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Understanding the History of Ancient Israel$
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H. G. M. Williamson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264010

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264010.001.0001

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Law in the Ninth Century: Jehoshaphat’s ‘Judicial Reform’

Law in the Ninth Century: Jehoshaphat’s ‘Judicial Reform’

(p.368) (p.369) 18 Law in the Ninth Century: Jehoshaphat’s ‘Judicial Reform’
Understanding the History of Ancient Israel


British Academy

The Chronicler attributes to Jehoshaphat of Judah (874–850 BCE) the appointment of royal judges in all the fortified cities of his kingdom, and the establishment of a central court in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 19.5–11). This chapter examines the issue of anachronism from the standpoint of the history of biblical law, and asks whether the Chronicler paints a picture coherent with law as it is likely to have functioned in the ninth century. The problem, however, does not commence in the ninth century. Almost universally, 2 Chron. 19.4–11 is taken to be a ‘judicial reform’, which assumes the existence of a preceding judicial system. Unlike some parts of the ancient Near East, ancient Israel was weakly institutionalized. Regular law courts and applying written rules (and thus assuming the presence of literate personnel) backed by state enforcement was a matter for the future.

Keywords:   Jehoshaphat, Judah, ninth century, judicial reform, courts, Jerusalem, ancient Israel, anachronism, biblical law

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