SPECIAL TOPIC: LAWS IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST

A. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 143-144, lists the OT law codes:

1. the Decalogue – Exod. 20:2-17; Deut. 5:6-21

2. the Code of the Covenant – Exod. 20:22-23:33

3. Deuteronomy – Deuteronomy 12-26

4. the Law of Holiness – Leviticus 17-26

5. the Priestly code – Leviticus 1-7, 11-16

All of these are considered Torah. They are specific divine prescriptions on actions and attitudes.

B. Types of Israeli laws

1. Casuistic – laws characterized by the "if. . .then" format. There are consequences to actions. These are usually guidelines for societies.

2. Apodictic – laws stated as general prohibitions (usually second person plural statements - "you shall not. . ."). These are usually guidelines for the spiritual life.

C. Cultural influences

1. in content - earlier law codes

a. Lipit-Ishtar

b. Code of Hammurabi

2. in form – Hittite treaties (Suzerian; see Special Topic: Hittite Treaties), which occur in several set patterns, but Deuteronomy and Joshua 24 follow the pattern of the 2000 B.C. period, which shows its historicity (cf. John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context, pp. 95-107; K.A. Kitchen, The Bible in Its World, pp. 80-95; see introduction to the book, VII.

D. In many ways Israel's laws were similar in form but radically different in content.  Israel had God's revelation, not only about the community's powerful, wealthy, and influential, but abut the poor, powerless, and socially ostracized!  God loves all people!


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