Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview

6 Legal Exegesis With Verbatim, Paraphrastic, or Pseudocitations in Historical Sources

A Concern With the Meaning and Application of the Law

The historical record preserved in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and their factual and literary interrelationship, is of well-known complexity. 1 Despite this, these sources remain of immense importance for their detailed witness to ancient biblical legal exegeses. Indeed, these latter constitute a major dimension of the activities of its chief protagonists. As noted earlier, Ezra's official position was that of a religious scribe who was given official Persian permission to reconstitute the post-exilic Palestinian community on the basis of its ancestral Torah. 2 Thus, the Judaean 'community of the exile' which returned from Babylonia benefited from a Persian policy which encouraged the regeneration and reworking of native legal and religious traditions. The foundation for this policy was solidified during the reign of Darius I: he permitted the returning Jews to restore their sacral worship, 3 encouraged the compilation of native Egyptian laws, and sent one Oudjahorresne to restore the colleges of the Temple scribes. 4 Parallel to this foreign policy, Darius and his successors promulgated, compiled, and codified native Persian laws as well. 5

It is within the framework of this policy of support for non-Persian cults that Artaxerxes I, in his seventh year (458 bce), authorized Ezra to lead a group of exiles back to Judaea and to implement 'the law of your God' (Ezra 7: 14). It is now quite clear that this Persian policy was

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