Deuteronomy 21

Expiation of a Crime

21 “If a person who has been killed by someone is found lying in the open country in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to [a]possess, and it is not known who struck him, then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the one who was killed. And it shall be that the city which is nearest to the person killed, that is, that the elders of that city shall take a heifer of the herd that has not been worked [b]and has not pulled in a yoke; and the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, because the Lord your God has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in the name of the Lord; and every dispute and [c]violent crime shall be [d]settled by them. And all the elders of that city [e]which is nearest to the person killed shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; and they shall respond and say, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see who did. [f]Forgive Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, Lord, and do not place the guilt for innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.’ And the guilt for bloodshed shall be [g]forgiven them. So you shall remove the guilt for innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

Domestic Relations

10 “When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the Lord your God hands them over to you and you take them away captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and are strongly attracted to her and would take her as a wife for yourself, 12 then you shall bring her into your home, and she shall shave her head and [h]trim her nails. 13 She shall also [i]remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and weep for her father and mother a full month; and after that you may have relations with her and become her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 But it shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go [j]wherever she wishes; and you certainly shall not sell her for money, you shall not treat her as merchandise, since you have [k]humiliated her.

15 “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other [l]unloved, and both the loved and the [m]unloved have borne him sons, and the firstborn son belongs to the [n]unloved, 16 then it shall be on the day that he wills what he owns as an inheritance to his sons, he is not allowed to treat the son of the loved wife as the firstborn, [o]at the expense of the son of the [p]unloved, who actually is the firstborn son. 17 On the contrary, he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the [q]unloved wife, by giving him a double [r]portion of everything that [s]he owns, for he was the beginning of his [t]strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.

18 “If any person has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father or his mother, and when they discipline him, he does not listen to them, 19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city [u]at the gateway of his hometown. 20 And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he does not obey us, he is thoughtless and given to drinking.’ 21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall eliminate the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear about it and fear.

22 “Now if [v]a person has committed a sin carrying a sentence of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on [w]a tree, 23 his body is not to be left overnight on the [x]tree, but you shall certainly bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is cursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.


  1. Deuteronomy 21:1 Lit possess it
  2. Deuteronomy 21:3 Lit which has not
  3. Deuteronomy 21:5 Lit blow
  4. Deuteronomy 21:5 Lit according to their mouth
  5. Deuteronomy 21:6 Lit who are
  6. Deuteronomy 21:8 Lit Cover over, atone for
  7. Deuteronomy 21:8 Lit covered over, atoned for
  8. Deuteronomy 21:12 Lit do
  9. Deuteronomy 21:13 Lit remove from her
  10. Deuteronomy 21:14 Lit according to her soul
  11. Deuteronomy 21:14 I.e., by a forced marriage
  12. Deuteronomy 21:15 Or scorned; lit hated
  13. Deuteronomy 21:15 Or scorned; lit hated
  14. Deuteronomy 21:15 Or scorned; lit hated
  15. Deuteronomy 21:16 Lit against the face of
  16. Deuteronomy 21:16 See note v 15
  17. Deuteronomy 21:17 See note v 15
  18. Deuteronomy 21:17 Lit mouthful
  19. Deuteronomy 21:17 Lit is found with him
  20. Deuteronomy 21:17 I.e., power of procreation
  21. Deuteronomy 21:19 Lit and to the gate of his place
  22. Deuteronomy 21:22 Lit a sin is in a person carrying
  23. Deuteronomy 21:22 Lit wood
  24. Deuteronomy 21:23 Lit wood