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Competing or Complementary? Judges and Elders in Biblical and Neo-Babylonian Law

Pages 77 - 104



1 The research for this article has been supported by a Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany, and by a Collaborative Research Grant from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein, however, are those of the author alone. I also wish to thank Eckart Otto, who read and commented on two previous versions of this article. Although we may not agree at every point, his careful analysis and thoughtful feedback were immensely helpful and spared me the embarrassment of several mistakes. I, of course, remain completely responsible for any remaining errors herein. Finally, readers unfamiliar with standard Assyriological abbreviations for cuneiform texts should see the list of abbreviations included at the end of this article.

2 J.D. Fortner, Adjudicating Entities and Levels of Legal Authority in Lawsuit Records of the Old Babylonian Era, Ph.D. diss., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion 1996, 273–348; S. Lafont, Considérations sur la pratique judiciaire en Mésopotamie, in: F. Joannès (ed.), Rendre la justice en Mésopotamie: Archives judiciaires du Proche-Orient ancien (IIIe-Ier millénaires avant J.-C.), Saint-Denis 2000, (15–34) 16–18; and R. Westbrook, Judges in the Cuneiform Sources, Maarav 12, 2005, 27–39.

3 See, e.g., the comments in F.R. Magdalene, On the Scales of Righteousness: Neo-Babylonian Trial Law and the Book of Job, BJS 348, Providence 2007, 62–65.

4 In many respects, then, this study largely agrees with the conclusions set forth in T.M. Willis, The Elders of the City: A Study of the Elders-Laws in Deuteronomy, SBLMS 55, Atlanta 2001, 36–50. He even uses the term “complementary” (p. 35) to describe the relationship between the judicial roles of both groups. The study differs from Willis' work, first, in that the comparative evidence it adduces from the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods was left unexplored for the most part in his book: he discusses the Neo-Babylonian judicial system in a single paragraph (p. 77). Secondly, this study takes a different approach to the source-critical discussion of Deuteronomy's laws and the implication of that methodology for the issue at hand. For other, general treatments of the topic of elders, see J. Buchholz, Die Ältesten Israels im Deuteronomium, GTA 36, Göttingen 1988; and H. Reviv, The Elders in Ancient Israel, Jerusalem 1989 (but see the critique of Reviv in L.J. Hoppe, review of Reviv, JBL 110, 1991, 132–134).

5 The non-biblical codes can all be classified as cuneiform codes. They are: the Laws of Ur-Namma (LU), the Laws of Lipit-Ishtar (LL), the Laws of Eshnunna (LE), the Laws of Hammurabi (LH), the Hittite Laws (HL), the Middle Assyrian Laws (MAL), and the Neo-Babylonian Laws (NBL). For a detailed discussion of the law-code tradition, see R. Westbrook, Biblical and Cuneiform Law Codes, RB 92, 1985, 247–265.

6 For criticism of this point of view, see G. Ries, review of B. Wells, The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes, ZSSR 125, 2008, 739–743. For an overview of a variety of views, cf. S. Jackson, A Comparison of Ancient Near Eastern Law Collections Prior to the First Millennium, Gorgias Dissertations 34, Piscataway, NJ 2008, 37–115.

7 R. Westbrook, Codification and Canonization, in: E. Lévy (ed.), La Codification des lois dans l'antiquité, Paris 2000, 33–47. As E. Otto states, “Daß gelegentlich im Rechtsverkehr der Rechtssammlung des Hammurapi entsprechend verfahren wurde … sagt nichts über einen juristisch-präskriptiven Charakter dieser Rechtssammlung aus, da sie — und darüber besteht kein Zweifel — geltende Rechtspraxis reflektiert. Die überwiegende Zahl der Fälle aber, in denen abweichend von dieser Rechtssammlung entschieden und gehandelt wurde, schließt eine normative Funktion aus” (Die Rechtshermeneutik des Pentateuch und die achämenidische Rechtsideologie in ihren altorientalischen Kontexten, in: M. Witte und M.T. Fögen [eds.], Kodifizierung und Legitimierung des Rechts in der Antike und im Alten Orient, BZAR 5, Wiesbaden 2005, [71–116] 77 n. 28).

8 F.R. Kraus, Ein Zentrales Problem des altmesopotamischen Rechts: Was ist der Codex Hammurabi?, Genava 8, 1960, 283–296; and J. Bottéro, The “Code” of Hammurabi, in: Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods, trans. Z. Bahrani and M. van de Mieroop, Chicago 1992, 156–184.

9 See C. Locher, Deuteronomium 22,13–21: Vom Prozeßprotokoll zum kasuistischen Gesetz, in: N. Lohfink (ed.), Das Deuteronomium: Entstehung, Gestalt und Botschaft, Leuven 1985, 298–303.

10 R. Westbrook, The Nature and Origins of the Twelve Tables, ZSSR 105, 1988, (74–121) 90–93.

11 See Otto, Rechtshermeneutik (see n. 7); cf. J.J. Finkelstein, Ammisaduqa's Edict and the Babylonian “Law Codes,” JCS 15, 1961, 91–104.

12 See, e.g., M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, Oxford 1972, 283–296.

13 See the comments of E. Otto, Das Gesetz des Mose, Darmstadt 2007, 147.

14 M. Jursa, Neo-Babylonian Legal and Administrative Documents: Typology, Contents and Archives, Guides to the Mesopotamian Textual Record 1, Münster 2005, 1–3. I am using the term “Neo-Babylonian” here, not in a strictly historical sense to refer to the time of the Neo-Babylonian empire, but in a linguistic and cultural sense to refer to the time of those texts written in the Neo-Babylonian dialect of Akkadian; see F. Joannès, Les textes judiciaires néo-babyloniens, in: F. Joannès (ed.), Rendre la justice en Mésopotamie: Archives judiciaires du Proche-Orient ancien (IIIe—Ier millénaires avant J.-C.), Saint-Denis 2000, (201–239) 201–202. While this period is sometimes taken to be the entire first millennium B.C.E., most of these texts come from the late seventh through the early fifth centuries, and it is this more limited time period on which I am focusing.

15 A date for the composition of the Covenant Code cannot be fixed with any certainty, though a reasonable dating would be in the eighth or seventh century and prior to the first edition of Deuteronomy; see Otto, Rechtshermeneutik (see n. 7), 91. As for the dating of the major sections and editions of Deuteronomy, more will be said below, specifically concerning the views of E. Otto and K. van der Toorn. They represent the majority view to which I subscribe and that attributes the first major edition of Deuteronomy to the late seventh century (the late pre-exilic period). See E. Otto, Gottes Recht als Menschenrecht: Rechts- und literaturhistorische Studien zum Deuteronomium, BZAR 2, Wiesbaden 2002, 5–19, 29–35, 38–56; and K. van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, Cambridge, Mass. 2007, 143–55. There remains, however, a degree of debate in this regard, as some scholars wish to date the first edition later, in the exilic or post-exilic period. For a concise discussion of the issue, see A.C. Hagedorn, Between Moses and Plato. Individual and Society in Deuteronomy and Ancient Greek Law, FRLANT 204, Göttingen 2004, 3–14. See also n. 72 below.

16 The vast amount of data they provide helps to compensate for their archival nature. Most Neo-Babylonian legal texts come either from two major temple archives (the Eanna temple in Uruk and the Ebabbar temple in Sippar) or from the archives of several major business families. See M. Jursa, Legal and Administrative Documents (see n. 9), 60–152. Although this could raise questions regarding the degree to which they provide adequate representation of their period's legal practice, they provide more than sufficient evidence on which to base conclusions. See S.E. Holtz, Neo-Babylonian Court Procedure, Cuneiform Monographs 38, Leiden/Boston 2009, 1–5, 17–20.

17 Cf. B.S. Jackson, Wisdom-Laws: A Study of the Mishpatim of Exodus 21:1–22:16, Oxford 2006, 45–59. The omission of explicitly named judicial authorities is part of what leads Jackson to characterize the laws of the Covenant Code as self-executing. In their initial form, he argues, these legal traditions simply lighted the way for parties to resolve disputes on their own, without third-party intervention. Given this particular code's extensive links with the larger law-code tradition of the ancient Near East, however, this conclusion is not compelling, since, should Jackson be right, the Covenant Code would present a decided anomaly in this respect within that tradition. See further, R. Tomes, Home-Grown or Imported? An Examination of Bernard Jackson's Wisdom Laws, ZAR 14, 2008, 443–462. Cf. the response in B.S. Jackson, Response to Roger Tomes: Home Grown or Imported?, ZAR 14, 2008, 525–531.

18 The term cannot mean human judges. See B.M. Levinson, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation, New York 1997, 112 n. 37.

19 There is a neighboring narrative (Exod 18:13–27) that describes the appointment of officials who “judged the people” (Exod 18:26), but this seems to have had no affect on the code itself.

20 All of these references, except the mention of elders in Deut 21:2, are specifically to city elders.

21 A. Rofé argues that the “officers” were civilians — namely, state scribes — who played a role in the military draft (Deut 20:5–9). He goes on to say that the phrase “judges and officers” in Deut 16:18 is a hendiadys that identifies a single concept: “judges who belong to the professional status of ‘scribes,’ that is the status of royal officials.” See his The Organization of the Judiciary in Deuteronomy, in Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation, London 2002, (103–119) 108–109 (quote on 109). This seems rather speculative. That each term is used in isolation from the other in passages beyond Deut 16:18 implies that they are indeed separate offices. The omission of the term for “officers” from other judicial texts, therefore, is striking.

22 There is a longstanding consensus that Deut 21:5 is a later addition to the law in which it now stands. See, e.g., C. Steuernagel, Deuteronomium und Josua, Handkommentar zum Alten Testament, Göttingen 1900, 78; and E. Nielsen, Deuteronomium, Handbuch zum Alten Testament I/6, Tübingen 1995, 204.

23 The judicial authority of judges may also be at issue in Deut 21:2. But in that text, about murder by an unknown assailant, they do not appear to rule on a specific case. Rather, they are part of the group of officials who determine which local community has jurisdiction over the case at hand.

24 Some scholars would certainly take exception to this point, and it will be discussed in more detail below.

25 See, e.g., Rofé, Organization of the Judiciary (see n. 21), 105–106, along with the literature he cites. See also below for discussion of the views most relevant to the present study.

26 I wish to bracket, for the purposes of the present study, the question of the judicial role of the levitical priests in Deuteronomy. Various views have appeared in the scholarly literature with no obvious consensus. For discussion and citations of relevant literature, see R. Achenbach, Levitische Priester und Leviten im Deuteronomium: Überlegungen zur sog. “Levitisierung” des Priestertums, ZAR 5, 1999, 285–309.

27 This is the position taken by, among others, H. Niehr, Rechtsprechung in Israel: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Gerichtsorganisation im Alten Testament, SBS 130, Stuttgart 1987, 96–97; Levinson, Legal Innovation (see n. 18), 124–127 (with a discussion of other positions and citations of other literature); and Rofé, Organization of the Judiciary (see n. 21).

28 For this view, see J.C. Gertz, Die Gerichtsorganisation Israels im deuteronomischen Gesetz, FRLANT 165, Göttingen 1993, 173–225; cf. Otto's review of Gertz, where Otto states: “Nur wenn sich ein literarischer Zusammenhang zwischen den Bezugsgrößen der ‘Ältesten Israels’ im Rahmen und der Stadtältesten im Gesetz aufzeigen ließe, könnte die dtr Spätdatierung der Ältestengesetze überzeugen” (ThLZ 121, 1996, [1130–1133] 1132–1133). Otto does not think that such a connection exists.

29 See, e.g., M. Weinfeld, Elders, in: Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 6, 1972, 578–80; E. Otto, ša'ar, in: TWAT vol. 8, 1995, (358–403) 375–376; and Willis, The Elders-Laws (see n. 4), 35–50. Buchholz takes a somewhat different tack (Ältesten Israels [see n. 4], 99–100). He believes that, during the monarchical period, city elders were the principal authority for administering justice at the local level. They may have cooperated at times with state officials (śārîm), but the idea of professional judges came later.

30 F.R. Magdalene, On the Scales (see n. 3), 56.

31 F.R. Magdalene, On the Scales (see n. 3), 59–65.

32 Holtz, Neo-Babylonian Court Procedure (see n. 16), 267–268.

33 For cases with only judges, see, e.g., Nbn. 13, Nbn. 720 (= TCL 13 219), and Wunsch Urkunden 46. For these and other Assyriological abbreviations, see the end of this article.

34 E.g., Cyr. 312 and Wunsch Urkunden 45.

35 On RA 41 102 and BE 8/1 29, see M.A. Dandamaev, The Neo-Babylonian Elders, in: M.A. Dandamaev et al. (eds.), Societies and Languages of the Ancient Near East: Studies in Honour of I.M. Diakonoff, Warminster 1982, 38–41. On the third text, see M. Jursa, Das Archiv des Bēl-rēmanni, PIHANS 86, Leiden 1999, 128–129.

36 See M.A. Dandamaev, Slavery in Babylonia: From Nabopolassar to Alexander the Great (626–331 BC), translated by V. Powell, DeKalb, Ill. 1984, 166–167.

37 The same observation applies for the most part to city elders in previous periods, who also possessed judicial authority. See, e.g., the following Old Babylonian documents: CT 48 2, JCS 23 29 (no. 1), Meissner BAP 80 (where both judges and elders rule together), YOS 2 50, and YOS 8 1. For more on Old Babylonian city elders, see A. Seri, Local Power in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia, Studies in Egyptology and the Ancient Near East, London 2006, 126–134.

38 On this use of malāku, see C. Wunsch, “Und die Richter berieten …”: Streitfälle in Babylon aus der Zeit Neriglissars und Nabonids, AfO 44/45, 1997–1998, 59–100.

39 Cf. A.C.V.M. Bongenaar, The Neo-Babylonian Ebabbar Temple at Sippar: Its Administration and Its Prosopography, Leiden 1997, 19.

40 RA 41 102, Wunsch Urkunden 42.

41 Of a slave: BE 8/1 29, Cyr. 332. Of a house: Wunsch Urkunden 48. Of prebends: Jursa Bēl-rēmanni 128–129.

42 Dalley Edinburgh 69.

43 Cyr. 328 and 329.

44 Camb. 412.

45 See, e.g., Nbn. 356 for an inheritance dispute; AfO 44/45 76 (no. 5) and Nbn. 1113 for disputes over rightful ownership; Cyr. 312, Dalley Edinburgh 69, and AuOr 17/18 254 (= BM 113908) for disputes relating to marriage and dowry issues; YOS 7 161 for a case of theft; and Nbn. 13 and Nbn. 1128 for commercial disputes. See also the cases discussed by Wunsch, Streitfälle (see n. 38).

46 One group of elders is, in fact, referred to as an “assembly” in Camb. 85. This group is not, however, identified as elders of a particular city but as “the elders of the Egyptians.” See Dandamaev, Elders (see n. 35), 38. For more on assemblies, see M.A. Dandamaev, The Neo-Babylonian Popular Assembly, in: P. Vavroušek and V. Souček (eds.), šulmu: Papers on the Ancient Near East Presented at International Conference of Socialist Countries, Prague 30 September to 3 October, 1986, Prague 1988, 63–71.

47 See the discussion in Magdalene, On the Scales (see n. 3), 61–62.

48 The texts are discussed in Holtz, Neo-Babylonian Court Procedure (see n. 16), 85–89.

49 It is worth noting that the Neo-Babylonian texts that I have cited span most of the period from which the majority of the extant records come. Those that show elders exercising judicial authority come from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (BE 8/1 29 and Wunsch Urkunden 42) and extend to the reign of Cambyses (Camb. 412). Those with judges come from the reign of Neriglissar (AuOr 17/18 254 and Wunsch Urkunden 46) and also extend to that of Cambyses (YOS 7 161).

50 See the comments of van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 10), 144–149 and the literature that he cites.

51 It would be difficult and certainly beyond the scope of this study to attempt a comprehensive discussion of scholarly views on source-critical issues in Deuteronomy. The literature is vast and far from univocal. As van der Toorn puts it, “The unanimity about the complex history of the book translates into a bewildering diversity of opinion as to the details of its making” (Scribal Culture [see n. 10], 144). I seek only to construct a reasonable basis on which to build my conclusions regarding Deuteronomy's laws.

52 Otto, Gottes Recht (see n. 15), 11–12.

53 As is the convention among a number of scholars, Otto employs an asterisk (*) following a biblical reference to indicate that the material identified by that reference may not all come from the same source. Here, then, the asterisk with 12:13–27 indicates Otto's belief that this passage contains some material that was added after most of the passage had initially been composed.

54 He also excludes the later law in 18:9–22, governing divination and prophecy. On both this text and the law of the king, see E. Otto, Das Deuteronomium im Pentateuch und Hexateuch: Studien zur Literaturgeschichte von Pentateuch und Hexateuch im Lichte des Deuteronomiumrahmens, FAT 30, Tübingen 2000, 123; id., Das Gesetz des Mose (see n. 13), 141–143.

55 Otto, Gottes Recht (see n. 15), 29 n. 119; id., Deuteronomium im Pentateuch (see n. 54), 110 n. 6.

56 Otto, Deuteronomium im Pentateuch (see n. 54), 113.

57 Otto, Deuteronomium im Pentateuch (see n. 54), 129–155; id., Gottes Recht (see n. 15), 33–34.

58 Otto, Gottes Recht (see n. 15), 34.

59 For his detailed arguments regarding these two redactions, see Otto, Deuteronomium im Pentateuch (see n. 54).

60 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 144, 149. Cf. Levinson's critique of a so-called “block model” interpretation of Deuteronomy's structure and redactional history (Legal Innovation [see n. 18], 99), but note that van der Toorn's proposal is somewhat different from the model that Levinson criticizes.

61 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 149.

62 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 148. While this assertion certainly makes a great deal of sense, one wonders how van der Toorn would explain the prevalence of theological motive clauses (e.g., ûbi'artā hārā’ miqqirbekā) in Deuteronomy's laws, scattered as they are throughout sections of his Covenant Edition and his Torah Edition. The best explanation may be to attribute these to a single editor who inserted the clauses as he penned his new edition.

63 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 157–159.

64 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 154.

65 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 158.

66 E. Otto, The History of the Legal-Religious Hermeneutics of the Book of Deuteronomy from the Assyrian to the Hellenistic Period, in: A.C. Hagedorn and R.G. Kratz (eds.), Law and Religion in the Mediterranean World, Oxford forthcoming, at n. 48.

67 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 160–162.

68 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 163.

69 van der Toorn, Scribal Culture (see n. 15), 151.

70 See, e.g., S. Kaufman, The Structure of the Deuteronomic Law, Maarav 1/2, 1978–79, 105–58. G. Braulik, Die deuteronomischen Gesetze und der Dekalog: Studien zum Aufbau von Deuteronomium 12–26, SBS 145, Stuttgart 1991; H. Seebass, Vorschlag zur Vereinfachung literarischer Analysen im dtn Gesetz, BN 58, 1991, 83–98; E. Otto, Soziale Verantwortung und Reinheit des Landes: Zur Redaktion der kasuistischen Rechtssätze in Deuteronomium 19–25, in: Kontinuum und Proprium: Studien zur Sozial- und Rechtsgeschichte des Alten Orients und des Alten Testaments, OBC 8, Wiesbaden 1996, 123–138; and V. Wagner, Die Systematik der deuteronomischen Normensammlung im Bereich Dtn 19 bis 25, ZAR 12, 2006, 52–71.

71 Another suggested set of interpolations is the references to levitical priests; see, e.g., R. Achenbach, Israel zwischen Verheißung und Gebot: Literarkritische Untersuchungen zu Deuteronomium 5–11, Europäische Hochschulschriften Reihe XXIII (Theologie) Band 422, Frankfurt am Main 1991, 375. But these, too, could have come from a single production event.

72 For recent affirmations of this view, see B.M. Levinson, Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel, Cambridge 2008, 82–83; N. Na'aman, Sojourners and Levites in the Kingdom of Judah in the Seventh Century BCE, ZAR 14, 2008, 243–248; and K. Sparks, God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship, Grand Rapids 2008, 88–97.

73 Contra Gertz, Gerichtsorganisation (see n. 28), 173–225. See below for further discussion of Gertz's work and my critique.

74 See Gertz, Gerichtsorganisation (see n. 28), 82–97.

75 Gertz, Gerichtsorganisation (see n. 28), 174.

76 See, among others, A.F. Puukko, Das Deuteronomium: Eine literarkritische Untersuchung, BWAT 5, Leipzig 1910, 251; M. David, Die Bestimmungen über die Asylstädte in Josua XX, OTS 9, 1951, 30–48; G. Nebeling, Die Schichten des deuteronomischen Gesetzeskorpus: Eine traditions- und redaktionsgeschichtliche Analyse von Dtn 12–26, Ph.D. diss., Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (Münster) 1970, 155; Buchholz, Ältesten Israels (see n. 4), 72–73; A. Rofé, The History of the Cities of Refuge in: Biblical Law, in Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation, London 2002, (121–147), 139; and J. Stackert, Rewriting the Torah: Literary Revision in Deuteronomy and the Holiness Legislation, FAT 52, Tübingen 2007, 77–78.

77 Gertz, Gerichtsorganisation (see n. 28), 139–140. He believes it is the judges installed at the asylum city who rule on the case. As far as I know, no one else offers quite the same assessment of this issue as Gertz. M. Staszak comes close in his opinion that city elders functioned primarily as an administrative (i.e., nonjudicial) body, but he ultimately remains agnostic: “Die rechtsprechende Körperschaft bleibt in unserem Text also ungenannt.” See his Die Asylstädte im Alten Testament: Realität und Fiktivität eines Rechtsinstituts, ÄAT 65, Wiesbaden 2006, 250–252 (quote on 251).

78 J. Stackert, Rewriting the Torah (see n. 76), 99–100. The city elders in Joshua, however, are those of the asylum city rather than those of the perpetrator's hometown.

79 The texts are RS 17.146, 17.230, 18.115, 20.22, and Ugaritica V no. 27. For scholarly treatments, see A. Jirku, Drei Fälle von Haftpflicht im altorientalischen Palästina-Syrien und Deuteronomium cap. 21, ZAW 79, 1967, 359–60; P.E. Dion, Deutéronome 21,1–9: Miroir du développement légal et religieux d'Israël, SR 11, 1982, (13–22) 16–19; and P. Barmash, Homicide in the Biblical World, Oxford 2005, 184–198.

80 A judicial role for city elders in Deut 21:1–9 is also supported by the analysis in Stackert, Rewriting the Torah (see n. 76), 51 n. 48.

81 Gertz, Gerichtsorganisation (see n. 28), 138–140, 167.

82 E. Otto, Das Deuteronomium: Politische Theologie und Rechtsreform in Juda und Assyrien, BZAW 284, Berlin 1999, 227; see also id., Soziale Verantwortung (see n. 70), 133.

83 On the insertion of motive clauses and the like into these laws, see, with relevant literature, Otto, Soziale Verantwortung (see n. 70), 125–126.

84 G. Seitz, Redaktionsgeschichtliche Studien zum Deuteronomium, BWANT 93, Stuttgart 1971, 111.

85 “Einige andere Gesetze zeigen vereinzelte Formabweichungen, die aber so gering sind, daß ihre Zugehörigkeit zur kasuistischen Gattung keinem Zweifel unterliegt” (Seitz, Deuteronomium [see n. 84], 111).

86 Excluding motive clauses and similar statements, the law in Deut 19:16–19a contains one second-person form: wa'ăśîtem in v. 19. But several LXX manuscripts render the verb here as καὶ ποιήσεται, indicating a probable passive form and thus a third-person form in their Vorlage. The law in Deut 22:23–27 has the most second person forms at three: wĕhôṣētem and ûsĕqaltem in v. 24; and ta ‘ăśěh in v. 26. The law in Deut 25:1–3 has two: ‘āḥîkā and lĕ'ēněkā in the very last phrase of the law in v. 3. And the law in Deut 25:11–12 has one: wĕqaṣṣōtāh in v. 12.

87 There are a variety of proposals for the Grundschicht of this text. Otto identifies 19:2, 3b, 4–6, and 10–13 as the “dtn Grundschicht” (Deuteronomium: Politische Theologie [see n. 82], 27). Gertz selects a more limited section for his Grundschicht: 19:2a, 3b, 4, 5b, 6, and 11–12 (Gerichtsorganisation [see n. 28], 118–127). Stackert limits it even more but in a different sense (Rewriting the Torah [see n. 76], 38–47). He argues that verses 3b-6 and 11–12 are the sections of this law that make use of (sometimes quoting, sometimes revising) the source material that the Deuteronomic authors had at their disposal — namely, the Covenant Code. He goes on to point out that these particular verses are the only ones from this Deuteronomic law that are formulated entirely in the third person. It is second-person formulations that mark where the authors freely composed. He concludes: “The changes in grammatical person and legal style mark the shift from dependence upon source material to original composition” (Rewriting the Torah [see n. 76], 47). While I reserve judgement as to whether it is indeed the Covenant Code that provides the source material in this instance (Stackert's claim for Deuteronomy's reliance on the Covenant Code at this point is not at all new, but he makes one of the strongest cases for it to date), Stackert's identification of a source-informed layer within this law is insightful. It coincides in large measure with Seitz's Grundschicht (vv. 4–5 and 11–12), which I accept as the most original form of the law that the text makes use of. In what follows, then, I limit my focus to these verses. This means, however, that the Deuteronomic text has not preserved the casuistic introductory clause (or clauses) of its source law, and it would be too speculative to attempt a reconstruction thereof.

88 G. Seitz, Deuteronomium (see n. 84), 113.

89 The reference to “your brother” at the end of this law (Deut 25:3) may be part of a “BruderSchicht” that was added to Deuteronomy after the original composition of this law and its initial inclusion in the Deuteronomic Code. On this point, see L. Perlitt, Deuteronomium-Studien, FAT 8, Tübingen 1994, 60; and C. Levin, Das Deuteronomium und der Jahwist, in: R.G. Kratz and H. Spieckermann (eds.), Liebe und Gebot: Studien zum Deuteronomium, FRLANT 190, Göttingen 2000, 121–136.

90 In all fairness, I must admit that I have to play some with the first law in this collection (Deut 19:4–5+11–12) in order to have its “opening phrase” fit in with the others. Because we no longer have what I believe was the base law's original opening phrase (see n. 87 above), I have opted instead to use the opening phrase of the second half of the law that begins not simply with kî but with waw + kî and is thus marked as a sub-law within the larger one where it now stands.

91 On these words as the law's original opening phrase, see Seitz, Deuteronomium (see n. 84), 115–116.

92 Laws 7 and 12 are listed twice, since they match both with law 3 and with law 9.

93 The law that comes the closest is in Deut 21:22–23. It opens with kî yihyěh but then inserts bĕ rather than lĕ before ‘îš. In addition, the subject of the verb hāyâ in both Deut 21:15 and Deut 21:18 identifies a family member, whereas ‘îš ḥēṭ is the subject in Deut 21:22. Another law with an opening phrase that partially resembles one of the formulations in the list is in Deut 17:2–7. It begins with kî yimmaṣē’, but that phrase is followed by bĕqirbĕkā rather than ‘îš or the subject of yimmāṣē’.

94 Also comparable to Deut 21:1–7 are the treaties and letters from Ugarit that deal with this same issue. On this material, see n. 79 above.

95 There is no direct counterpart to this law in the cuneiform codes. On the traditional nature of laws that exempt men in similar situations, however, see the comments in R. Westbrook, The Trial Scene in the Iliad, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 94, 1992, (53–76) 65–66.

96 Some scholars might be quick to point out that one of these law codes had to be the Covenant Code in Exodus. While they may be right, it is not my intention here to examine the relationship between the laws in Deuteronomy and those of the Covenant Code. I would merely point out that it is highly improbable for all of these laws to have been drawn from the Covenant Code, even if one posits that a more extended version of the Covenant Code than what we have today was available to the authors of Deuteronomy.

97 If one rejects my proposal, the evidence still affirms the origination of these fifteen laws within the same sort of scribal activities that have given us the other law codes, both biblical and cuneiform. The scribes who produced the first edition of Deuteronomy may have been engaged in such activities and combined that work with the other material that they used for this edition.

98 See n. 29 above.


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