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NCJ Number
Journal of Legal Studies Volume: 22 Issue: 1 Dated: (January 1993) Pages: 15-45
G P Miller
Date Published
31 pages
This legal and economic analysis of stories in the Hebrew Bible from the J source that describe the making, performance, and breach of contracts and similar arrangements concludes that these stories should be understood in part as legal texts.
The stories serve the important social function of embodying and culturally transmitting rules of customary law in vibrant, lively stories that were widely known among the people and were easy to remember. The rules they contain responded to the problems of the formation and enforcement of contracts and quasi-contracts in a society without an established government. Because the protagonists of the stories were tribal ancestors who were charismatically endowed, the stories carried a degree of self-authentication that would tend to enhance their legitimacy and therefore their power in influencing behavior. Although some of the rules might seem bizarre, misguided, and even immoral in view of today's values, they might have made sense in the society in which they arose. This society lacked the elementary institutions of courts, kings, or authoritative systems of written records. In such a society, clear rules were needed to define outcomes in most situations, despite being unfair in individual situations. Footnotes


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