Deuteronomy 21: 5 New Rules


We are given 5 new rules to cover the following circumstances.

  1. If you find a dead body but don’t know who killed it. Go to the nearest city, get a heifer, take it into rough valley and cut off its head. Then all the elders have to wash their hands above the cow’s head and swear they know nothing of the murder. In this way the innocent’s blood shall be forgiven.
  2. If you conquer a land and find a captive girl you want to marry. Take her home and give her decent clothes. Let her shave her head and mourn her family for a month, and then you can take her as a wife. If you decide you don’t like her. Don’t sell her, you've already defiled her. 
  3. If a man has 2 wives, one he likes and one he doesn't and both gave him sons. And if it turns out that the wife you don’t like’s son is older than the wife you do, don’t give your inheritance to the younger son just because you don’t like the elder. The elder is still the elder and deserves his inheritance.
  4. If you son is a stubborn good for nothing drunk, take him to the town gate and disown him for his drunken gluttony behavior. The townspeople will stone him to death for you.
  5. If a man commits a sin worthy of death, hang him on a tree, but don’t let the body stay up all night. Take it down and bury him the same day because God doesn't want to see it.

In other words:

If you can’t figure out how committed a murder, don’t worry about it. You can marry and divorce the women you capture in a raid. Don’t play favorites with your heirs. You can have your drunken son killed by your neighbors and, don’t leave dead bodies hanging up in a tree.

Favorite bit:

Honestly, I think that the fact that gluttony and drunkenness and being good for nothing is a capital crime is my favorite bit. (Deuteronomy 21:20,21). I mean think about it. That is a REALLY strong disincentive to lay about drunk all the time. If you can’t contribute to society – we don’t want you around.

They clearly did it wrong:

So Deuteronomy 21:23  - don’t leave the bodies of people you hang up in the trees overnight. Bury them right away. When I read this, I couldn’t help thinking that the lynch mobs in the south that killed all those black men clearly weren’t abiding by the Bible they no doubt professed to follow. Strange fruit hanging and all that.

Most interesting bit:

Deuteronomy 21:14 – if you take a captive woman for a bride, that’s fine, but don’t resell her. She deserves better than that.  It’s not a huge win for women’s rights, but it’s something.

Moral Lesson Learned:

Don’t play favorites with your kids (Deuteronomy 21:17)
Don’t drink so much you become a useless drunk (Deuteronomy 21:20)
Don’t leave dead bodies lying around (Deuteronomy 21:23)