The Biblical Law of Bailment in Its Ancient Near Eastern Contexts
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The Biblical Law of Bailment in Its Ancient Near Eastern Contexts This study analyzes the biblical legal institution of bailment, wherein one person gives property to another person for a temporary period. Standing at the crossroads of law and religion, the institution of bailment offers a presently underexploited window into the conceptual underpinnings of biblical law and life in ancient Israel. Using methods such as exegesis and humanistic legal theory, I bring together previously unconnected texts, including Mesopotamian legal documents and biblical narrative, to reconstruct the institution as it functioned and was perceived in ancient Israel. I show that the biblical law is not just a law about bailment, but also a law of fact-finding that ultimately advances a conception of divine justice. I further argue for continuity between the ancient Near Eastern bailment laws and post-biblical Jewish law, demonstrating that the rabbis' distinction between paid and unpaid bailees finds precedent in the Laws of Hammurabi and Mesopotamian practice documents.