To compensate for the traditional lack of centralized authority in the desert, Bedouin society developed a conventionalized legal system that included an individual’s right to use private might to deter and rectify violations perpetrated against him or his clan, whether homicide, the violation of women, or many lesser offenses. In keeping with the biblical portrayal of the earliest Israelites as desert-dwelling nomads, some of the laws ascribed to them are consistent with those of the nomadic Bedouin. This chapter identifies these laws, which mainly reflect the same absence of governmental law enforcement that always obliged Middle Eastern nomads to fend for themselves. To further appreciate the similarities between Bedouin and biblical law, this chapter explores the rationale and workings of the institutions of vengeance, the protection of the weak, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
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