Inventing God's Law: How the Covenant Code of the Bible Used and Revised the Laws of Hammurabi

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Overview

Most scholars believe that the numerous similarities between the Covenant Code (Exodus 20:23-23:19) and Mesopotamian law collections, especially the Laws of Hammurabi, which date to around 1750 BCE, are due to oral tradition that extended from the second to the first millennium. This book offers a fundamentally new understanding of the Covenant Code, arguing that it depends directly and primarily upon the Laws of Hammurabi and that the use of this source text occurred during the Neo-Assyrian period, sometime between 740-640 BCE, when Mesopotamia exerted strong and continuous political and cultural influence over the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and a time when the Laws of Hammurabi were actively copied in Mesopotamia as a literary-canonical text. The study offers significant new evidence demonstrating that a model of literary dependence is the only viable explanation for the work. It further examines the compositional logic used in transforming the source text to produce the Covenant Code, thus providing a commentary to the biblical composition from the new theoretical perspective. This analysis shows that the Covenant Code is primarily a creative academic work rather than a repository of laws practiced by Israelites or Judeans over the course of their history. The Covenant Code, too, is an ideological work, which transformed a paradigmatic and prestigious legal text of Israel's and Judah's imperial overlords into a statement symbolically countering foreign hegemony. The study goes further to study the relationship of the Covenant Code to the narrative of the book of Exodus and explores how this may relate to the development of the Pentateuch as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An excellent repository of research on the CC [Covenant Code] and the LH [Laws of Hammurabi]. In sum, this work is controversial in the best sense of the word: it will surely stimulate debate on the comparative method in studying not only the CC and LH but other texts as well."—The Catholic Biblical Quarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195304756
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/11/2009
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Professor of Bible and Ancient Near East, Brandeis University

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Basic Thesis and Background

Part I: Primary Evidence for Dependence: Sequential Correspondences and Date
2. The Casuistic Laws
3. The Apodictic Laws
4. Date and Opportunity for the Use of Hammurabi's and Other Cuneiform Laws

Part II: Compositional Logic of the Covenant Code
5. Debt-Slavery and the Seduction of a Maiden (Exodus 21:2-11; 22:15-16)
6. Homicide, Injury, Miscarriage, Talion (Exodus 21:12, 18-27)
7. Child Rebellion, Kidnapping, Sorcery, Bestiality, Illicit Sacrifice (Exodus 21:12-17; 22:17-19)
8. The Goring Ox and Negligence (Exodus 21:28-36)
9. Animal Theft, Crop Destruction, Deposit, and Burglary (Exodus 21:37-22:8)
10. Animal Injury, Death, and Rental (Exodus 22:9-14)
11. The Themes and Ideology of the Apodictic Laws (Exodus 20:23-26; 21:1; 22:20-23:19)
12. Redactional Growth in the Apodictic Laws and the Covenant Code's Relationship to the Exodus Narrative
13. Conclusions

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