FARMS has prepared a new edition of Hebrew Law in Biblical Times, by Zeev W. Falk. First published in 1964 in Jerusalem, this introduction to ancient Israelite law has been used by professors and students of ancient law since that time, though it has been out of print for a number of years. This second edition of the book, edited by John W. Welch and published under the BYU Press imprint with the prestigious academic publisher Eisenbrauns, brings back into print a valuable resource for professors, students, and anyone interested in the ancient laws of the Hebrews.
Hebrew Law is organized as a conceptual introduction to ancient law forms and practices. Falk, who passed away in 1998 and was on the law faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for almost four decades, examines ancient legal sources, social institutions, judicial procedure, crime and punishment, property and contracts, personal rights and status, family relationships from betrothal to inheritance, and other topics. This thematic arrangement allows the book to be used as a reference for selective readers or as a comprehensive introduction to Hebrew law for the serious student.
The first two chapters form the basis for the rest of the book. Chapter 1 reviews the ancient sources that can give insights into Israelite law. Although the primary source for Falks information is the Bible, he also uses many other ancient Hebrew sources as well as sources from the cultures that surrounded Israel. Falk continues in chapter 2 by examining how the Hebrew society changed from small, patriarchal kinship groups to a nation governed by judges and eventually kings. He also shows how the legal codes and practices developed through these changes and how the bureaucracy and the religious leadership of Israel evolved.
The remainder of the book explores the evolution of different aspects of the Hebrew legal codes. For example, during the patriarchal age, the tribal chief or a council of chiefs administered justice. As the tribal culture grew into a more unified nation, however, judges were appointed to administer the law. Another example is the punishments affixed to crimes. In the early days of Hebrew law, many crimes had punishments based upon the principle life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Deuteronomy 19:21). As the society evolved, however, a payment of a fine could be substituted for most punishments.
Although Falk gives many insights into the historical and sociological aspects of Hebrew law, his primary interests in this book are religious and spiritual. He emphasizes that Israels laws were part of a divine covenant revealed by the hand of God. This focus is evident in the books sections on law and religion, divine judgment, and faith, oaths, and covenants.
Hebrew Law remains a useful source of information on ancient law. This new edition preserves the original text of the book, with only minor changes to improve clarity, such as expanding and updating references, changing footnotes to chapter endnotes, and adding a map that shows the locations mentioned in the text. Welch has also included at the end of the book the addenda to Hebrew Law that Falk published in the Jewish law yearbook Diné Israel in 1977, a complete bibliography of Falks works, and a citation index. In preparing this volume, Welch hoped not only to make an important book available again but to honor the memory of Zeev W. Falk, who spent his life advancing the field of biblical scholarship.
To purchase this book, see the enclosed order form or visit the catalog section of the FARMS Web site.