Deuteronomy 20

Laws for War

20 When you go to war against your enemies and you see horses and chariots and an army that is bigger than yours, don’t be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 The priest must come and speak to the army before you go into battle. 3 He will say, “Listen, Israel! Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Don’t lose your courage or be afraid. Don’t panic or be frightened, 4 because the Lord your God goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies and to save you.”

5 The officers should say to the army, “Has anyone built a new house but not given it to God? He may go home, because he might die in battle and someone else would get to give his house to God. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? He may go home, because he might die in battle and someone else would enjoy his vineyard. 7 Is any man engaged to a woman and not yet married to her? He may go home, because he might die in battle and someone else would marry her.” 8 Then the officers should also say, “Is anyone here afraid? Has anyone lost his courage? He may go home so that he will not cause others to lose their courage, too.” 9 When the officers finish speaking to the army, they should appoint commanders to lead it.

10 When you march up to attack a city, first make them an offer of peace. 11 If they accept your offer and open their gates to you, all the people of that city will become your slaves and work for you. 12 But if they do not make peace with you and fight you in battle, you should surround that city. 13 The Lord your God will give it to you. Then kill all the men with your swords, 14 and you may take everything else in the city for yourselves. Take the women, children, and animals, and you may use these things the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 Do this to all the cities that are far away, that do not belong to the nations nearby.

16 But leave nothing alive in the cities of the land the Lord your God is giving you. 17 Completely destroy these people: the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you what they do for their gods, and if you do these hateful things, you will sin against the Lord your God.

19 If you surround and attack a city for a long time, trying to capture it, do not destroy its trees with an ax. You can eat the fruit from the trees, but do not cut them down. These trees are not the enemy, so don’t make war against them. 20 But you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build devices to attack the city walls, until the city is captured.

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