Cleansing for Unsolved Murder
“When you are in the land the Lord your God is giving you, someone may be found murdered in a field, and you don’t know who committed the murder. In such a case, your elders and judges must measure the distance from the site of the crime to the nearby towns. When the nearest town has been determined, that town’s elders must select from the herd a heifer that has never been trained or yoked to a plow. They must lead it down to a valley that has not been plowed or planted and that has a stream running through it. There in the valley they must break the heifer’s neck. Then the Levitical priests must step forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister before him and to pronounce blessings in the Lord’s name. They are to decide all legal and criminal cases.
“The elders of the town must wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken. Then they must say, ‘Our hands did not shed this person’s blood, nor did we see it happen. O Lord, forgive your people Israel whom you have redeemed. Do not charge your people with the guilt of murdering an innocent person.’ Then they will be absolved of the guilt of this person’s blood. By following these instructions, you will do what is right in the Lord’s sight and will cleanse the guilt of murder from your community.
Marriage to a Captive Woman
“Suppose you go out to war against your enemies and the Lord your God hands them over to you, and you take some of them as captives. And suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you are attracted to her and want to marry her. If this happens, you may take her to your home, where she must shave her head, cut her nails, and change the clothes she was wearing when she was captured. She will stay in your home, but let her mourn for her father and mother for a full month. Then you may marry her, and you will be her husband and she will be your wife. But if you marry her and she does not please you, you must let her go free. You may not sell her or treat her as a slave, for you have humiliated her.
Rights of the Firstborn
“Suppose a man has two wives, but he loves one and not the other, and both have given him sons. And suppose the firstborn son is the son of the wife he does not love. When the man divides his inheritance, he may not give the larger inheritance to his younger son, the son of the wife he loves, as if he were the firstborn son. He must recognize the rights of his oldest son, the son of the wife he does not love, by giving him a double portion. He is the first son of his father’s virility, and the rights of the firstborn belong to him.
Dealing with a Rebellious Son
“Suppose a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. In such a case, the father and mother must take the son to the elders as they hold court at the town gate. The parents must say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious and refuses to obey. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his town must stone him to death. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid.
“If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree,[a] the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung[b] is cursed in the sight of God. In this way, you will prevent the defilement of the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession.
- 21:22 Or impaled on a pole; similarly in 21:23.
- 21:23 Greek version reads for everyone who is hung on a tree. Compare Gal 3:13.
“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility.[a] Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility.
“If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, do not look the other way. Go and help your neighbor get it back on its feet!
“A woman must not put on men’s clothing, and a man must not wear women’s clothing. Anyone who does this is detestable in the sight of the Lord your God.
“If you happen to find a bird’s nest in a tree or on the ground, and there are young ones or eggs in it with the mother sitting in the nest, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but let the mother go, so that you may prosper and enjoy a long life.
“When you build a new house, you must build a railing around the edge of its flat roof. That way you will not be considered guilty of murder if someone falls from the roof.
“You must not plant any other crop between the rows of your vineyard. If you do, you are forbidden to use either the grapes from the vineyard or the other crop.
“You must not plow with an ox and a donkey harnessed together.
“You must not wear clothing made of wool and linen woven together.
“You must put four tassels on the hem of the cloak with which you cover yourself—on the front, back, and sides.
Regulations for Sexual Purity
“Suppose a man marries a woman, but after sleeping with her, he turns against her and publicly accuses her of shameful conduct, saying, ‘When I married this woman, I discovered she was not a virgin.’ Then the woman’s father and mother must bring the proof of her virginity to the elders as they hold court at the town gate. Her father must say to them, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to be his wife, and now he has turned against her. He has accused her of shameful conduct, saying, “I discovered that your daughter was not a virgin.” But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.’ Then they must spread her bed sheet before the elders. The elders must then take the man and punish him. They must also fine him 100 pieces of silver,[b] which he must pay to the woman’s father because he publicly accused a virgin of Israel of shameful conduct. The woman will then remain the man’s wife, and he may never divorce her.
“But suppose the man’s accusations are true, and he can show that she was not a virgin. The woman must be taken to the door of her father’s home, and there the men of the town must stone her to death, for she has committed a disgraceful crime in Israel by being promiscuous while living in her parents’ home. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you.
“If a man is discovered committing adultery, both he and the woman must die. In this way, you will purge Israel of such evil.
“Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, you must take both of them to the gates of that town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man’s wife. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you.
“But if the man meets the engaged woman out in the country, and he rapes her, then only the man must die. Do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no crime worthy of death. She is as innocent as a murder victim. Since the man raped her out in the country, it must be assumed that she screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.
“Suppose a man has intercourse with a young woman who is a virgin but is not engaged to be married. If they are discovered, he must pay her father fifty pieces of silver.[c] Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he may never divorce her as long as he lives.
[d]“A man must not marry his father’s former wife, for this would violate his father.
- 22:1 Hebrew don’t hide yourself; similarly in 22:3.
- 22:19 Hebrew 100 [shekels] of silver, about 2.5 pounds or 1.1 kilograms in weight.
- 22:29 Hebrew 50 [shekels] of silver, about 1.25 pounds or 570 grams in weight.
- 22:30 Verse 22:30 is numbered 23:1 in Hebrew text.