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Who is Job's Redeemer? Job 19:25 in Light of Neo-Babylonian Law

Pages 292 - 316


Boone, NC

1 Earlier, condensed versions of this article were presented to the 2004 annual meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Society of Biblical Literature in Baltimore, Maryland, and to the 2004 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio, Texas. This article is based on portions of my dissertation, which is entitled On the Scales of Righteousness: Law and Story in the Book of Job, Ph.D. diss., Iliff School of Theology and University of Denver (Colorado Seminary) 2003. A revised version of my dissertation will soon appear as On the Scales of Righteousness: Neo-Babylonian Trial Law and the Book of Job, Brown Judaic Study Series, Atlanta: Society of Bible Literature, forthcoming. I am indebted to F. E. Greenspahn, R. Westbrook, and B. Wells, without whom the larger project and this article would have been far less than they are. In particular, Wells shared in the collection and analysis of all the Neo-Babylonian texts mentioned in this article, helped me hone my thinking about the texts, and offered many invaluable suggestions and improvements to my dissertation and this article. I also thank M. Gabhart for his final copyediting of this work, although any remaining errors are mine alone.

2 For recent examples, see R. L. Alden, Job, NAC 11, Nashville: Broadman & Holman 1993, 207, cf. 187; M. Eisemann, Iyov/Job: A New Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources, Artscroll Tanach Series, Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah 1994, 191–93; J. E. Hartley, The Book of Job, NICOT, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1988, 292–94; Y. Hoffman, A Blemished Perfection: The Book of Job in Context, JSOTSup 213, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic 1996, 174; and J. Unterman, The Socio-Legal Origin for the Image of God as Redeemer גואל of Israel, in Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom, ed. D. P. Wright, D. N. Freedman, and A. Hurvitz, Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns 1995, (399–406) 401. Cf. J. A. Wharton who is agnostic regarding who may be Job's redeemer but understands that God will ultimately vindicate Job (Job, Westminster Bible Companion, Louisville: Westminster/John Knox 1999, 89-91).

3 N. C. Habel, The Book of Job: A Commentary, OTL, Philadelphia: Westminster 1985, 306. Two of the earliest scholars to espouse an alternative suggestion were M. Jastrow, The Book of Job: Its Origin, Growth and Interpretation, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott 1920, 265; and S. Mowinckel, Hiobs gωʾēl und Zeuge im Himmel, in Vom Alten Testament, ed. K. Budde; BZAW 41, Giessen: Töpelmann 1925, 207–22. See also, e.g., M. H. Pope, Job, 3d ed., AB 15, Garden City: Doubleday 1979, 146; H. Ringgren, gāʾal, TDOT, vol. 2, (350-55) 355; and N. H. Snaith, The Book of Job: Its Origin and Purpose, SBT 2d 11, London: SCM 1968, 192. A growing number of interpreters now take this position. See, e.g., D. J. A. Clines, Job 1-20, WBC 17, Dallas: Word 1989, 457; E. M. Good, In Turns of the Tempest, Stanford: Stanford University Press 1990, 257–58; and B. Zuckerman, Job the Silent: A Study in Historical Counterpoint, New York: Oxford 1991, 114.

4 See, e.g., J. J. M. Roberts, Job's Summons to Yahweh: The Exploitation of a Legal Metaphor, ResQ 16, 1973, (159-65) 165. M. B. Dick asserts that Job's redeemer is a judge who is to decide between Job and God, but Dick does not indicate definitively that this figure is heavenly (Legal Metaphor in Job 31, CBQ 41, 1979, [37–50] 46-49). P. Bovati seems to argue that Job's redeemer is a “witness-arbiter” who is the final or dispository witness in a case (Re-Establishing Justice: Legal Terms, Concepts and Procedures in the Hebrew Bible, trans. M. J. Smith, JSOTSup 105, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic 1994, 80-81). He continues, however: “So, Job, in his long controversy with God, demands the support of an arbiter, whose state is not clearly defined precisely because it is impossible to imagine anyone in a position to stand over the two litigants” (ibid., 81). He, therefore, apparently accepts the view that Job's redeemer is a judge who will decide the controversy, although he is agnostic on the ontological status of Job's redeemer.

5 R. N. Carstensen, Job: Defense of Honor, Nashville: Abington 1963, 78–81; and J. B. Curtis, On Job's Witness in Heaven, JBL 102, 1983, 549–62. C. Newsom thinks this is one of two possible options for the role of Job's redeemer (The Book of Job, NIB, vol. 4, [319–637] 478).

6 See, e.g., Pope, Job (s. note 2),146, 251; and Ringgren, gāʾal, vol. 2 (s. note 2), 355.

7 See, e.g., Habel, Book of Job (s. note 2), 306; and Mowinckel, Hiobs gωʾēl (s. note 2), 207–22.

8 S. Terrien and P. Scherer, The Book of Job: Introduction and Exegesis, IB, vol. 3, New York: Abingdon 1951–57, (877–1198) 901.

9 B. Zuckerman suggests: “He [the heavenly figure] is the product of Job's desperate hope against hope that somehow, somewhere there must be a divine Someone who can act on his behalf… a “counter-deity,” invoked out of thin air by Job, to oppose the real Deity” (Job the Silent [s. note 2], 115).

10 P. L. Day, An Adversary in Heaven: śāṭān in the Hebrew Bible, HSM 43, Atlanta: Scholars Press 1988, 94, 100–01.

11 R. P. Scheindlin argues that Job's redeemer is an earthly avenger (The Book of Job, New York: W. W. Norton 1998, 96, 190–91). Jastrow argues that Job's redeemer is a human defender (Book of Job [s. note 2], 124-26, 265). E. M. Good maintains that Job's redeemer is an avenger but whether it is human or divine is unclear (In Turns of the Tempest [s. note 2], 259).

12 T. J. Meek, Job xix 25-27, VT 6, 1956, (101-03) 101.

13 Clines, Job 1-20 (s. note 2), 428, 460, quote at 460. This is Newsom's other choice (Job, vol. 4 [s. note 4], 478; cf. note 4, supra).

14 M. L. Barre, A Note on Job xix 25, VT 29, 1979, (107–10) 107–09. Cf. W. A. Irwin, Job's Redeemer, JBL 81, 1962, (217–29) 218.

15 R. Sacks, The Book of Job with Commentary: A Translation for Our Time, Atlanta: Scholars Press 1999, 191.

16 I take the author's use of legal metaphor as long proven. The first to discuss this at length was C. H. Gordon, The Legal Background of Hebrew Thought and Literature, M.A. thesis, University of Pennsylvania 1928. S. H. Scholnick made another major leap in our understanding of the import of the legal metaphor in the book of Job, although many others had discussed it helpfully before her (Lawsuit Drama in the Book of Job, Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University 1975). For further discussion of the pre-1975 views regarding the legal materials in the book of Job, see ibid., vi-xii. For a brief survey of the now many forensic readings, see R. Magdalene, On the Scales of Righteousness: Law and Story in the Book of Job, Ph.D. diss., Iliff School of Theology and University of Denver (Colorado Seminary) 2003, 840.

17 I maintain that the book of Job was most likely written in the fifth century BCE, when Neo-Babylonian law still held sway over much of the ancient Near East. Even though the Persian Empire controlled southern Mesopotamia at this time, evidence indicates that the norms of Neo-Babylonian law continued with little interruption. I believe this was also the case in Israel in this period. For a complete discussion of my dating of the book of Job, see ibid., 7 n. 13. My justification for using these texts as a comparative basis for the legal metaphors of the book of Job is discussed ibid., 6–8, 20–36.

18 Although I believe that legal metaphor structures the book, I would argue that its genre is didactic wisdom literature (ibid., 3 n. 6).

19 Dick, Legal Metaphor in Job 31 (s. note 3), 39. He quotes a passage from KAR 184: “In the (legal) cause of the illness which has seized me, I am lying on my knees for judgment, Judge my cause, give a decision for me” (ibid., 40). He takes his translation from B. Gemser, The rîb-ox Controversy-Pattern in Hebrew Mentality, in Wisdom in Israel and in the Ancient Near East Presented to Professor Harold Henry Rowley, ed. M. Noth and D. W. Thomas, VTSup 3, Leiden: Brill 1955, (120-37) 127 n. 1.

20 This discussion is taken primarily from M. J. Geller, The Šurpu Incantations and Lev. V.1-5, JSS 25, 1980, 181–92; and E. Reiner, Šurpu - A Collection of Sumerian and Akkadian Incantations, AfO Beiheft 11, Graz: Weidner 1958. See also G. Cunningham, “Deliver Me from Evil”: Mesopotamian Incantations 2500-1500 BC, Studia Pohl Series Maior 17, Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute 1997; M. Dick, Legal Metaphor in Job 31 (s. note 3), 38–40; B. Wells, The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes, Ph.D. diss., The Johns Hopkins University 2002, 91 (soon appearing as The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes, BZAR 4, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, forthcoming); and R. Westbrook, Studies in Biblical and Cuneiform Law, CahRB, Paris: Gabalda 1988, 27. For other related ancient Near Eastern texts, see J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, AB 3, New York: Doubleday 1991, 361–63.

21 See Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 127–29, 201–03, 208–09, 226, 228, 239–241, 260–61, 265,279, 314.

22 Ibid., 64–67, 105–09.

23 See further ibid., 109–19.

24 Ibid., 120–25.

25 Ibid., 125–27.

26 This legal system was not like Common Law adversarial systems, based on British law, wherein the defendant does not have to testify against him- or herself. Rather, ancient Near Eastern legal systems were inquisitorial systems, much like the Continental systems of Europe, wherein the defendant is expected to testify. Ibid., 72–73; cf. 56 n. 33.

27 Ibid., 70.

28 M. Jursa, Akkad, das Eulmaš und Gubāru, WZKM 86, 1996, (198–211) 199, 210; and M. San Nicolò, Parerga Babylonica IX: Der Monsterprozeß des Gimillu, eines sirku von Eanna, ArOr 5, 1933, (61–77) 72; and idem, Parerga Babylonica XI: Die mašʾaltu-Urkunden im neubabylonischen Strafverfahren, ArOr 5, 1933, (287–302) 301–02. Cf. F. Joannès, Une chronique judiciaire d'époque hellénistique et le châtiment des sacrileges à Babylone, in Assyriologica et Semitica: Festschrift für Joachim Oelsner anläßlich seines 65. Geburtstages am 18. Februar 1997, ed. J. Marzahn and H. Neumann, AOAT 252, Munich: Ugarit 2000, (193–212) 206.

29 C. Newsom, The Character of Pain: Job in Light of Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain, paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Orlando, FL, 23 November 1998; S. Terrien, Job: Poet of Existence, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1957, 25; and Wharton, Job (s. note 1), 60.

30 Cf. Newsom, The Character of Pain (s. note 28), 4.

31 For a full accounting of his statements, see Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 131–33.

32 For a complete discussion of Job's defense, see ibid., 198–213.

33 P. M. Wald helps us to comprehend the critical need for every society to have some mechanism for curbing instances of judicial abuse and compensating its victims (Violence under the Law: A Judge's Perspective, in Law's Violence, ed. A. Sarat and T. R. Kearns, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1992, 77–103). She says that, while the law sanitizes even the most controversial and violence-fraught disputes, the law is itself violent, and, by its structure then, judges necessarily become the gatekeepers of society's violence: “[A] society is defined by its ability to enforce communal decisions-by force, if necessary. And the judge in our society is often the one who decides when, how, and whether to apply that communal force in the name of the law, when to let violence out into the open, when to suppress it, against whom it may be directed, where and how it can take place. Judges live in a paradoxical proximity to violence. The courts are generally regarded as the alternative to fighting in the streets, yet, inherent in many of our decisions is the probability, even the certainty, of violence; we affirmatively sanction yet try to control and channel that violence to attain the law's end” (ibid., 77–78). Judges, then, can use their control of violence to injure people in ways not culturally sanctioned. A legal claim based on abuse of judicial authority is one mechanism to deter an inappropriate use of judicial violence.

34 Westbrook, Studies (s. note 19), 9–38, esp. 9–11. See also idem, Social Justice in the Ancient Near East, in Social Justice in the Ancient World, ed. K. Irani and M. Silver, Westport, CT: Greenwood 1995, 149–63; and his very brief summary of offenses against the legal system in Punishments and Crimes, ABD, vol. 5, (546-56) 555. Our discussion derives almost entirely from his work.

35 For an Old Babylonian exemplar, see J. J. Finkelstein, Some New Misharum Material and its Implications, in Studies in Honour of Benno Landsberger on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday, ed. H. G. Güterbock and T. Jacobsen, AS 16, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1965, 233–51. Westbrook makes slight modifications to Finkelstein's translation (Studies [s. note 19], 13–14). Possible Neo-Assyrian abuse of authority petitions include CT 54 463 (discussed in Parpola, Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, SAA 10, Helsinki: Helsinki University Press 1993, 125–26 no. 163) and CT 54 510 (discussed in Parpola, Letters, 126-27 no. 164). A similar kind of petition appears to have been brought before the crown prince in ABL 500 (discussed in Parpola, Letters, 128 no. 168).

36 F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp also observes the importance of this claim in ancient Israel in his work on the Mesad Hashavyahu Ostracon from the reign of Josiah (The Genre of the Mesad Hashavyahu Ostracon, BASOR 295, 1994, 49–55). Bovati, additionally, has a discussion of abuse of authority in Re-Establishing Justice (s. note 3), 306–28. His focus is, however, on the legal procedure associated with the claim and not on the substantive law of abuse of authority, itself.

37 For a full discussion of גזל, see Westbrook, Studies (s. note 19), 15-38, esp. 36. For biblical examples, see Gen 31:31; Lev 5:21; 19:13; Deut 28:29; Isa 3:14; 10:2; 61:8; Jer 21:12; 22:3, 17; Ezek 18:18; 22:29; 33:15; Mic 2:2; 3:2-3; Pss 35:10; 62:11; 69:5; Prov 22:22; Eccl 5:7. For a full discussion of עשק, see Westbrook, Studies (s. note 19), 35-38, esp. 36. For biblical examples, see Lev 5:21; 19:13; Deut 24:14; 28:29, 33; 1 Sam 12:3-4; Jer 7:6; 21:12; 22:3; Ezek 18:18; 22:7, 12, 29; Hos 5:11; Amos 4:1; Mic 2:2; Zech 7:10; Mal 3:5; Pss 62:11; 72:4; 73:8; 103:6; 146:7; Prov 14:31; 22:16; 28:3; Eccl 4:1; 5:7.

38 For a full discussion of דכא, see Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 164–66. For biblical examples, see Isa 3:14-15; Prov 22:22-23. For a full discussion of רצץ, see Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 19), 166. For biblical examples, see Deut 28:33; 1 Sam 12:3-4; Jer 22:17; Hos 5:11; and Amos 4:1. For a full discussion of בצע, see Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 19), 167–68. For biblical examples, see 1 Sam 8:3; Isa 33:15; Jer 22:17; Ezek 22:12-13, 27; Prov 28:16.

39 R. Westbrook, Biblical Law, in An Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law, ed. N. S. Hecht et al., Oxford: Clarendon 1996, (1-17) 8. Numerous important writings on God's legal enforcement powers and his ability to bring lawsuits as a part of those powers exist. See, e.g., R. V. Bergren, Prophets and the Law, HUCM 4, Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press 1974; Gemser, Mîb-Pattern (s. note 18), 120–37; J. Harvey, Le, nè-Pattern/Réquisitoire Prophétique sur la Rupture de L'Alliance, Bib 43, 1962, 172–96; D. R. Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press 1969, 124–31; H. B. Huffmon, The Covenant Lawsuit in the Prophets, JBL 78, 1959, 285–95; J. Limburg, The Root ריב and the Prophetic Lawsuit Speeches, JBL 88, 1969, 291–304; K. Nielsen, Yahweh as Prosecutor and Judge: An Investigation of the Prophetic Lawsuit (Rib-Pattern), JSOTSup 9, Sheffield: JSOT 1978; H. E. von Waldow, Der Traditiongeschichtliche Hintergrund der prophetischen Gerichtsreden, BZAW 85, Berlin: de Gruyter 1983; E. B. Wilson, Rîb in Israel's Historical and Legal Traditions: A Study of the Israelite Setting of Rib-Form, Ph.D. diss., Drew University 1970; and G. E. Wright, The Lawsuit of God: A Form-Critical Study of Deuteronomy 32, in Israel's Prophetic Heritage: Essays in Honor of James Muilenburg, ed. B. W. Anderson and W. Harrelson, New York: Harper & Brothers 1962, 26–67.

40 For further on false suit in both the Neo-Babylonian corpus and the Hebrew Bible, see Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 88–89, 154–55; and Wells, Law of Testimony (s. note 19), 184–244.

41 Cf. Bovati, Re-Establishing Justice (s. note 3), 115. I do not believe that God has a type of divine sovereign or official immunity from suit as human governments and their officials sometimes have from damage suits. Jer 12:1 is the best evidence on this point. In discussing this verse, W. L. Holladay says: “Since Jeremiah felt that Yahweh was not properly supporting him in his prophetic activity, the possibility dawned on Jeremiah that Yahweh was not remaining faithful to his part of the bargain, and that if Yahweh could sue Israel for breach of contract, Jeremiah could turn and sue Yahweh for breach of contract as well” (Jeremiah's Lawsuit with God, Int 17, 1963, [280–87] 283). Jeremiah does not believe that God has sovereign or official immunity; he is just not sure, however, that he can win against such an adversary at law. While Jeremiah was not on trial before God and, therefore, had to initiate a suit for breach of contract against him, Job is already on trial for a blasphemous intent. Thus, Job must use the counter-accusation to raise his claims against God. See further Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 146–47.

42 I would translate this difficult verse: “Though he might slay me, and I should have no hope; still, I will accuse (יכח) his conduct (דרך) to his face.” See ibid., 152. On the root יכח as conveying the sense of “to accuse,” see the material in the text at notes 49-52, infra.

43 For a full discussion of the counterclaim, see Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 142–197.

44 Ibid., 91–93, 213–16.

45 In the midst of these negotiations, both parties and their supporters jockey for position. In their speeches, Job, his friends, Elihu, and God, all state their views. In so doing, they reveal their legal strategies, what their testimony will be if the trial should need to continue, and advocate for their position, typical of settlement negotiations (ibid., 213–26). These discussions also have one other element that is critical to all such negotiations: the speakers seek a way for Job and God to be reconciled. Dick recognizes Job's wish to settle the case and be reconciled; he says of 23:6-7: “Job would prefer to confront Shaddai directly (23:4-5), but the inaccessibility of God precludes an out-of-court settlement. Job is confident that if he could only face Eloah a reconciliation could be effected (13:15-16)” (Legal Metaphor in Job 31 [s. note 3], 45). The friends, on the other hand, suggest that Job should seek the pardon of God (5:8; 8:5; 11:13; 22:21-28) (Magdalene, On the Scales [s. note 15], 231–33, 240–45).

46 See, e.g., J. B. Frye, The Use of Mašal in the Book of Job, Semitics 5, 1977, (59-66) 63; Dick, Legal Metaphor in Job 31 (s. note 3), 50; and D. Patrick, Arguing with God: The Angry Prayers of Job, St. Louis: Bethany 1977, 68; cf. C. Chin, Job and the Injustice of God: Implicit Arguments in Job 13.17-14.12, JSOT 64, 1994, (91-101) 96.

47 Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 54, 156–58.

48 The word משפט is often translated “justice.” Yet, its semantic range includes “case,” “lawsuit,” “litigation,” “legal controversy,” and “judgment.” See BDB, 1048–49; and L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. M. E. J. Richardson, Leiden: Brill 1995, 651–52. משפט is also coupled with ריב in a number of verses. In two of these, 2 Sam 15:4 and Ps 35:23, משפט means “lawsuit,” “legal controversy,” or “case.” Scholnick studies the use of משפט in the book of Job and concurs that it often takes this meaning (Lawsuit Drama [s. note 15]).

49 The vast majority of commentators suggest the translation of מי יועידני should be “who can summon him?” This takes the hithpaʾel of יעד as “to summon as” in Jer 49:19 [=50:44]. One problem with this proposal is that Job's worry here follows closely his concern over what will happen should he summon his opponent (19:16). Job has not been fretting over the logistics of his issuance of the summons but, rather, the effect of any summons he might issue. It does not make sense to argue that Job now does not suppose that he or anyone else can summon God at all. His statements up to this point indicate that he believes he can. Further, the usual translation proposal requires emendation of the 1cs pronominal suffix to the 3ms, against the MT and the LXX. Resultantly, Habel suggests that the suffix be taken as dative: “-who will arraign [him] for me” (Book of Job [s. note 2], 182–83). It is more likely that Job is now shifting his thoughts, for a moment, to the logistics of the case itself, that is, who has the power to hear the case. The phrase מי יועידני may refer to the summons power of the court, a power clearly reflected in the Neo-Babylonian records. See Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 71–72. I propose that Job is really asking: What court can summon God for me? In order to use language that is clearer to the English reader, I turn to P. Bovati. He believes יעד signifies “to convene before a court” (Re-Establishing Justice [s. note 3], 223 n. 8). I suggest that it also means to convene a court in this verse.

50 See, e.g., Clines, Job 1-20 (s. note 2), 215; Good, In Turns of Tempest (s. note 2), 75; Habel, Book of Job (s. note 2), 180; NIV; NJB; NJPS; NRSV; and NASV.

51 Bovati demonstrates that יכח often refers to the act of accusing and offers citations to the book of Job to prove the point (Re-Establishing Justice [s. note 3], 42–48). He stresses that the root יכח can serve as a synonym for ריב, as is plain in 13:6 (ibid., 42–43, 45 n. 30). See also, e.g., Hos 4:4; Mic 6:2.

52 See, e.g., Gen 31:37, 42; Isa 2:4 [=Mic 4:3]; 11:3; Ps 94:10.

53 See especially Isa 2:4 (=Mic 4:3). See also Bovati, Re-Establishing Justice (s. note 3), 34, cf. 48.

54 Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 183–84, cf. 202, 213.

55 Cf., e.g., Deut 1:16; 2 Sam 15:3; 1 Kgs 3:11.

56 Eliphaz taunts: “Summon (קרא), I pray! Is there anyone who will answer (ענה) you? To which holy one will you turn?” I believe he means “to which holy one will you turn for resolution of the dispute.” For the impossibility of Job's finding such a judge, see Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 150; and Bovati, Re-Establishing Justice (s. note 3), 34, 81; cf. Dick, Legal Metaphor in Job 31 (s. note 3), 45–49.

57 R. M. Jas, Neo-Assyrian Judicial Procedures, SAAS 5, Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project-University of Helsinki 1996, 73.

58 There is much literature on the dispository nature of most oaths and ordeals in the ancient Near East. For just a few items of the bibliography, see S. H. Blank, The Curse, the Blasphemy, the Spell, the Oath, HUCA 23, 1950–51, 73–95; J. Bottéro, L'ordalie en Mésopotamie ancienne, Annali délla Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 11, 1981, 1005–67; T. S. Frymer-Kensky, The Judicial Ordeal in the Ancient Near East, 2 vols., Ph.D. diss., Yale University 1977; S. E. Loewenstamm, The Cumulative Oath of Witnesses and Parties in Mesopotamian Law, in Comparative Studies in Biblical and Ancient Near Oriental Literatures, AOAT 204, Kevelaer and Neukirchen-Vluyn: Butzon & Bercker and Neukirchener 1980, 341–45; S. Lafont, La procédure par serment au Proche-Orient ancien, in Jurer et maudire: pratiques politiques et usages juridiques du serment dans le Proche-Orient ancient, ed. Sophie Lafont, Paris: L'Harmattan 1997, (185-98) 197–98; and A. I. Lieberman, Studies in the Trial by River Ordeal in the Ancient Near East during the Second Millennium BCE, Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University 1969.

59 E. Dombradi, Die Darstellung des Rechtsaustrags in den Altbabylonischen Prozessurkunden, vol. 1, Freiburger Altorientalische Studien 20, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner 1996, 330.

60 For further, see CAD B 339.

61 These records are known in the scholarly literature as Beweisurteil documents. J. N. Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History, London: Routledge 1992, 281; and G. Ries, Altbabylonische Beweisurteile, ZSS 106, 1989, 56–80.

62 R. A. Veenker, The Old Babylonian Judiciary and Legal Procedure, Ph.D. diss., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion 1967, 45–53, quote on p. 47.

63 At the time of oath-taking, the court typically moved to the site of the oath, most commonly the temple, or the temple gate, where the actual oath was performed, although on rare occasions a symbol of the god was moved to the site of the dispute. See Postgate, Early Mesopotamia (s. note 60), 280. The relevant documents give us only limited information about the oath process. We do know, however, that the ritual usually involved stating the oath before some divine statue or emblem. See Dombradi, Darstellung des Rechtsaustrags (s. note 58), 330.

65 Dombradi calls this “hardening” the evidence (ibid., 330–31). We see the weakened oath in Nuzi, as well. For further, see T. Frymer-Kensky, Suprarational Legal Procedures in Elam and Nuzi, in Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi and the Hurrians in Honor of Ernest R. Lacheman on his Seventy-Fifth Birthday, April 29, 1981, ed. M. Morrison and D. Owen, Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns 1981, 115–31.

66 Dombradi asserts that it is very difficult to tell in which situations the Old Babylonian courts might seek the weakened oaths from parties or witnesses (Darstellung des Rechtsaustrags [s. note 58], 331). It is possible that parties and witnesses offered them primarily on their own initiative. That appears to be the typical scenario in the Neo-Babylonian period.

67 Ibid., 331.

68 One letter, UET 4 186, makes reference to what might be a formal evidentiary oath, but it is outside a litigation setting (our reading follows CAD D 33 and Wells, Law of Testimony [s. note 19], 178 n. 148, against E. Ebeling, Neubabylonische Briefe, ABAW Philosophisch-Historische Klasse Neue Folge 30, Munich: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften 1949, 175 no. 321). UET 4 171 appears to be an oath sworn before a divine symbol. The oath involves a dispute, but whether the oath was ordered in the context of litigation is uncertain. C. Wunsch seems to suggest that BM 77425 contains a formal dispository oath (J. Oelsner, B. Wells, and C. Wunsch, Neo-Babylonian Period, in A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, ed. R. Westbrook, vol. 2, Handbook of Oriental Studies 72, Leiden: Brill 2003, [911–74] 924). In that case, however, it was third-party witnesses who swore at the court's insistence to the contents of a missing adoption document, to which they had been the observing witnesses and which was the subject of the current dispute. See similarly CM 20 166 (C. Wunsch, Das Egibi-Archiv I: Die Felder und Gärten, 2 vols., Cuneiform Monographs 20A-B, Groningen: Styx 2000, 166). M. Stolper reconstructs TBER 6 In. 18 as stating that an individual swore an oath by an iron dagger (Late Achaemenid Texts from Dilbat, Iraq 54, 1992, [122–25] 123–24; cf. Oelsner et al., Neo-Babylonian Period, 925), but the reconstruction is speculative. Outside of Mesopotamia, in Elephantine, evidence of the formal oath exists in this period (see, e.g. TAD B7.1, TAD B7.2, and TAD B7.3; TAD B7.4 also refers to an oath but is too damaged to give us its specifics). It appears that, in a pattern quite opposite to that of Mesopotamia, the oath gained in importance in Egypt over time. Early Egyptian oaths did not always resolve the case, while, later in Egyptian history, they apparently became dispository. See S. Allam, Hieratische Ostraka und Papyri aus der Ramessidenzeit, vol. 1, Urkunden zum Rechtsleben im alten Ägypten, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr 1973, 214–15; M. Malinine, Deux documents égyptiens relatifs au dépot, MDAIK 16, 1958, (219–29) 221–22; and E. Seidl, Einführung in die ägyptische Rechtsgeschichte bis zum Ende des Neuen Reiches, Ägyptologische Forschungen 10, Glückstadt: Augustin 1951, esp. p. 64, no. 49. The law in Elephantine appears to be under Egyptian influence much more than Neo-Babylonian influence in this instance. Cf. R. Yaron, who states that, in its Mesopotamian aspects, the law of Elephantine resembles Neo-Assyrian and earlier law rather than Neo-Babylonian law (The Law of the Aramaic Papyri, Oxford: Clarendon 1961, 119–20), rejecting the assertion of E. G. Kraeling that it is under Neo-Babylonian influence (The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri: New Documents of the Fifth Century B.C. from the Jewish Colony at Elephantine, New Haven: Yale University Press 1953, 49–50). This, too, would account for the presence of formal dispository oaths at Elephantine.

69 Cf. TCL 13 170 and YOS 6 225, which are plaintiff oaths, but which address their own possible culpability in the matter.

70 Both Dar 53 and YOS 6 225 contain oaths sworn before the gods; but, because the texts are so broken and obscure, it is difficult to assess with certainty what results the oaths bring.

71 Spar 1 is from I. Spar, Three Neo-Babylonian Trial Depositions from Uruk, in Studies in Honor of Tom B. Jones, AOAT 203, Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker 1979, (157-72) no. 1. This text indicates that the court asked an individual to swear to his testimony, but not that the individual did, in fact, swear to his testimony. Instead, the scribe only notes that he stated his position. Furthermore, the reported testimony is not stated in the common oath formula. Regrettably, this text is most obscure on a number of points (see ibid., 157–61). In YOS 6 156, the accuser charged the defendant with causing to be butchered one more temple sheep than was required by the temple. The court questioned two others in the matter and ordered them to swear that they had not killed temple livestock on the same day. Presumably, they were being questioned as possible additional or alternative responsible parties. They took the exculpatory oath, using the common oath formula. The oath seems to have ended matters with respect to them, but they, it should be remembered, were never charged. The case continued with regard to the defendant, who was ultimately found innocent of the error because yet another individual came forward claiming responsibility. See similarly TCL 13 170.

73 In accord, F. Joannes, who maintains that, in the Neo-Babylonian period, the probative value of the oath was less than that of the available rational evidence, unlike the rule of priority in earlier periods of ancient Near Eastern history (La pratique du serment à l'époque néo-babylonienne, in Jurer et maudire: pratiques politiques et usages juridiques du serment dans le Proche-Orient ancient, ed. S. Lafont, Paris: L'Harmattan 1997, [163–74] 169–70, citing YNER 1 2 and YOS 6 169 [=YOS 6 231]). E. Otto observes that there is a “Säkularisierungstendenz” (secularizing tendency) in the courts from the second to first millennium (Neue Aspekte zum keilschriftlichen Prozeßrecht in Babylonien und Assyrien, ZAR 4, 1998, [263–83] 282). I suspect that the shift began to accelerate during the Neo-Assyrian period as evidenced by the existence of a few conditional verdict documents in that period (see, e.g., Jas 53 [=ADD 101]) and the declining number of river ordeals. Consistent with the seeming reluctance to employ the oath as a means to resolve close cases in the Neo-Babylonian period, the evidence of the use of the river ordeal in this period is also quite limited and may have disappeared. S. Lafont and F. Joannes rightly observe that the sole Neo-Babylonian period evidence of the ordeal is a description in a literary document, “Nebuchadnezzar King of Justice,” CT 46 45 (S. Lafont, Considérations sur la pratique judiciaire en Mésopotamie, in Rendre la justice en Mésopotamie, Archives judiciaires du Proche-Orient ancien [IIIe-Ier millénaires avant J.-C.], ed. F. Joannes, Saint-Denis: Presses Universitaires de Vincennes 2000, [15–34] 30; and Joannes, Pratique du serment, 172). Ebeling speculates that CT 22 105 contains a reference to the river ordeal (Neubabylonische Briefe [s. note 66], 60–61 no. 105), but I believe that this reading is not supported by the text. The latest legal references to such supra-rational evidence are from the Neo-Assyrian period, some of which are in the Neo-Babylonian dialect. BIN 2 132, a very early Neo-Babylonian text from the reign of Esarhaddon, also documents the use of the river ordeal in a trial of temple slaves. See also three early Neo-Babylonian letters that testify to the use of the river ordeal to resolve cases in the Neo-Assyrian period (ABL 965 and S. W. Cole, Nippur IV: Early Neo-Babylonian Governor's Archive from Nippur, OIP 114, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1996, nos. 38 and 110). L. Kataja makes the point: “There are quite a few references to the legal institution [of the river ordeal] in Mesopotamian texts of all periods, including the Neo-Assyrian one. Most of the references are, however, literary and actually executed ordeals are rarely reported” (A Neo-Assyrian Document on Two Cases of River Ordeal, SAAB 1, 1987, [66–68] 66). She notes that only Nuzi documented a large number of river ordeals in practice (ibid., 66 n. 6). Thus, the literary reference cannot be considered reliable evidence that the ordeal was in use during the Neo-Babylonian period. Consequently, I infer that the ordeal did probably disappear during the Neo-Babylonian period.

74 Wells, Law of Testimony (s. note 19), 148–75.

75 Ibid.

76 These include: AnOr 8 39, BE 9 24, GCCI 1 380, Nbk 52, Nbk 104, Nbk 183, Nbk 365, Nbk 419, RA 14 158 no. 52, Sack 79, TCL 12 50, TCL 12 60, TCL 12 70, TCL 12 106, UCP 9/1 2 37, YNER 1 2, YOS 6 122, YOS 6 134, YOS 6 148, YOS 6 179, YOS 6 191, YOS 6 193, YOS 6 203, YOS 6 214, YOS 7 24, YOS 7 26, YOS 7 141, YOS 7 192, YOS 17 32, YOS 19 97, and YOS 19 98.

77 These include: Iraq 41 138 no. 49, Nbk 361, Nbk 363, Nbk 366, Sack 80, TCL 12 77, YOS 6 153, YOS 6 175, and YOS 6 208. Sack 80 is from R. H. Sack, Cuneiform Documents from the Chaldean and Persian Periods, London: Associated University Press 1993, 80.

78 That may or may not have been a date specifically delineated by the court.

79 M. A. Losier, Witness in Israel of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Context of the Ancient Near East, Ph.D. diss., University of Notre Dame 1973, 108–12.

80 The fact that some texts do not seem to reflect the presence of a second accuser or witness does not indicate that the rule was abrogated. Wells observes that, in lawsuits involving temple property or affairs that were tried before the temple court, the temple was, in fact, the implied first accuser (Law of Testimony [s. note 19], 154, 172–73). Those documents that seem to record only one accusation may, therefore, be recording the second accusation without referring back to the first. One excellent illustration of this is YOS 7 152, wherein two accusers appear together to rebut the defendant after he had offered an oath of denial. It is possible that they appear second in the record because they rebut the denial. It is also possible, however, that they are actually the second accusers in the case. The temple might also have been the unstated second accuser in the case where the first accuser was a private prosecutor who brought the crime to the attention of temple personnel. Non-temple cases that do not reflect a second accuser might be most easily explained by the need for brevity in the tablets. See further Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 43–44. Still, it is possible that what was demanded in theory was not always put into practice. In spite of the imperfections in the records, a second accuser or corroborating witness was typically required for conviction during the Neo-Babylonian period. See ibid., 83–84.

81 Wells, Law of Testimony (s. note 19), 114–83.

82 But see Deut 13:7-12 where summary execution is permitted in the case of apostasy. I do not believe that this apparent conflict is a reflection of different legal strata. For a discussion of Deut 17:2-7 as a later revision of Deut 13:7-12, see B. M. Levinson, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation, New York: Oxford University Press 1997, 117–27. Rather, I believe that Deut 13:7-12 reflects a case where one individual catches another in the act of apostasy and is in immediate danger of falling under the spell of such. In this circumstance, the law permits summary justice to prevail. The reasoning here is similar to that of R. Westbrook in the situation where immediate execution of the discovered wife and paramour is allowed in the case of adultery (A Matter of Life and Death, JANES 27, 1997, 61–69).

83 Although, in this instance, justice failed. The pericope may, therefore, have been a critique of the efficacy of the two-witness rule.

84 This position is argued by several, including G. Fohrer, The Righteous Man in Job 31, in Essays in Old Testament Ethics, ed. J. L. Crenshaw and J. T. Willis, New York: Ktav 1974, (3-22) 10; Habel, Book of Job (s. note 2), 429; and Pope, Job (s. note 2), lxxvii.

85 BDB gives its meaning as “nearly = blasphemy” (BDB, 514). R. L. Harris and G. L. Archer agree that לעג belongs in the constellation of roots meaning “blasphemy” and “slander” (Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, Chicago: Moody 1980, [480–81] 480). Unfortunately, they give no examples of when it might mean blasphemy.

86 See further Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 262–90.

87 See Gen 42:15-16. Bovati also believes that בחן means to conduct a legal investigation, citing Jer 6:27; 9:6; 11:20; 12:3; 17:10; 20:12; Pss 7:10; 11:4; 17:3; 26:2; 139:23; Job 7:18; 23:10; Prov 17:3; and 1 Chr 29:17, although he misses a number of occurrences of the verb's legal meaning (Re-Establishing Justice [s. note 3], 244–246). See further, Magdalene, On the Scales (s. note 15), 111–12.

88 The idiom “to eat the flesh of PN” means “to slander PN” in Akkadian, Arabic, and Aramaic (Habel, Book of Job [s. note 2], 292).

89 Literally, “kidneys” (כליה), which is the seat of human emotion in the worldview of ancient Israelites.

90 The root דבר, “to speak,” has a forensic meaning in legal contexts. It may refer to the act of testifying (see Wells, Law of Testimony [s. note 19], 34–37) or stating one's case by way of accusation (Habel, Book of Job [s. note 2], 224). See, e.g., Ps 50:7 and Prov 21:28. It may mean “legal matter,” “cause,” or “case” in the nominative form (see, e.g., Exod 18:16; 24:14).

91 Cf. Ps 72:14.

92 Cf. Ps 119:154; Lam 3:58.

93 Newsom, Job (s. note 4), 478; and Hartley, Book of Job (s. note 1), 294. See also Pss 27:12; 35:11.

94 This verse is extremely difficult to translate. I read מליצי for מלי_צי as per Clines, Job 1-20 (s. note 2), 371; R. Gordis, The Book of Job: Commentary, New Translation, and Special Notes, Moreshet Series 2, New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1978, 268, 269; and Pope, Job (s. note 2), 122, 125. Further, I emend רעי to רעי.

95 The word בצר, “to thwart,” is a word play on בצע, “to gain by violence.” Job cannot stop God's abuse of him. He further acknowledges this by his reiteration, in 42:3-4, of both God's impeachment and intimidation of him in 38:2-3 and 40:7. Job has had his opportunity to confront God face-to-face (42:5), but it was in vain. B. Vawter concludes: “The God who spoke to Job out of the whirlwind has overwhelmed him with his all-presence and all-power, but he has offered no path by which man may seek the divine” (Job and Jonah: Questioning the Hidden God, New York: Paulist Press 1983, 86). Job is beaten. While Job must concede, he is not convinced. God never did state the charges against Job. God never did directly defend against the false suit. Job still believes he has been treated unjustly. He speaks with frustration in his voice. Several commentators maintain that Job's surrender seems inconsistent with the entire course of the book. See, e.g., J. B. Curtis, On Job's Response to Yahweh, JBL 98, 1979, 497–511; K. Fullerton, The Original Conclusion to the Book of Job, ZAW 42, 1924, (116-36) 125–28; C. G. Jung, Answer to Job, New York: Pastoral Psychology Book Club 1955, 31; and D. Robertson, The Old Testament and the Literary Critic, Philadelphia: Fortress 1977, 52; and idem, The Book of Job: A Literary Study, Sound 56, 1973, (446-69) 466. Robertson goes so far as to say that Job's submission is a fraud. Curtis claims that Job simply does not submit. I contend that Job's submission is real because of the legal position in which he finds himself, although he is not pleased about it. This is no happy or wizened concession.


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