• "The Many Bailments of David: A Case Study in Law and Literature"

    Yael Landman (see profile)
    Biblical Studies
    Law, Ancient
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    SBL Annual Meeting
    Conf. Org.:
    Conf. Loc.:
    Boston, MA
    Conf. Date:
    November 21, 2017
    #aarsbl17, Ancient law, Hebrew bible
    Permanent URL:
    In his landmark essay “Nomos and Narrative,” Robert Cover argues that “[law] may be viewed as a system or a bridge linking a concept of a reality to an imagined alternative – that is, as a connective between two states of affairs, both of which can be represented in their normative significance only through the devices of narrative.” Recent studies in biblical law, such as those of Pamela Barmash and F. Rachel Magdalene, have applied such insights from the law and literature school to the reconstruction of aspects of legal practice, including perspectives on its flaws and efficacy, in ancient Israel and Judah. References to law in literature may reflect legal practice realistically, but they may also serve to critique, to warn, and to advocate for a more just or moral option. This paper explores narratives featuring David in the Book of Samuel with an eye toward the Covenant Code’s law of bailment in Exodus 22:6-14. The law of bailment treats scenarios in which one person leaves property, such as goods or animals, in the care of another person for temporary safekeeping. Through repeated allusions to the institution of bailment, the David story offers a window into the social background of this law. At the same time, the narrative exposes perceived injustices and flaws in the institution, and through this critique sets forth a more just “imagined alternative.”
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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