Deuteronomy 21
Contemporary English Version

Unsolved Murder

Moses said to Israel:

1Suppose the body of a murder victim is found in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you, and no one knows who the murderer is. 2The judges and other leaders from the towns around there must find out what town is the closest to where the body was found. 3The leaders from that town will go to their cattle herds and choose a young cow that has never been put to work.+ 4-5They and some of the priests will take this cow to a nearby valley where there is a stream, but no crops. Once they reach the valley, the leaders will break the cow's neck.

The priests must be there, because the Lord your God has chosen them to be his special servants at the place of worship. The Lord has chosen them to bless the people in his name and to be judges in all legal cases, whether property or injury is involved.

6The town leaders will wash their hands over the body of the dead cow 7and say, “We had no part in this murder, and we don't know who did it. 8-9But since an innocent person was murdered, we beg you, our Lord, to accept this sacrifice and forgive Israel. We are your people, and you rescued us. Please don't hold this crime against us.”

If you obey the Lord and do these things, he will forgive Israel.

Marrying a Woman Taken Prisoner in War

Moses said to Israel:

10From time to time, you men will serve as soldiers and go off to war. The Lord your God will help you defeat your enemies, and you will take many prisoners. 11-13One of these prisoners may be a beautiful woman, and you may want to marry her. But first you must bring her into your home, and have her shave her head, cut her nails, get rid of her foreign clothes, and start wearing Israelite clothes. She will mourn a month for her father and mother, then you can marry her.

14Later on, if you are not happy with the woman, you can divorce her, and she can go free. But you have slept with her as your wife, so you cannot sell her as a slave or make her into your own slave.

Rights of a First-Born Son

Moses said to Israel:

15-17Suppose a man has two wives and loves one more than the other. The first son of either wife is the man's first-born son, even if the boy's mother is the wife the man doesn't love. Later, when the man is near death and is dividing up his property, he must give a double share to his first-born son, simply because he was the first to be born.

A Son Who Rebels

Moses said to Israel:

18A father and a mother may have a stubborn and rebellious son who refuses to obey them even after he has been punished. 19If a son is like that, his parents must drag him to the town gate, where the leaders of the town hold their meetings. 20The parents will tell the leaders, “This son of ours is stubborn and never obeys. He spends all his time drinking and partying.”

21The men of the town will stone that son to death, because they must get rid of the evil he brought into the community. Everyone in Israel will be afraid when they hear how he was punished.

The Body of a Criminal

Moses said to Israel:

22If a criminal is put to death, and you hang the dead body on a tree, 23 you must not leave it there overnight. Bury it the same day, because the dead body of a criminal hanging on a tree will bring God's curse on the land. The Lord your God is giving this land to you, so don't make it unclean by leaving the bodies of executed criminals on display.


21.3 young cow … work: Cows and oxen pulled plows and wagons.

Contemporary English Version, Second Edition (CEV®)

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