Law and Legal Literature

Bernard M. Levinson, Tina M. Sherman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Scholars believe that the great Near Eastern collections of law were something closer to literary reflections on ethics and ideal forms of social organization. The laws preserved in the Bible were carefully written and edited to align with the religious and cultural values of the authors. However, the biblical texts can be used in combination with actual legal documents and literary collections of law from other ancient Near Eastern cultures to reconstruct, to some extent, the legal structures, practices and ethical thought of ancient Israel. The cuneiform precursors to the biblical law collections provided useful models of literary framing from which the Israelite scribes could draw inspiration. The Decalogue is yet another set of biblical laws that demands explanation. The reuse of the Decalogue helps to anchor Deuteronomy's religious and legal innovations to the tradition of divine revelation at Sinai.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781118774199
ISBN (Print)9780470656778
StatePublished - Dec 12 2015


  • Biblical Law
  • Cultural renewal
  • Decalogue
  • Deuteronomic Law
  • Law collections
  • Legal literature
  • Legal revisions


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