[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53 read within the book as a whole

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Thu May 27 19:21:47 EDT 2004

Dear Peter et. al.,
By "written law" I mean a concept whereby judges (or police or
lawyers or just judges) make decisions based on a written 
set of laws. This did not exist in Mesopotamia (and still doesn't)
and did not exist in Egypt until the Ptolemies at the earliest.
Of course there were instances of just decrees, which is what
Hammurabi's Code is, but that is not the same thing. There is
no case in which judges cited HC when making a decision, and there
are thousands of court cases which deal with topics covered
by the Code. These cases are decided in ways that have nothing
to do with what's in the codes. Further, when royal edicts are
made that contradict HC, the code is not updated to take account of
the edict. The code was irrelevant to the life of the people. This
is the same as with the Torah. They didn't constitute laws as
we know them. You can read my article for examples of all this,
this is well-known to Assyriologists. You Shall Appoint Judges:  Ezra's
Mission and the Rescript of Artaxerxes, in J. W. Watts, Persia and Torah:
The Theory of Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch, SBL Symposium Series
(Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001): 63-89.
Redford has an interesting article in the volume on law codes in
Egypt. There is also a discussion in Bottero, Writing, Reasoning, and the

> >
> Liz, you have done a nice job of setting up a straw man and shooting it
> down. Of course there was no Roman style legal system in the Persian or
> earlier periods, as that would be an anachronism. No one has ever
> claimed that there was. But each of these periods had its own form of
> written law. Hammurabi's code is written law. So is Leviticus. So are
> some Egyptian texts. If there are no surviving Persian texts, that's
> probably because they wrote them on perishable material, for there is
> certainly evidence of written decrees, as in all the Persian period
> Bible books. Just because they are not Roman style written laws, that
> does not imply that they are not written laws. Of course that is not to
> say that law was restricted to what is written down, any more than it is
> in England and the USA today where common law is still unwritten. But
> did anyone ever claim such a restriction?
> --
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/

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