“Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before— do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul. Serve only the Lordyour God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. The false prophets or visionaries who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the Lord your God, who redeemed you from slavery and brought you out of the land of Egypt. Since they try to lead you astray from the way the Lord your God commanded you to live, you must put them to death. In this way you will purge the evil from among you.
“Suppose someone secretly entices you—even your brother, your son or daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend—and says, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known. They might suggest that you worship the gods of peoples who live nearby or who come from the ends of the earth. But do not give in or listen. Have no pity, and do not spare or protect them. You must put them to death! Strike the first blow yourself, and then all the people must join in. Stone the guilty ones to death because they have tried to draw you away from the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery. Then all Israel will hear about it and be afraid, and no one will act so wickedly again.
“When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, you may hear that scoundrels among you are leading their fellow citizens astray by saying, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods you have not known before. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find that the report is true and such a detestable act has been committed among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the open square and burn it. Burn the entire town as a burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a large nation, just as he swore to your ancestors.
“The Lord your God will be merciful only if you listen to his voice and keep all his commands that I am giving you today, doing what pleases him.
“Since you are the people of the Lord your God, never cut yourselves or shave the hair above your foreheads in mourning for the dead. You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.
“You must not eat any detestable animals that are ceremonially unclean. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the addax, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.
“You may eat any animal that has completely split hooves and chews the cud, but if the animal doesn’t have both, it may not be eaten. So you may not eat the camel, the hare, or the hyrax. They chew the cud but do not have split hooves, so they are ceremonially unclean for you. And you may not eat the pig. It has split hooves but does not chew the cud, so it is ceremonially unclean for you. You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses.
“Of all the marine animals, you may eat whatever has both fins and scales. You may not, however, eat marine animals that do not have both fins and scales. They are ceremonially unclean for you.
“You may eat any bird that is ceremonially clean. These are the birds you may not eat: the griffon vulture, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon, buzzards of all kinds, ravens of all kinds, the eagle owl, the short-eared owl, the seagull, hawks of all kinds, the little owl, the great owl, the barn owl, the desert owl, the Egyptian vulture, the cormorant, the stork, herons of all kinds, the hoopoe, and the bat.
“All winged insects that walk along the ground are ceremonially unclean for you and may not be eaten. But you may eat any winged bird or insect that is ceremonially clean.
“You must not eat anything that has died a natural death. You may give it to a foreigner living in your town, or you may sell it to a stranger. But do not eat it yourselves, for you are set apart as holy to the Lord your God.
“You must not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
“You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.
“Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship he chooses for his name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the Lord your God has chosen. When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household. And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you.
“At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work.
“At the end of every seventh year you must cancel the debts of everyone who owes you money. This is how it must be done. Everyone must cancel the loans they have made to their fellow Israelites. They must not demand payment from their neighbors or relatives, for the Lord’s time of release has arrived. This release from debt, however, applies only to your fellow Israelites—not to the foreigners living among you.
“There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.
“But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.
“If a fellow Hebrew sells himself or herself to be your servant and serves you for six years, in the seventh year you must set that servant free.
“When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.
“But suppose your servant says, ‘I will not leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and he has done well with you. In that case, take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door. After that, he will be your servant for life. And do the same for your female servants.
“You must not consider it a hardship when you release your servants. Remember that for six years they have given you services worth double the wages of hired workers, and the Lord your God will bless you in all you do.
“You must set aside for the Lord your God all the firstborn males from your flocks and herds. Do not use the firstborn of your herds to work your fields, and do not shear the firstborn of your flocks. Instead, you and your family must eat these animals in the presence of the Lord your God each year at the place he chooses. But if this firstborn animal has any defect, such as lameness or blindness, or if anything else is wrong with it, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God. Instead, use it for food for your family in your hometown. Anyone, whether ceremonially clean or unclean, may eat it, just as anyone may eat a gazelle or deer. But you must not consume the blood. You must pour it out on the ground like water.
“In honor of the Lord your God, celebrate the Passover each year in the early spring, in the month of Abib, for that was the month in which the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.Your Passover sacrifice may be from either the flock or the herd, and it must be sacrificed to the Lord your God at the designated place of worship—the place he chooses for his name to be honored. Eat it with bread made without yeast. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast, as when you escaped from Egypt in such a hurry. Eat this bread—the bread of suffering—so that as long as you live you will remember the day you departed from Egypt. Let no yeast be found in any house throughout your land for those seven days. And when you sacrifice the Passover lamb on the evening of the first day, do not let any of the meat remain until the next morning.
“You may not sacrifice the Passover in just any of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you. You must offer it only at the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored. Sacrifice it there in the evening as the sun goes down on the anniversary of your exodus from Egypt. Roast the lamb and eat it in the place the Lord your God chooses. Then you may go back to your tents the next morning. For the next six days you may not eat any bread made with yeast. On the seventh day proclaim another holy day in honor of the Lord your God, and no work may be done on that day.
“Count off seven weeks from when you first begin to cut the grain at the time of harvest. Then celebrate the Festival of Harvest to honor the Lord your God. Bring him a voluntary offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him. This is a time to celebrate before the Lord your God at the designated place of worship he will choose for his name to be honored. Celebrate with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites from your towns, and the foreigners, orphans, and widows who live among you. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, so be careful to obey all these decrees.
“You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season, after the grain has been threshed and the grapes have been pressed. This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns. For seven days you must celebrate this festival to honor the Lord your God at the place he chooses, for it is he who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all.
“Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he chooses, but they must not appear before the Lord without a gift for him. All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the Lord your God.
“Appoint judges and officials for yourselves from each of your tribes in all the towns the Lord your God is giving you. They must judge the people fairly. You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly. Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You must never set up a wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build for the Lord your God. And never set up sacred pillars for worship, for the Lord your God hates them.
“Never sacrifice sick or defective cattle, sheep, or goats to the Lord your God, for he detests such gifts.
“When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman among you might do evil in the sight of the Lord your God and violate the covenant. For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden. When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death. But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses. The witnesses must throw the first stones, and then all the people may join in. In this way, you will purge the evil from among you.
“Suppose a case arises in a local court that is too hard for you to decide—for instance, whether someone is guilty of murder or only of manslaughter, or a difficult lawsuit, or a case involving different kinds of assault. Take such legal cases to the place the Lord your God will choose, and present them to the Levitical priests or the judge on duty at that time. They will hear the case and declare the verdict. You must carry out the verdict they announce and the sentence they prescribe at the place the Lord chooses. You must do exactly what they say. After they have interpreted the law and declared their verdict, the sentence they impose must be fully executed; do not modify it in any way. Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the Lord your God must die. In this way you will purge the evil from Israel. Then everyone else will hear about it and be afraid to act so arrogantly.
“You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.
“The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.
“When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.