In March 1985, I proposed to Ze'ev Falk the idea of bringing back into print his Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1964). On that occasion, Professor Falk was participating in a blue-ribbon conference at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University on the intersections between religion and law, the papers from which were subsequently published by Eisenbrauns in 1990. I had been using photocopies of Falk's handy book in teaching Biblical Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, and my law students had always found its organization and explanations of ancient legal concepts the most illuminating and accessible of any available introduction to biblical law. In response to my suggestion, Ze'ev was modest, as always, and generously gave his full consent.
Unfortunately, schedules and circumstance would not eventually allow for this new edition to appear during his lifetime. His unexpected death on 19 September 1998 left me lamenting the loss of an esteemed colleague and also regretting the fact that this new edition had not been prepared sooner. With the kind permission of his faithful wife, Mirjam, we have proceeded with this publication. I hope that it does honor to the memory of the author. Undoubtedly, many changes and additions might yet have been made by him in the following pages, but the coherence and quality of the original work, together with the Addenda published by Falk in Diné Israel in 1977 and appended here as a valuable supplement, stand solidly on their own footings.
This book takes a conceptual approach to Hebrew law, organizing this broad subject in terms of ancient legal sources, social institutions, judicial procedure, crime and punishment, property and contracts, personal rights and status, and family relationships from betrothal to inheritance. Because of its thematic arrangement, this presentation speaks both to the selective reader who turns to a page or two in search of specific information and also to the comprehensive student who seeks a wide understanding of the ancient Hebrew legal system.
Drawing primarily on biblical texts, Falk presented the scholar, historian, lawyer, and general student of the Bible with "a readable and useful handbook," as James Purvis wrote in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies (1967). Recognizing that Falk's terse and succinct exposition is sometimes "exasperating," Purvis nevertheless found that this book's "usefulness may well derive from the author's ability to compress a vast amount of data (and their interpretation) within a limited scope," predicting that readers "will be amazed by the wealth of material treated and will undoubtedly profit by the author's trenchant insights" (67). Many other reviewers concurred with this assessment. Writing in the Journal of Semitic Studies (1966), Preben Wernberg-Møller found that Falk had
succeeded in presenting an informative handbook which, quite apart from its practical purpose, will prove useful to students of the Old Testament who take an interest in the early elements of Hebrew law as they appear against the wider background of the legal heritage of the surrounding peoples (Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, and Egyptians) with whom Israel shared a number of laws—not according to the author because she depended on those cultures for such laws, but because she developed sociologically along lines similar to those other societies. (261)
Although this introductory treatment of biblical law was not "critical" enough to please Godfrey R. Driver (Journal of Theological Studies, 1965, p. 479), Otto Eissfeldt was of the opinion that Falk "overall gives an accurate picture based on factual evidence, inasmuch as it avoids giving unequivocal answers to the many debated issues, being satisfied by clearly setting forth the relevant problem" (Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenlŠndischen Gesellschaft, 1966, p. 376).
But above all, and not to diminish in any way his insightful command of historical, sociological, and comparative legal data, Falk's interests were ultimately religious and spiritual. As readers today look back over the past four decades of biblical scholarship, this spiritual contribution may well stand out as the most distinctive legacy of this volume and, indeed, of Ze'ev Falk's entire life's endeavor. Thus, chapter 1, on the sources of biblical law, includes a section on law and religion; his treatment of the administration of justice in chapter 3 sees an important place for divine judgment; his discussions of crime and punishment in chapter 4 make clear sense of laws regarding religious offenses; and his exposition on marriage and family law presupposes religious factors as essential elements in the legal relationship. Not lost on Eva Osswald, this important moral dimension of Falk's "learned overview" was prominently noted in her review: "It is to be especially emphasized that the author is particularly clear that Hebrew civilization cannot be analyzed with the help of law alone, but also religious, moral, and social norms must play a role" (Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 1967, p. 262).
In preparing this second edition of this volume, our aim was to retain all of the original character of Falk's style and insights while helping new readers explore the many paths he had opened. Accordingly we concentrated mainly on his sources, supplying article titles, giving full references in footnotes (wherever feasible), and inserting brief explanatory information to clarify several of the scripture references. Since many place-names are mentioned in the text, we have provided a map to help in locating them. In addition to Falk's 1977 Addenda, we have also included a complete bibliography of Falk's academic publications, provided by Mirjam Falk.
Obviously, many publications from the last quarter century could have been added to update this volume, but not knowing which changes Falk would have made in generating this edition, we opted to allow his work to stand as he had left it. For more recent bibliographical data, readers will want to consult the bibliography of Falk's works at the end of this volume, as well as other sources, such as those mentioned in the Addenda, pages 179–80 below, or in John W. Welch, Biblical Law Bibliography (Lewiston: Mellen, 1990) and its accompanying "Biblical Law Bibliography Supplement through 1996" in Zeitschrift für altorientalische und biblische Rechtsgeschichte 3 (1997): 207–46. In addition, abstracts appear in the Jewish Law Annual directing readers to a vast collection of materials on biblical law, much of which has been spawned by the foundational works of scholars such as David Daube and Falk himself in the mid-twentieth century, and developed subsequently by numerous insightful scholars.
The body of this volume remains largely the same, although this new edition has been edited for grammar, punctuation, spelling, typographical errors, and English stylistics. British spellings have been Americanized throughout. The footnotes were reformatted as notes at the end of each chapter, then edited and standardized basically according to Chicago style. Encyclopaedia Miqra'it article titles and author names were obtained and then translated or transliterated from Hebrew into English. General page ranges given for cited sources were replaced with actual page references whenever possible. Scripture references were checked and corrected where necessary. In the bibliography of Falk's works, the Hebrew titles have been translated into English for easier location. We hope to have added value to this already useful work, and we take responsibility for any errors that we have introduced or overlooked.
Many people helped in producing the second edition of this very important publication. I especially thank Claire Foley and Mathew Bean who contributed significantly to the source checking and editing of this volume. Also of inestimable assistance was the publications department of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, including Alison Coutts, Paula W. Hicken, Carmen Cole, Shirley S. Ricks, Jacob Rawlins, Wendy Christian, Julie Dozier, and Naomi Gunnels. Andy Livingston prepared the map, and Irena Abramian, Kevin Tolley, and Kristian Heal worked on translating the Hebrew. Without their unflagging efforts, this volume would not have been possible.