1 “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. 2 In such a case, your elders and judges must measure the distance from the site of the crime to the nearby towns. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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.
6 “The elders of the town must wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken. 7 Then they must say, ‘Our hands did not shed this person’s blood, nor did we see it happen. 8 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. 9 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.
10 “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. 11 And suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you are attracted to her and want to marry her. 12 If this happens, you may take her to your home, where she must shave her head, cut her nails, 13 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. 14 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.
15 “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. 16 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. 17 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.
18 “Suppose a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. 19 In such a case, the father and mother must take the son to the elders as they hold court at the town gate. 20 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.’ 21 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.
22 “If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree,a 23 the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hungb 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.
a. 21:22 Or impaled on a pole; similarly in 21:23.
b. 21:23 Greek version reads for everyone who is hung on a tree. Compare Gal 3:13.