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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 225 Reviews RECHTSPRECHUNG IN ISRAEL: UNTERSUCHUNGEN ZUR GESCHICHTE DER GERICHTSORGANISATION 1M ALTEN TESTAMENT. By Herbert Niehr. Stuttgarter Bibelstudien 130. Pp. 144. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1987. Paper. Niehr's book deals with one aspect of the legal system of ancient Israel: the judicial authorities. His brief comparative survey of legal institutions in ancient Mesopotamia, Mari, and Ugarit is followed by a more detailed sketch of the judicial authorities in Israel. Although he comments briefly on priestly jurisdiction and the legal position of the pater /amilias, Niehr concentrates on three issues: (a) What do we know about judicial authority in pre-state Israel? (b) What was the position of the king and royal judges in the system of jurisdiction? (c) What was the function of elders, lineage heads, and the assembly of citizens in local jurisdiction? As for pre-state Israel, Niehr has a healthy critical attitude toward the alleged existence of tribal judges. Unfortunately, however, he is not critical enough and actually indulges in speculating about the involvement of elders, priests, and the pater/amilias with jurisdiction. He boldly implies a pre-state date of a number of rules codified in the Covenant Code. This assumption leads him to follow Gerhard Liedke's somewhat artificial comment on Exod 21:12, "Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death" (Gestalt und Bezeichnung aillestamentlicher Rechtssiitze [Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1971], pp. 133-134). Liedke and Niehr think that this rule tells the pater /amilias to enforce the death penalty in cases of homicide within the family circle; killing someone outside one's lineage would not need this rule but rather set the process of blood-feuding into operation. Why not date the Covenant Code to the period of the monarchy where it belongs and understand Exod 21:12 as a general rule? Niehr's sketch of judicial authorities in pre-state Israel has little to offer to the critical reader. He is more successful in dealing with the contribution of the monarchy. According to Niehr, King Jehoshaphat's reform (ca. 877/53 B.C.E.; 2 Chr 19), although considered by W. F. Albright and others to be a basic fact of Israelite legal history, must be relegated to the realm of fiction. There were no royal judges before King Josiah's reform in the late seventh century B.C.E. Even before that reform, however, both the king and some of his officials decided cases that had to do with administrative matters and state-owned property. Josiah's judges were officials who functioned along with the local elders and had to supervise the Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 226 Reviews execution of punishment (Deut 25:1-3) rather than arbitrate or decide about guilt. The oldest institution wielding judicial authority was the group of the "elders," and Niehr sees it flourishing during the Exile for the last time (Ezek 8:1; Jer 29:1). Then the elders were supplanted by the "lineage heads" (Ezra 10:16) or acted along with (Ruth 4) "the assembly" (?iTp, iT,.u)-the latter institution apparently to be identified as the assembly of the adult male citizens. I wonder whether Niehr is justified in distinguishing among elders, lineage heads, and the assembly. Perhaps one should take these expressions as designations of essentially the same group of leaders, of men of rank and influence whose leadership was vaguely defined (as Max Weber's "traditional" authority tends to be) and whose composition varied. Niehr's study reminds us how little we know about ancient Israel's legal institutions. As a survey containing a good bibliography-to which we can now add Niehr's own "Grundziige der Forschung zur Gerichtsorganisation Israels" (Biblische Zeitschrift 31 [1987]:206-227); Joachim Buchholz, Die Altesten Israels im Deuteronomium (GlSttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988); and Hanoch Reviv, The Elders in Ancient Israel (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1989)-it will be the obvious starting point for scholars who try their hand at elucidating an important subject of biblical studies. Bernhard Lang University ofPaderborn D-4790 Paderborn. West Germany THE CONFESSIONS OF JEREMIAH: THEIR INTERPRETATION AND ROLE IN CHAPTERS 1-25. By Kathleen M. O'Connor. SBL Dissertation Series 94. Pp...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 225-226
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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