Injustice Made Legal: Deuteronomic Law and the Plight of Widows, Strangers, and Orphans in Ancient Israel

Injustice Made Legal: Deuteronomic Law and the Plight of Widows, Strangers, and Orphans in Ancient Israel

Injustice Made Legal: Deuteronomic Law and the Plight of Widows, Strangers, and Orphans in Ancient Israel

Injustice Made Legal: Deuteronomic Law and the Plight of Widows, Strangers, and Orphans in Ancient Israel

Synopsis

"The scriptural laws dealing with widows, strangers, and orphans are conventionally viewed as rules meant to aid the plight of vulnerable persons in ancient Israelite society. In Injustice Made Legal Harold V. Bennett challenges this perspective, arguing instead that key sanctions found in Deuteronomy were actually drafted by a powerful elite to enhance their own material condition and keep the peasantry down." "Building his case on a careful analysis of life in the ancient world and on his understanding of critical law theory, Bennett views Deuteronomic law through the eyes of the needy in Israelite society. His unique approach uncovers the previously neglected link between politico-economic interests and the formulation of law. The result is a new understanding of law in the Hebrew Bible and the ways it worked to support and maintain the dehumanization of widows, strangers, and orphans in the biblical community." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This book grew out of my desire to identify and to understand the plight of the oppressed in ancient Israel. This research interest brought the legal codes in the Hebrew Bible into the mainstream of my analyses, for I reasoned that these texts provided windows into the norms and social conventions that governed the treatment of marginalized groups in the biblical communities. I therefore began to examine biblical law and to give particular attention to the rights and protection of minorities, for these social subgroups are often the oppressed in human societies. This examination led to an ambitious program of study that caused me to investigate the structural bases of oppression and to look carefully at the role law played in the bolstering of power and privilege in ancient Israelite society. the present book, then, explores the plight of widows, strangers, and orphans in ancient Israel. I rely heavily upon postmodern hermeneutical theorization and upon the social-scientific study of the Hebrew Bible. These methodological approaches position me to delineate these persons and to identify the institutional phenomena that exacerbated the plight of this social subgroup in ancient Israelite society.

Many of my ideas about oppressed groups and about the interplay between law and society in ancient Israel build upon the research of Douglas A. Knight and Randall C. Bailey. Their scholarship has decisively shaped my thinking about data in the Hebrew Bible, about the social world of ancient Israel, and about theoretical frameworks for reconstructing, discussing, and appreciating aspects of social life in ancient Is-

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