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Deuteronomy 21 (New International Reader's Version)

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What to Do When You Don't Know Who Killed Someone

1 Suppose you find someone who has been killed. The body is lying in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you to take as your own. But no one knows who the killer was. 2 Then your elders and judges will go out and measure how far it is from the body to the nearby towns. 3 The elders from the town that is nearest to the body will get a young cow. It must never have been used for work. It must never have pulled a load. 4 The elders must lead it down into a valley. The valley must not have been farmed. There must be a stream flowing through it. There in the valley the elders must break the cow's neck. 5 The priests, who are sons of Levi, will step forward. The LORD your God has chosen them to serve him. He wants them to bless the people in his name. He wants them to decide all cases that have to do with people arguing and attacking others. 6 Then all of the elders from the town that is nearest to the body will wash their hands. They will wash them over the young cow whose neck they broke in the valley. 7 They'll say to the Lord, "We didn't kill that person. We didn't see it happen. 8 Accept this payment for the sin of your people Israel. Lord, you have set your people free. Don't hold them guilty for spilling the blood of someone who hasn't done anything wrong." That will pay for the death of that person. 9 So you will get rid of the guilt of killing someone who didn't do anything wrong. That's because you have done what is right in the LORD's eyes.

Getting Married to a Woman Who Is Your Prisoner

10 Suppose you go to war against your enemies. And the LORD your God hands them over to you and you take them as prisoners. 11 Then you notice a beautiful woman among them. If you like her, you can get married to her. 12 Bring her home. Have her shave her head. Have her cut her nails. 13 Have her throw away the clothes she was wearing when she was captured. Let her live in your house and sob over her parents for a full month. Then you can go to her and be her husband. And she will be your wife. 14 But suppose you aren't pleased with her. Then let her go where she wants to. You must not sell her. You must not treat her as a slave. You have already brought shame on her.

The Rights of the Oldest Son

15 Suppose a man has two wives. He loves one but not the other. And both of them have sons by him. But the oldest son is the son of the wife the man doesn't love. 16 Someday he'll leave his property to his sons. When he does, he must not give the rights of the oldest son to the son of the wife he loves. He must give those rights to his oldest son. He must do it even though his oldest son is the son of the wife he doesn't love. 17 He must recognize the full rights of the oldest son, even though that son is the son of the wife he doesn't love. He must give that son a double share of everything he has. That son is the first sign of his father's strength. So the rights of the oldest son belong to him.

A Stubborn Son

18 Suppose someone has a very stubborn son. He doesn't obey his father and mother. And he won't listen to them when they try to correct him. 19 Then his parents will take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They will say to the elders, "This son of ours is very stubborn. He won't obey us. He wastes his money. He's always getting drunk." 21 Then all of the people in his town will put him to death by throwing stones at him. Get rid of that evil person. All of the people of Israel will hear about it. And they will be afraid to disobey their parents.

Several Other Laws

22 Suppose a man is put to death for a crime that is worthy of death. And a pole is stuck through his body and set up where people can see it. 23 Then you must not leave the body on the pole all night. Make sure you bury it that same day. Everyone who is hung on a pole is under God's curse. You must not make the land "unclean." The LORD your God is giving it to you as your own.
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