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Rules of War

20 “When you go to war against your enemies and observe more horses, chariots, and soldiers[a] than you have, don’t be afraid of them, for the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt is with you. As you draw near for battle, let the priest approach and speak to the army.[b] He will say to them, ‘Listen, Israel! You’re about to go into battle today against your enemies. Don’t be faint-hearted. Don’t be afraid, don’t panic, and don’t be terrified to face them. For the Lord your God will be with you, fighting on your behalf against your enemies in order to grant you victory.’

“Furthermore, let the officials ask the army, ‘Is there a man here[c] who has built a new house but has not yet dedicated it? Let him go back home. Otherwise, he may die in battle and another man dedicate it. And is there a man here[d] who has planted a vineyard and not yet benefited from it? Let him go home. Otherwise, he may die in battle and another man use it. And is there a man here[e] who is engaged to a woman and has not yet married her? Let him go back home. Otherwise, he may die in battle and another man marry her.’

“Let the officials also speak to the army, ‘Is there a man here[f] who is afraid and faint-hearted? Let him go back home. Otherwise, he may demoralize his fellow soldier.’[g]

“When the officials have finished speaking to the army, they must appoint officers to lead the troops.”

Rules of Peace

10 “When you approach a city to wage war against it, extend terms of peace. 11 If it agrees to peace and welcomes you, then all the people found in it will serve you as forced laborers. 12 But if they refuse to make peace with you and instead choose war, then attack it. 13 The Lord your God will deliver it into your control, and you must execute every male. 14 The women, children, all the livestock in the city, and all of the spoil and plunder will belong to you. Appropriate the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God will give you. 15 Do this to all the cities that are distant from you—that is, to those cities that are not in neighboring nations.”

Destruction of the Canaanites

16 “You are not to leave even one person alive in the cities of these nations that the Lord your God is about to give you as an inheritance. 17 You must completely destroy the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, just as the Lord your God commanded you, 18 so they won’t teach you to do all the detestable things that they do for their gods. If you do what they teach you, you will sin against the Lord your God.”

Preservation of Fruit Trees

19 “When you attack a city and have to fight against it for many days, don’t destroy its trees by cutting them down with an ax. You may eat from them, but you must not cut them down. Are the trees of the field human beings, that you would come and attack them? 20 However, you may cut down the trees whose fruit[h] you know isn’t edible, in order to build siege works against the city that waged war with you, until it falls.”


  1. Deuteronomy 20:1 Lit. people
  2. Deuteronomy 20:2 Lit. people; and so throughout the chapter
  3. Deuteronomy 20:5 The Heb. lacks here
  4. Deuteronomy 20:6 The Heb. lacks here
  5. Deuteronomy 20:7 The Heb. lacks here
  6. Deuteronomy 20:8 The Heb. lacks here
  7. Deuteronomy 20:8 Lit. his brother
  8. Deuteronomy 20:20 The Heb. lacks whose fruit

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