Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

Deuteronomy chapter 16, verse 18 to chapter 21, verse 9


Moses is giving his last speech to the Children of Israel. He tells them that they must appoint judges, and officers to uphold the law . The judges need to be fair to everyone, impartial and never accepting bribes.

Moses warns the people against worshipping idols and false idols.  The punishment for this is death. However God says that no person can only be found guilty and put to death unless there are two or more witnesses.

Moses explains the procedure for choosing a king once they take possession of the Land.  The ruler must be an Israelite, and not be too rich. The monarch should not be greedy or corrupt and must follow the teachings of God.

Moses repeats the priests shall not inherit any land, and shall be supported by donations.  This is because their job is to serve God.

Moses warns the people not follow evil ways and not follow false prophets or sorcerers.  He tells the people that a true prophet will come from among the Israelites, chosen by God. This person should be followed by the people.

Moses tells the people to choose three cities where a person who accidentally commits murder can escape unjust revenge.

Other rules about justice include: not moving a property marker; a person can only be found guilty if two or more witnesses testify; the punishment must fit the crime, and not be too severe.

Moses explains the rules of war: if a man has a new home, a new wife, or a new vineyard, he doesn’t need to go to war. If a man is afraid, he also doesn’t need to go and fight. When the Israelites approach a city to wage war, they must first offer peace. If the peace offering is rejected, women and children must not be harmed.  The soldiers are commanded not to destroy the fruit trees of a city they conquer. They may eat of the fruit. They may cut down non-fruit trees.

Torah Portion in English

1) You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect of a serious kind, for that is abhorrent to the Lord your God.

2) If there is found among you, in one of the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who has affronted the Lord your God and transgressed His covenant— 3) turning to the worship of other gods and bowing down to them, to the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, something I never commanded— 4) and you have been informed or have learned of it, then you shall make a thorough inquiry. If it is true, the fact is established, that abhorrent thing was perpetrated in Israel, 5) you shall take the man or the woman who did that wicked thing out to the public place, and you shall stone them, man or woman, to death.— 6) A person shall be put to death only on the testimony of two or more witnesses; he must not be put to death on the testimony of a single witness.— 7) Let the hands of the witnesses be the first against him to put him to death, and the hands of the rest of the people thereafter. Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst.

8) If a case is too baffling for you to decide, be it a controversy over homicide, civil law, or assault—matters of dispute in your courts—you shall promptly repair to the place that the Lord your God will have chosen, 9) and appear before the levitical priests, or the magistrate in charge at the time, and present your problem. When they have announced to you the verdict in the case, 10) you shall carry out the verdict that is announced to you from that place that the Lord chose, observing scrupulously all their instructions to you. 11) You shall act in accordance with the instructions given you and the ruling handed down to you; you must not deviate from the verdict that they announce to you either to the right or to the left. 12) Should a man act presumptuously and disregard the priest charged with serving there the Lord your God, or the magistrate, that man shall die. Thus you will sweep out evil from Israel: 13) all the people will hear and be afraid and will not act presumptuously again.

Getting to Know my Parasha

What Does my Parasha Say?

  1. The portion begins with the words magistrates (judges) and officials.  What are the officials?
  2. What is the reward for pursuing justice?
  3. What were the rules for choosing a king? What do they mean?
  4. Why do you think a person can be found guilty only on the testimony of two or more witnesses?
  5. What is a city of refuge?  Why is it important?
  6. When the Israelites go to war, what is the first thing they need to do?
  7. What are the four types of leaders described in the portion?  What do you think their roles are?
  8. What is the difference between a false and true prophet?
  9. Who did not have to go to war?
  10. What does an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth mean?