SOCIAL JUSTICE AND DEUTERONOMY: THE CASE OF DEUTERONOMY 15, by Jeffries M. Hamilton. SBL Dis. Series 136. Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1992. 168 pp. $20.95 (paper). ISBN 1-55540-748-X.
Deuteronomy 15 was chosen as the focus of this dissertation because it contains two provisions for the relief of "dependent" people (i.e., debtors and slaves) and thus promises to offer an entry-point into Deuteronomy's concerns for the health of Israelite society. The aim of the work is to go beyond literary analysis and comparative legal studies in order to consider "what values society should have when it approaches problems which at first glance can be taken as merely a matter of legality or illegality" (p. 8).
Attention is given first to the structure and vocabulary of Deuteronomy 15:1-17. Then Hamilton evaluates similar provisions in Mesopotamian misarum-edicts and law codes, as well as the parallel laws in the Covenant Code and Holiness Code, in order to show where Deuteronomy 15 lies in the "spectrum of possible responses to the social problem of care for people in special need" (p. 96). He finds two consistent characteristics in the biblical material: (1) an effort to include those whose condition may lead them to be excluded from participation in the normal life of the community; and (2) the insistence that these laws are founded on the will of God for his people. …