The Foreigner and the Law: Perspectives from the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East.

AuthorJessica, Whisenant
PositionBook review

The Foreigner and the Law: Perspectives from the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. Edited by REINHARD ACHENBACH; RAINER ALBERTZ; and JAKOB WOHRLE. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fur Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte, vol. 16. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 2011. Pp. v + 180. [euro]54.

The brief preface to this volume of essays, which were originally delivered during the SBL International Meeting 2009 in Rome, announces that its contents treat the status of foreigners in law according to biblical and ancient Near Eastern (ANE) traditions. Both the preface and the title of this collection are somewhat misleading, however: of the nine papers in this volume, eight of them pertain to the biblical texts. The contribution of S. Paulus (pp. 1-15), which ably documents the transformation of the Kassite peoples from foreigners and even enemies during the Old Babylonian period to rulers of Babylonia with (fabricated) connections to the third-millennium Sumerian tradition, presents itself as something of the odd man out. Perhaps its inclusion and its placement as the leading essay can be attributed to the hopes of the editors that this volume would appeal to a wider range of scholars than those solely interested in the biblical traditions.

If a reader is hoping to gain a wider range of knowledge regarding the status of foreigners in the ANE world in general, this volume will be disappointing. For those curious about the biblical traditions regarding foreigners, however, seven of the eight remaining essays provide fascinating insight into how groups of foreigners were differentiated in late preexilic and postexilic Judah, under what circumstances they were allowed to participate in the social and cultic life of their new land, and to what extent they were integrated into society (more on the eighth essay by B. Wells below).

One of the mor elements distinguishing these essays is the different methodologies used to address these questions. S. Olyan (pp. 17-28) presents a systematic classification of the biblical rhetoric associated with foreigners, things alien, and practices associated with aliens, with an eye towards underlining their marginalizing effects. Three of the pieces, those by R. Achenbach (pp. 29-51), R. Albertz (pp. 53-69), and C. Nihan (pp. 111-34), map out the Old Testament law codes of protection and integration of foreigners from a diachronic and historical perspective.

All three trace a shift in the attitudes towards...

To continue reading

Request your trial