Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview

7 Legal Exegesis With Covert Citations in Historical Sources

In contrast to the legal exegeses discussed above, the examples to be considered in this chapter are without citation formulary and do not separate the exegeses from the traditions or sources commented upon. 1 The absence of these two features considerably complicates the recognition of additional examples of inner-biblical legal exegesis cited in a covert or implicit manner. So as to isolate those cases from the contexts in which they are presently embedded, at least the following two methodological guidelines are pertinent: (a) to observe the clustering of legal terms in non-legal contexts, and to correlate them with legal formulations and prescriptions found in the Pentateuch; and (b) to be sensitive to prolix formulations, tendentious explanations, and exceptional legal circumstances. These two perspectives are often complementary. Their conjunction, in fact, makes it easier to identify covert legal (and ritual) comments in the historical sources than in the law corpora—for the clustered presence of legal language in a historical discourse, or the shift in style or focus in a historical description to legal considerations, is more easily differentiated than the unmarked intrusion of new legal terms into older prescriptive rules. It is for such reasons that legal exegesis embedded covertly in the historical narratives will be studied before similar material in the Pentateuchal law collections.

Several distinct types of covert legal exegesis in historical sources will be treated. In some instances, the historical narratives reflect primary attempts to explain or expand upon issues found in the Pentateuchal legal texts; in other instances, the historical narratives simply preserve traditional legal exegesis not otherwise articulated in the Hebrew Bible; and in still other instances, later historical narratives comment upon legal issues included in yet earlier historiography. Each of these sub-types reflects different exegetical processes, different exegetical functions, and different relationships with the primary Pentateuchal legal sources. Their common denominator is that they are embedded in historical narratives without citation formulary and without consecutive or complete allusions to the original Pentateuchal laws.

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