By Raymond Westbrook, Gary M. Beckman
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Additional resources for A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (Handbook of Oriental Studies; Handbuch der Orientalistik)
There was no formal machinery of appeal from a lower court; rather, a subject would petition the king to redress an injustice suﬀered by a lower court or oﬃcial. The king could also try cases at ﬁrst instance. , LE 48; MAL A 15; HL 111), but he is also found judging apparently trivial matters. 2 Royal oﬃcials, whether central or provincial, exercised jurisdiction in the same manner. Provincial oﬃcials sometimes sat with the local council to constitute a court. The local courts give the impression of being ad hoc assemblies, especially with such designations as the Egyptian “court of this day” (qnbt n hrw pn).
Thus the actions of oﬃcials are made subject to the rule of law. In some cases, the legislation imposes sanctions for abuse of power. 2 Provincial The larger polities were divided into provinces administered by governors and sometimes further into districts with their own administrator. The governors and lesser oﬃcials were normally appointed by the king, acted as his representatives in the province, and reported to him. Some provincial oﬃcials were peripatetic and could work in conjunction with the local authorities, but unequivocally as their superiors.
The reason is that, as in modern law, the words of the text have become the ultimate point of reference for the meaning of the law. The text is both autonomous, meaning that once a law is promulgated, it is regarded as the lawgiver itself, and it is exhaustive, meaning that what is not in the text is not regarded as law (unless covered by another text). As a result, interpretation of statutes becomes from the Hellenistic period on a specialized form of close reading, usually requiring the services of experts trained in the law—jurists.
A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (Handbook of Oriental Studies; Handbuch der Orientalistik) by Raymond Westbrook, Gary M. Beckman