Item description for To Kill and Take Possession: Law, Morality, and Society in Biblical Stories by Daniel Friedmann...
Overview The stories in the Bible present some of the most memorable approaches to justice ever described. In his fascinating new book, To Kill and Take Possession, legal scholar Daniel Friedmann presents an innovative exploration of the legal, moral, and political aspects of some of the best-known and dramatic biblical tales.
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DANIEL FRIEDMANN, a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, is Danielle Rubinstein Professor of Comparative Private Law and former Dean of the Law School of Tel-Aviv University. In 1990 he became the founding Dean of a new Law School at the College of Management, a position he held until 1997. In addition to extensive publications in the legal field in Israel, the U.S., and England, Professor Friedmann has published many articles in Israeli newspapers on current topics. He received a number of prizes in law including the prestigious Israel Prize. He has been Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, The University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Queen Mary College, The University of London.
Daniel Friedmann was born in 1936 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Tel Aviv, Israel University of Tel Aviv University of Te.
Reviews - What do customers think about To Kill and Take Possession: Law,Morality, and Society in Biblical Stories?
The Bible's Law and the Law's Bible Oct 25, 2003
Daniel Friedmann's stimulating account of the bible as seen from the point of view of a modern legal scholar was first published in Israel in 2000. I have read the Hebrew original, so this is a review of that edition, rather then of the Translation. All Translations from the book are mine.
(Strangely enough, in the Hebrew version, the English title of the book is given as 'To Kill and Inherit', and the author's name as Daniel Friedman - I shall follow the titles from this site).
In the preface, the author describes his purpose as 'to learn from the biblical tales the perception of law and morality expressed in them, and in the legal system they are based upon, a system which I believe does not correspond with many of the laws specified in the bible' (p.5). For example, according to the law, a married woman who sleeps with another man is forbidden for both of them. Furthermore, both of the unfaithful deserve death. Yet, After David sleeps with Bat-Sheva, he murders her husband and then marries her. Neither of them suffers any consequences, although God does punish David with the death of their innocent son. (p.103)
Although most of 'To Kill and Take Possession' focuses on the Old Testament (and especially the book of Genesis, and the books of Samuel and Kings), the author does refer to many other sources, including folklore, European history, the New Testament and Islamic law. Friedmann is particularly interested in the way in which the bible stories, and the apparent contradictions between them and the Jewish laws, were dealt with by later Jewish interpreters. In the end, the judgement must be "quite badly".
For example, in the David and Bat Sheva affair, some Jewish interpretations claims that, when going to war, soldiers left letters of retroactive divorce, so that, in the case of their death, they would divorce their wives from the beginning of the campaign. Of course, not only is this explanation nowhere in the text, the consequence is that by murder, David absolves himself of sin. (p. 103)
Another explanation was that Uriah was a traitor to the King, by refusing David's command to return to his house - but it is entirely unsupported by the biblical text as well - had Uriah been guilty at disobedience, David could have executed him publicly, instead of arranging his death in battle (p. 104).
In addition to discussing Biblical law, Friedmann also tries to salvage the actual events from the biblical narrative, which is extremely biased on some accounts. King Saul is punished for what must have been trivial offences - like making a sacrifice himself instead of waiting for high priest Samuel. David, a traitor who collaborates with the enemies of Israel, a man who was declared King in secret, is perceived as the just King, and his crimes are continually white washed. At the same time, the coup organized by Solomon and his followers against Adoniahu, the oldest of David's surviving sons, is also portrayed in the best possible way. Strangely, the bible describes the deceptions carried out by Solomon's people, led by Nathan the Prophet and Beniahu, leader of the garrison in Jerusalem (pp. 260-263). Friedmann speculates that this is another case of the different morality between Biblical times and our days - deception was seen as a tribute to the deceiver's wisdom, not as fraud (p.264).
'To Kill and Take Possession' is a large book, dealing with issues as far apart as the changing role of prophecy, the rules of royal succession, the role of God in the affair of men and the criminal system, the Jewish treatment of widows, and more. An overriding theme is the heavy influence of the non-Jewish environment on the Jewish people. Thus, Sefaradi Jews, living in Polygamic Muslim countries, kept the practice of polygamy, while Ashkenzi Jews, living in Christian Monogamic society forbade it. Today, the censor on polygamy enacted by Ashkenzi sage Rabbi Gershom "The Light of the Diaspora", is enforced in Israel on all Jews, and Polygamy is forbidden (pp. 297-99)
'To Kill and Take Possession' will change the way you perceive biblical events. Its rational, intelligent and critical look of the bible is fascinating and enriching. If you're interested in the most important book of Western Civilization, this book is for you.