Deuteronomy 20:5

5 The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it.

Read Deuteronomy 20:5 Using Other Translations

And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.
Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, 'Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it.
“Then the officers of the army must address the troops and say, ‘Has anyone here just built a new house but not yet dedicated it? If so, you may go home! You might be killed in the battle, and someone else would dedicate your house.

What does Deuteronomy 20:5 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Deuteronomy 20:5

And the officers shall speak unto the people
What these officers were is not easy to say; they seem not to be officers of the army, for they are distinguished from captains of the armies, ( Deuteronomy 20:9 ) , unless they can be thought to be general officers; but the word for them is the same that is used of such that attended the judges and were ministers to them, ( Deuteronomy 16:18 ) , and perhaps they were a sort of heralds that published and proclaimed what the anointed of war had said; and so the above writer F8 affirms, that what here follows was first spoken by him, and after that (what is said, ( Deuteronomy 20:3 Deuteronomy 20:4 ) ) the anointed of war speaks, saying,

what man is there
(to the end of ( Deuteronomy 20:7 ) ) thus far the anointed of war speaks, and then an officer causes all the people to hear it with an high voice, saying,

what man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated
it?
or perfected it, as the Targum of Jonathan, not quite finished it, has not, as that paraphrast says, fixed in it the door posts, or rather perhaps he means the Mezuzah, or writing, which the Jews thought themselves obliged to fasten to the door posts of their houses; see ( Deuteronomy 11:20 ) until this was done, an house was not thought to be completed; though Jarchi interprets this of inhabitation; of a man's having built a house, but has not yet dwelt in it; see ( Deuteronomy 28:30 ) , so Josephus F9 explains it, of its not having been used and enjoyed by a man a full year; but there seems to be something more than all this in dedication; for though it does not signify a consecration or dedication of it to holy uses, as the dedication of the tabernacle and temple, yet there was something done, some ceremony used at entrance into a new house; a good man entered into it, no doubt, with prayer and praise, as the thirtieth psalm was composed by David at the dedication of his house; see ( Nehemiah 12:27 ) and perhaps it was usual to have their friends together, and make a cheerful entertainment on the occasion. Ben Melech on the place, assures us it was a custom to make a feast and merriment at eating the first meal in a new house:

let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and
another man dedicate it;
or perfect it, as the above Targum, or dwell in it, as well as have the pleasure of entertaining his friends in it at the first opening of it; this was either a command, enjoining a man, in such a circumstance, to return, and so the rest that follow, or a permission to him, allowing him to do it if he thought fit.


FOOTNOTES:

F8 Hilchot Melachim, c. 7. sect. 3.
F9 Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 41.
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