Laws of the Sanctuary
1 “These are the statutes and judgments (precepts) which you shall be careful to do in the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and the hills and under every green [leafy] tree. 3 You shall tear down their altars and smash their [idolatrous] pillars and burn their (a)Asherim in the fire; you shall cut down the carved and sculpted images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. 4 You shall not act like this toward the Lord your God. 5 But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to establish His (b)Name there for His dwelling [place], and there you shall come [to worship Him]. 6 There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive (pledged, vowed) offerings, your freewill (voluntary) offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 And there you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all to which you put your hand, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 “You shall not do at all what we are doing here [in the camp] today, every man doing whatever is right in his [own] eyes. 9 For you have not yet come to the resting place and to the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. 10 When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security, 11 then it shall come about that the place which the Lord your God will choose for His Name [and Presence] to dwell; there you shall bring everything that I am commanding you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes and the [voluntary] contribution of your hand [as a first gift from the fruits of the ground], and all your choice votive offerings which you vow to the Lord. 12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your [city] gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.
13 “Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every [cultic] place you see, 14 but [only] in the place which the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do everything that I am commanding you.
15 “However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your [city] gates, whatever you wish, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you [as His generous provision for daily life]. The [ceremonially] unclean and the clean may eat it, such as the gazelle and the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water. 17 You are forbidden to eat within your [city] gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand. 18 But you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your [city] gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all (c)that you undertake. 19 Be careful that you do not neglect the Levite [who serves God] (d)as long as you live in your land.
20 “When the Lord your God extends your territory, as He promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you want to eat meat, then you may eat meat, whatever (e)you wish. 21 If the place which the Lord your God chooses to put His Name (Presence) is too far away from you, then you may slaughter [animals] from your herd or flock which the Lord has given you, just as I have commanded you; and you may eat within your [city] gates whatever you wish. 22 Just as the gazelle or the deer is eaten, so you may eat it [but not make it an offering]; the [ceremonially] unclean and the clean alike may eat it. 23 Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life (soul), and you shall not eat the life with the meat. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water. 25 You shall not eat it, so that all may be well with you and with your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the sight of the Lord. 26 However, you shall take your holy things which you have [to offer] and your votive (pledged, vowed) offerings, you shall take them and go to the place which the Lord will choose. 27 And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the meat and the blood, on the altar of the Lord your God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the Lord your God, and you shall eat the meat.
28 “Be careful to listen to all these words which I am commanding you, so that it may be well with you and with your (f)children after you forever, because you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.
29 “When the Lord your God cuts off and destroys before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and settle in their land, 30 beware that you are not lured (ensnared) into following them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods, so that I too may do likewise?’ 31 You shall not behave this way toward the Lord your God, for they have done for their gods every repulsive thing which the Lord hates; for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire [as sacrifices] to their gods.
a. Deuteronomy 12:3: Wooden symbols of the goddess Asherah.
b. Deuteronomy 12:5: The “Name” of God is equivalent to His gracious presence in passages such as this one. The place where God puts His Name is the place where He chooses to dwell.
c. Deuteronomy 12:18: Lit the putting forth of your hand.
d. Deuteronomy 12:19: Lit all your days on.
e. Deuteronomy 12:20: Lit your soul desires.
f. Deuteronomy 12:28: Lit sons.