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Judicial Organizations and Judges in Ancient Israel

So Hyeong-Geun 1

1서울신학대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The article deals with the israelite judicial organizations and the judges in the light of the Old Testament. There were settlements for conflicts by ‘self-help’, ‘consultation’, ‘pater familias’ and one-sided violence between the contending parties in the patriarchal age and segmental period. In the wilderness period Moses took his seat to serve alone as judge for the people(Ex 18:13), by Jethro’s suggestion he appointed officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens as judges. They judged the small matter, but Moses judged every great matter(Ex 18:22). This judicial system was a prototype of the dualised judicial organization in Ancient Israel. In addition, it seems that judges(‘shofetim’) dissolved the conflicts between people(Jdg 4:5). In the early part of Israelitic monarchy period the king was in charge of the judgement at first hand(2 Sam 15:3; 1 Ki 7:7), and until the 8th century elders(1 Ki 21:8, 13 ets), officials(Jes 1:23 ets) and priests undertook the legal actions between people. In the latter part of Israelitic monarchy period (7th Century BC) professional judges were appointed probably by the king Josiah, for example the judges(hebrew ‘shofetim’) and officials for each of the tribes in every gates (Deu 16:18) and the Levitical priests and the judges(hebrew ‘shofetim’) in Jerusalem(Deu 17:9) judged the civil and criminal suits in each position, and these ‘shofetim’ were professional judges. This judicial organization was a system of appeal in ancient Israel. It was the priest that was responsible for the Judgement for the sake of the resolution of suits in the post-exilic period. The priests in this period were in charge of not only the cultic judgements, but non-cultic judgements containing the civil and criminal ones(Ez 44:23-24). The mentions on the ‘shofetim’ appear in Esra 7:25 and 10:14, but we don’t know what the identity of ‘shofetim’ in these texts was. It seems that the judgements were proceeded by priests(Esra 9-10) and governor(Neh 5).

Citation status

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