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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat B'chukotai (May 17, 2014)
by Rabbi Benjamin J. Zeidman

WE HAVE ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE that shows us what a treaty looked like between an ancient ruler and his subjects or lesser lords. These so-called “vassal treaties” arranged for the sovereign’s protection so long as the servant did what he was supposed to do and properly served his ruler. Some of the treaties of Esarhaddon, an Assyrian king nearly 2,700 years ago, are known and have been published. These treaties stipulated the blessings that would come to the vassal should he serve well. If he didn’t, then not only would Esarhaddon’s wrath come down upon him but so would the wrath of the various Near Eastern Gods. The vassal took this oath upon himself seeing the benefits of serving Esarhaddon and understanding that he must not go against this agreement.

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