Prescriptive law writings rarely mirror the ways a society practices law, a fact that raises special problems for the social and legal historian. Through close analysis of the laws of bailment (i.e., temporary safekeeping) in Exodus 22, Yael Landman probes the relationship of law in the biblical law collections and law-in-practice in ancient Israel and exposes a vision of divine justice at the heart of pentateuchal law. Landman further demonstrates that ancient Near Eastern bailment laws continue to influence postbiblical Jewish law. This book advances an approach to the study of biblical law that connects pentateuchal and ancient Near Eastern law collections, biblical narrative and prophecy, and Mesopotamian legal documents and joins philological and comparative analysis with humanistic legal approaches, in order to access how people thought about and practiced law in ancient Israel.
Yael Landman is Lecturer in Biblical Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania.