To Kill and Take Possession: Law, Morality, and Society in Biblical Stories

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9780801046261: To Kill and Take Possession: Law, Morality, and Society in Biblical Stories

The stories in the Bible present some of the most memorable approaches to justice ever described. In his fascinating 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.

From God's judgment on Adam and Eve, to David and Goliath's "Trial by Combat," to the issues of matrimony, adultery, and polygamy raised in the story of Abraham and Sarah, Friedmann presents compelling insights on a wide range of themes in biblical stories. The many issues he addresses include the transfer of trials from divine power to human beings; the status of women; marriage and divorce; maternity disputes; sterility and surrogate motherhood; mixed marriages; human sacrifice and the belief in its efficacy; the power and position of the monarchy and the succession to the throne; and the transformation in the role of the prophets.

Many of Friedmann's analyses include enlightening "Postscripts" and are accompanied by analogies to literary sources and to Greek and other mythologies, as well as subsequent historical events and current practices. In some cases he links biblical approaches to law to momentous judgments from the past fifty years, such as a legal dispute over ownership of Adolf Eichmann's diaries, and a 1968 trial in Israel that raised centuries-old issues of religious and political identity through the complex question of "Who is a Jew?"

A bestseller in Israel, now translated into English, To Kill and Take Possession reveals how ancient attitudes have had continuing relevance throughout history and up to the present--perhaps more than ever in today's litigious society.

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From the Publisher:

"Danielle Rubenstein Professor of Comparative Law at Tel-Aviv University, Friedmann gives readers a fascinating look at the legal implications of various stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and thereby makes two valuable contributions. First, his close reading of the biblical text offers new insights into the stories involved. Second, he summarizes the legal implications of each story and then presents their various applications throughout history. A fascinating demonstration of his approach is offered in his close examination of the story of David and Bathsheba and the account of Ahab and Jezebel's murder of Naboth for the purpose of confiscating his vineyard. After presenting his analysis of these stories, Friedmann discusses the inherent legal principles and shows how they have influenced subsequent legal understandings. He ends the chapter with a fascinating discussion of the death of Adolf Eichmann and the attendant issue of whether his heirs should make a profit from his diaries. This book is highly recommended for larger public and academic libraries as an intriguing, authoritative discussion of several biblical stories and the legal implications that flow from them."
--Library Journal

From the Inside Flap:

A bestseller in Israel, the Hebrew edition spent 10 weeks on the bestseller list of the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

"Professor Friedmann’s book is a learned and absorbing study of biblical tales that sweeps beyond the stories themselves to their legal and moral core. The book offers a riveting historical overview that begins with the biblical stories and proceeds onward to their future application in literature and in law, ranging from Shakespeare to the far more recent determination of whether Adolph Eichmann’s family was entitled to the diaries he created while awaiting his fate in an Israeli prison. A best-seller in Israel, To Kill and Take Possession deserves the same response here."
--Floyd Abrams, William J. Brennan Jr. Professor, Columbia Journalism School, and Partner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel

"We all know the stories--Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Jacob and Esau, Ruth and Tamar, David and his women--but Daniel Friedmann’s novel interpretations of these traditional biblical tales brings them alive to the modern reader and demonstrates their applicability to controversial contemporary issues, ranging from lie detectors, to marriage and divorce, to religious and national identity. To Kill and Take Possession is a must-read for anyone intrigued by the Bible. It is a modern-day midrash on the most influential book every written, by one of its most creative interpreters."
--Alan Dershowitz, Professor, Harvard Law School, and author of Genesis of Justice

"A singularly impressive survey and analysis of well-chosen material for the study of biblical legal culture, a burgeoning topic of inquiry in an increasingly wide range of disciplines. Any person with even a minor interest in biblical legal and ethical issues should find it most stimulating."
--Calum Carmichael, Professor Comparative Literature; Adjunct Professor of Law, Cornell University

"Friedmann demonstrates quite persuasively that Jewish law has evolved over time, from the early narratives in Genesis, where legal rules and practices reflect substantial similarities with those of other contemporaneous cultures in the region, to later Jewish legal writings which reflect significant differences in the legal rules and practices that were applied to similar factual events or circumstances. As Jewish law evolved, it became in some respects more strict, and in others more lenient, than its depiction in the early biblical narratives. Friedmann offers interesting interpretations and explanations of these developments, providing striking insights into the evolution of Jewish law, a wealth of comparative examples from non-Jewish historical and literary sources, and an analysis of the dynamic interrelationship of religion, law, and politics in Jewish history and culture.

"Friedmann’s comprehensive knowledge of law, is reflected in his treatment of a broad range of legal issues dealing with theories of criminal and civil liability, procedure and evidence, property and ineritance, family law and international law, government and politics. But notwithstanding the academic erudition he displays throughout the book, he never fails to bring to life the powerful, often troubling, frequently inspiring stories of biblical heros, villains, enemies, and lovers.

"This is a book that deserves a wide readership, not only among lawyers and students of the bible, but among the educated reading public as well."
--Stephen Wizner, William O. Douglas Clinical Professor of Law, Yale Law School, and Sackler Professor of Law (Special Appointment), Tel Aviv University

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Friedmann, Daniel
Published by Baker Academic (2003)
ISBN 10: 0801046262 ISBN 13: 9780801046261
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Book Description Baker Academic, 2003. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110801046262

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