Laws of Warfare

20 “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see (A)horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, (B)do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. (C)Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the Lord your God (D)is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ The officers also shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Who is the man that has built a new house and has not (E)dedicated it? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would dedicate it. Who is the man that has planted a vineyard and has not [a]begun to use its fruit? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man [b]would begin to use its fruit. (F)And who is the man that is engaged to a woman and has not [c]married her? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man [d]would marry her.’ Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say, ‘(G)Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that [e]he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart.’ When the officers have finished speaking to the people, they shall appoint commanders of armies at the head of the people.

10 “When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall [f]offer it terms of peace. 11 If it [g]agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your (H)forced labor and shall serve you. 12 However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, (I)you shall strike all the [h]men in it with the edge of the sword. 14 Only the women and the children and (J)the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall [i]use the spoil of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations [j]nearby. 16 (K)Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 But you shall [k]utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you, 18 so that they may not teach you to do (L)according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would (M)sin against the Lord your God.

19 “When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. [l]For is the tree of the field a man, that it should [m]be besieged by you? 20 Only the trees which you know [n]are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.

Footnotes

  1. Deuteronomy 20:6 Lit treat(ed) it as common
  2. Deuteronomy 20:6 Lit treat(ed) it as common
  3. Deuteronomy 20:7 Lit taken
  4. Deuteronomy 20:7 Lit take
  5. Deuteronomy 20:8 So with Gr and other ancient versions
  6. Deuteronomy 20:10 Lit call to it for peace
  7. Deuteronomy 20:11 Lit answers peace
  8. Deuteronomy 20:13 Lit males
  9. Deuteronomy 20:14 Lit eat
  10. Deuteronomy 20:15 Lit here
  11. Deuteronomy 20:17 Or put them under the ban
  12. Deuteronomy 20:19 Read as interrogative with ancient versions
  13. Deuteronomy 20:19 Lit come before you in the siege
  14. Deuteronomy 20:20 Lit they are not trees for food

Going to War

20 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours,(A) do not be afraid(B) of them,(C) because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with(D) you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted(E) or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you(F) to fight(G) for you against your enemies to give you victory.(H)

The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in(I) it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. Has anyone planted(J) a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it?(K) Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.(L) Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.”(M) When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall appoint commanders over it.

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace.(N) 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject(O) to forced labor(P) and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it.(Q) 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock(R) and everything else in the city,(S) you may take these as plunder(T) for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance(U) from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.(V) 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods,(W) and you will sin(X) against the Lord your God.

19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?[b] 20 However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees(Y) and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.

Footnotes

  1. Deuteronomy 20:17 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.
  2. Deuteronomy 20:19 Or down to use in the siege, for the fruit trees are for the benefit of people.

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