Deuteronomy chapter 21

Unsolved murder. Marrying a non-Israelite. Rights of the firstborn. A rebellious son. Corpse of a criminal.



Note: Many people find it morally objectionable that a religion requires the killing of innocent animals.






VERSE 1. If someone is found slain in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, lying in the field, and it isn’t known who has struck him,

the land which the LORD your God gives you. That is, the Promised Land.


VERSE 2. then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure to the cities which are around him who is slain.

measure to the cities. The elders and judges will determine which city is closest to the crime scene.


VERSE 3. It shall be that the elders of the city which is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer of the herd, which hasn’t been worked with and which has not drawn in the yoke.


VERSE 4. The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley.

break the heifer’s neck. Why must this poor animal be killed?


VERSE 5. The priests the sons of Levi shall come near, for them the LORD your God has chosen to minister to him, and to bless in the LORD’s name; and according to their word shall every controversy and every assault be decided.

according to their word. The priests and Levites have enormous authority. In the fullness of time they will abuse it.


VERSE 6. All the elders of that city which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley.

wash their hands. Like Pilate did concerning the Lord Jesus Christ:

Matthew 27:24. So when Pilate saw that nothing was being gained, but rather that a disturbance was starting, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person. You see to it.”


VERSE 7. They shall answer and say, “Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.


VERSE 8. Forgive, the LORD, your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and don’t allow innocent blood among your people Israel.” The blood shall be forgiven them.


VERSE 9. So you shall put away the innocent blood from among you, when you shall do that which is right in the LORD’s eyes.




VERSE 10. When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you carry them away captive,


VERSE 11. and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you are attracted to her, and desire to take her as your wife,

desire to take her as your wife. In those days having genital intercourse was the way they got married.


VERSE 12. then you shall bring her home to your house. She shall shave her head and trim her nails.


VERSE 13. She shall take off the clothing of her captivity, and shall remain in your house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month. After that you shall go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.

you shall go in to her. This is a euphemism for “have sexual intercourse.”

she shall be your wife. After they have sexual intercourse, they are married. Sexual intercourse is the act which transforms them to the state of being wedded.

No religious ritual was involved. Nor was the government.


VERSE 14. It shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall let her go where she desires; but you shall not sell her at all for money. You shall not deal with her as a slave, because you have humbled her.

let her go where she desires. That is, “you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it.” The decision is hers, not his.




VERSE 15. If a man has two wives, the one beloved and the other hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated, and if the firstborn son is hers who was hated,

If a man has two wives. Apparently polygamy was permitted.


VERSE 16. then it shall be, in the day that he causes his sons to inherit that which he has, that he may not give the son of the beloved the rights of the firstborn before the son of the hated, who is the firstborn;


VERSE 17. but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the hated, by giving him a double portion of all that he has; for he is the beginning of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.




VERSE 18. If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and though they chasten him, will not listen to them,


VERSE 19. then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city and to the gate of his place.


VERSE 20. They shall tell the elders of his city, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey our voice. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”

He is a glutton and a drunkard. When this was said of you, it was a precursor to your being put to death.

This was the exact complaint lodged against the Lord Jesus Christ:

Matthew 11:19. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Luke 7:34. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard; a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Jesus did not live an ascetic lifestyle. We imagine that wherever Jesus was, that’s where the party was.

Many Christians want to deny that, especially in the U.S., where many Christians associate godly zeal with being a tee-totaler.

Christians in the U.S. are also influenced by the Puritanical tradition, and by and centuries of preaching that equated alcohol and dancing with sin and evil.

Some Christians have a sad face and a somber demeanor. We wish they could know the joy of their Lord. Holiness is marked by joy. Joy equals strength! Read more »

King Solomon addresses these two issues as well:

Proverbs 23:21. for the drunkard and the glutton shall become poor; and drowsiness clothes them in rags.


VERSE 21. All the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall remove the evil from among you. All Israel shall hear, and fear.

stone him to death. To be a stubborn and rebellious son was a capital offense. You were stoned to death.

However, we are not aware of any instance in the Bible where this command was fulfilled.




VERSE 22. If a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,

hang him on a tree. Judas Iscariot hanged himself:

Matthew 27:5. He threw down the pieces of silver in the sanctuary, and departed. He went away and hanged himself.


VERSE 23. his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him the same day; for he who is hanged is accursed of God. Don’t defile your land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance.

he who is hanged is accursed of God. Judas Iscariot hanged himself:

Matthew 27:5. He threw down the pieces of silver in the sanctuary, and departed. He went away and hanged himself.


next chapter »

« previous chapter


CHAPTERS: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34

RESOURCES: Summary, Outline, Memorize

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.