One of the remarkable institutions of Bible times was the Jewish legal system. It was quite different from anything that existed in any contemporary society of the time. There was no written law in Egypt at all, and the legal systems of Babylon and other nations were not documents to which judicial reference was made but rather were collections of the King’s judgment for the use of the people. Judgment was the action of the king who not only made the law but actually was the law.

No other nation had a legal system to which kings and rulers were subject and to which reference had to be made. The legal pronouncements given to the Jewish people were of two kinds. One had the structure, “If . . . and . . . then . . . ” which is sometimes known as casuistic law (laws of conduct and resolving questions of right and wrong). For example, “If a man strikes his slave and the slave dies under his hand then he shall be punished” (Exod 21:20). Most of the laws of this kind were similar, if not identical, to many of the judgments made by rulers in surrounding society.

God was in effect taking the customary law that people understood and putting his approval on specific laws so that they formed a legal code.

The other kind of law is direct “Thou shall not kill” and remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy,” -and is called apodeictic law (of absolute truth). This form of pronouncement is not found in any other legal system, but it found in any other legal system, but it is found in contemporary suzerainty treaties used by the Hittites.

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