Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

Jonathan D. Safren yon_saf at
Sun Jan 27 02:52:21 EST 2002

Re: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..Dear Liz,

    {LSF} Hasn't  Ray Westbrook discussed this? 

I'm not acquainted with Ray Westbrook's study. Could you please give me the particulars?

>[JDS] I haven't seen a single apodictic law in any of the ANE law codes. In the treaties, the apodictic formulation is not in laws but >in treqaty stipulations: "With my friends you shall be friend

>[LSF] I think there are some, but they refer to taxes, or anduarums, or something like that.

[JDS] I think you're referring to the "price lists" at the beginning of Ur-Nammu. They are statements, or economic tariffs, not apodictic laws.

>>>As for the ANE codes, they serve to demonstrate the justness of the monarch (cf. the intro. and conclusion to CH). \legal->>administrative documents from the same places and periods demonstrate that the actual legal practices were different.

>>[LSF] The same is here as well, only I suppose the monarch is YHWH.

>[JDS] Where does it say that YHWH is giving thelaws/covenant because he is just?  

>[LSF] Right. I don't think it says it anywhere, but isn' t that the conclusion you're supposed
to draw. Indeed, that's the conclusion Rolf has drawn.

[JDS] I prefer to take the overt statements in the Torah at face value, as I do the intro. and conclusion to the CH. And the overt statements refer to chooding Israel to make it His people, to his love of Israel, to the righteousness of the Patriarchs, etc. The justness of God is mentioned many times in the bible, but never as the reason for grantng the covenant.

>>>[LSF] No murder isn't always punished by death, cf Exodus 21:20. No punishment is listed. How do you translate naqom >>>yenaqem?

>>[JDS] He shall be avenged. Blood vengeance, meanng the death penalty. In other words, a slave is worthy of blood vengeance >>just as is a free man. That;s the punishment. Casuistic law always has a sanction.

>[LSF} I'm not sure about this.It seems if so, then it would say mut, yamut. I don't think a punishment,
>except what is avenged by God, i/e., if he has an accedental death. But there is no punishment 
>assigned. The slave was his property, and the presumption is you don't purposely destroy
>your own property. So the assumption probably is that you can't murder your own slave
>(Like you can't rape your wife?), so that there is no death penalty.

The death penalty is mentioned elsewhere in the Covenant Code without using the term "mot yamut". 
Ex. 22:1) If the thief is discovered while breaking in (at night) and he is smitten and dies, he has no blood [revenge]. 
2a) If the sun shone upon him (i.e., if he was discovered and killed in daylight), he has blood [revenge].

(2b continues the law begun in 22:37. The principle of associative organization of the laws is operating here, as pointed out by Cassuto many years ago.)

So both in Ex. 22:20 and in 23:2-3. terms other than "mot yamut" are used for the death penalty, indicating in both cases who was to carry out the death penalty - as also in 22:12-14.

As for the presumption of a slave-owner not destroying his own property, this indeed is operative in 22:21, where the slave smitten by his master does not die immediately, but several days afterwards. Here, the cause-and-effect relationship between the blows inflicted by the master and the death of the slave is no longer unambiguous, and the master is given the benefit of the doubt. 
The principle of benefit of the doubt is still used in halakhic "pesiqa le-qula" .
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
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