his manhood, and to him belong the rights of the firstborn.

The Stubborn and Rebellious Son. 18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not listen to his father or mother, and will not listen to them even though they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders at the gate[e] of his home city, 20 where they shall say to the elders of the city, “This son of ours is a stubborn and rebellious fellow who will not listen to us; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all his fellow citizens shall stone him to death. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear and be afraid.

Corpse of a Criminal. 22 If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and you hang him on a tree,[f] 23 his corpse shall not remain on the tree overnight. You must bury it the same day; anyone who is hanged is a curse of God.[g] You shall not defile the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you as a heritage.

Footnotes:

  1. 21:1–9 This law has to do with absolving the community of bloodguilt that accrues to it and to the land when a homicide occurs and the murderer cannot be identified and punished.
  2. 21:6 Wash their hands: a symbolic gesture in protestation of one’s own innocence when human blood is unjustly shed; cf. Mt 27:24.
  3. 21:7 This blood: the blood of the slain, or the bloodguilt effected by the killing.
  4. 21:12–13 Shave her head…: these symbolic actions probably signified the transition or change of status of the woman or perhaps the end of her period of mourning for her previous husband or family.
  5. 21:19 The gate: in the city walls. This open space served as the forum for the administration of justice. Cf. 22:15; 25:7; Ru 4:1, 2, 11; Is 29:21; Am 5:10, 12, 15.
  6. 21:22 You hang him on a tree: some understand, “impaled on a stake.” In any case the hanging or impaling was not the means used to execute the criminal; he was first put to death by the ordinary means, stoning, and his corpse was then exposed on high as a warning for others. Cf. Jos 8:29; 10:26; 1 Sm 31:10; 2 Sm 21:9.
  7. 21:23 Gal 3:13 applies these words to the crucifixion of Jesus, who “redeemed us from the curse of the law, becoming a curse for us.”
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Deuteronomy 21 New International Version (NIV)

Atonement for an Unsolved Murder

21 If someone is found slain, lying in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who the killer was, your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distance from the body to the neighboring towns. Then the elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked and has never worn a yoke and lead it down to a valley that has not been plowed or planted and where there is a flowing stream. There in the valley they are to break the heifer’s neck. The Levitical priests shall step forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister and to pronounce blessings in the name of the Lord and to decide all cases of dispute and assault. Then all the elders of the town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, and they shall declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, Lord, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent person.” Then the bloodshed will be atoned for, and you will have purged from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

Marrying a Captive Woman

10 When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

The Right of the Firstborn

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

A Rebellious Son

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Various Laws

22 If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, 23 you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Viewing of
Cross references
Footnotes