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Deuteronomy Chapter 20
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Preparing for War
20:1 When you go to battle against your enemies, and see horses, war chariots and an army larger than yours, do not be afraid of them, since God your Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, is with you.
20:2 When you approach [the place of] battle, the priest shall step forward and speak to the people.
20:3 He shall say to them, 'Listen, Israel, today you are about to wage war against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break ranks before them.
20:4 God your Lord is the One who is going with you. He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will deliver you.'
20:5 The lower officers shall then speak to the people, and say, 'Is there any man among you who has built a new house, and has not begun to live in it? Let him go home, so that he will not die in war and have another man live in it.
20:6 'Is there any man among you who has planted a vineyard and has not redeemed its first crop? Let him go home so that he not die in war and have another man redeem its crop.
20:7 'Is there any man among you who has betrothed a woman and not married her? Let him go home, so that he not die in war and have another man marry her.'
20:8 The lower officers shall then continue speaking to the people and say, 'Is there any man among you who is afraid or faint-hearted? Let him go home rather than have his cowardliness demoralize his brethren.'
20:9 When the lower offices have finished speaking to the people, then they shall appoint senior officers to lead the people.

Taking Captives
20:10 When you approach a city to wage war against it, you must propose a peaceful settlement.
20:11 If [the city] responds peacefully and opens [its gates] to you, all the people inside shall become your subjects and serve you.
20:12 If they reject your peace offer and declare war, you shall lay siege to [the city].
20:13 When God your Lord gives it over into your hand, you shall then strike down its [adult] males by the sword.
20:14 However, the women, children, animals, and all the goods in the city, you shall take as your spoils. You shall thus consume the spoils that God your Lord gives you from your enemies.
20:15 That is what you must do to the cities that are very far from you, and which do not belong to the nations that are here.
20:16 However, when dealing with the cities of these nations, which God your Lord is giving you as hereditary territory, you shall not allow any people to remain alive.
20:17 Where the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites, and Yebusites are involved, you must wipe them out completely, as God your Lord commanded you.
20:18 This is so that they will not teach you all the revolting practices with which they worship their gods, causing you to sin to God your Lord.

Conducting a Siege
20:19 When you lay siege to a city and wage war against it a long time to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding an ax against any food producing tree. Do not cut down a tree in the field, unless it is being used by the men who confront you in the siege.
20:20 However, if you know that a tree does not produce food, then until you have subjugated [the city], you may destroy [the tree] or cut off [what you need] to build siege machinery against the city waging war with you.



Commentary:

place of battle
  (Yad, Melakhim 7:3).

priest
  A priest anointed especially for war (Sotah 42a).

faint-hearted
  See Deuteronomy, 20:8.

panic
  Chaphaz. See 2 Samuel 4:4.

break ranks
  (cf. Targum; Ibn Ezra; Septuagint). Aratz in Hebrew. See Deuteronomy, 7:21.

lower officers
  Shotrim in Hebrew. See above 1:15.

redeemed...
  On the fourth year, as in Leviticus 19:24. (Rashi; Saadia). Or, 'enjoyed' (Chizzkuni).

betrothed
  See note on Exodus 22:15.

faint-hearted
  By nature (Ramban) afraid of weapons (Sotah 44a), and unable to kill (Ibn Ezra, Chizzkuni).

senior officers
  See note on Deuteronomy 1:15 (cf. Yad, Melakhim 7:4).

you shall not allow...
  If they do not make peace as in Deuteronomy 20:10 (Yad, Melakhim 6:1; Ramban). Others maintain that one can only make peace with distant nations, but nearby nations must be annihilated (Rashi).

commanded you
  Numbers 21:2, 33:52, Deuteronomy 7:1,2.

unless it is being used...
  (Chizzkuni; Abarbanel). Or, 'Is a tree of the field then a man who will come against you in the siege' (Rashi; Septuagint).





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