cui bono?

To whose benefit?  That is an interesting question when applied to the laws of the Pentateuch.   Does the priestly legislation benefit the priests?  No, not really.  They may partake of the sacrificial meat, but they are forbidden from owning land.  What about the merchant and land holding class?  The laws concerning the remission of land certainly doesn’t favor them.  How about the king?  Not at all.  The whole structure of the Pentateuch focuses on the responsibility of the individual to YHWH.  YHWH does not make the covenant with Moses, but with the people.  They were, in turn, to be a kingdom of priests.  This is in striking contrast to ANE customs in which the king and the priests answered to the gods.   J. Berman notes that one is hard pressed to find any religious laws among the Hittites or Babylonians that pertain to the masses.   After all, what does the rites and rituals of the state deities have to do with the common person?   These are just a few of the arguments Berman makes in the first chapter of his book, Created Equal, to make the case that the laws of the Pentateuch are unique in that they do not seem to favor any one class of society.  If anything, the Pentateuch is inherently suspicious of kingship.  When Korah and his company charged Moses with making himself a ‘prince’ over the people, Moses angrily denies it saying that he has not taken so much as a donkey from any of them (Num 16:15)!  A king he would have taken a heck of a lot more!


Berman, J. (2008). Created equal : how the Bible broke with ancient political thought. Oxford ; New York, N.Y., Oxford University Press.

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