Laws Concerning Unsolved Murder
21:1 If a homicide victim should be found lying in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you, and no one knows who killed him, 21:2 your elders and judges must go out and measure how far it is to the cities in the vicinity of the corpse. 21:3 Then the elders of the city nearest to the corpse must take from the herd a heifer that has not been worked – that has never pulled with the yoke – 21:4 and bring the heifer down to a wadi with flowing water, to a valley that is neither plowed nor sown. There at the wadi they are to break the heifer’s neck. 21:5 Then the Levitical priests will approach (for the LORD your God has chosen them to serve him and to pronounce blessings in his name, and to decide every judicial verdict) 21:6 and all the elders of that city nearest the corpse must wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. 21:7 Then they must proclaim, “Our hands have not spilled this blood, nor have we witnessed the crime. 21:8 Do not blame your people Israel whom you redeemed, O LORD, and do not hold them accountable for the bloodshed of an innocent person.” Then atonement will be made for the bloodshed. 21:9 In this manner you will purge out the guilt of innocent blood from among you, for you must do what is right before the LORD.
Laws Concerning Wives
21:10 When you go out to do battle with your enemies and the LORD your God allows you to prevail and you take prisoners, 21:11 if you should see among them an attractive woman whom you wish to take as a wife, 21:12 you may bring her back to your house. She must shave her head, trim her nails, 21:13 discard the clothing she was wearing when captured, and stay in your house, lamenting for her father and mother for a full month. After that you may have sexual relations with her and become her husband and she your wife. 21:14 If you are not pleased with her, then you must let her go where she pleases. You cannot in any case sell her; you must not take advantage of her, since you have already humiliated her.
Laws Concerning Children
21:15 Suppose a man has two wives, one whom he loves more than the other, and they both bear him sons, with the firstborn being the child of the less loved wife. 21:16 In the day he divides his inheritance he must not appoint as firstborn the son of the favorite wife in place of the other wife’s son who is actually the firstborn. 21:17 Rather, he must acknowledge the son of the less loved wife as firstborn and give him the double portion of all he has, for that son is the beginning of his father’s procreative power – to him should go the right of the firstborn.
21:18 If a person has a stubborn, rebellious son who pays no attention to his father or mother, and they discipline him to no avail, 21:19 his father and mother must seize him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his city. 21:20 They must declare to the elders of his city, “Our son is stubborn and rebellious and pays no attention to what we say – he is a glutton and drunkard.” 21:21 Then all the men of his city must stone him to death. In this way you will purge out wickedness from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid.
Disposition of a Criminal’s Remains
21:22 If a person commits a sin punishable by death and is executed, and you hang the corpse on a tree, 21:23 his body must not remain all night on the tree; instead you must make certain you bury him that same day, for the one who is left exposed on a tree is cursed by God. You must not defile your land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.