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The Elders of the City: A Study of the Elders-Laws in Deuteronomy
Timothy Willis
Not yet published
Publication Date
August 2001



This book fills an important gap in biblical scholarship concerning the mechanisms of local community leadership in ancient Israel. Past scholarship has focused on kings, prophets, priests, and national or tribal elders, while little attention has been given to the important roles of city elders within Israel's local communities. This study is a judicious and insightful investigation of the city elder laws in Deuteronomy 19–25. It also examines Israel's whole judicial system, grounded in careful cross-cultural analysis of local leadership in kinship-based societies. Willis argues that the Deuteronomic laws do not displace the old mechanisms for promoting the welfare of the community through the leadership of city elders but rather strengthen and affirm the leadership of local communities in relation to individuals, families, and the central royal authority.

Timothy M. Willis is Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University.

“This careful study deals with five laws in Deuteronomy which actually mention elders (Deut. 19:1–13; 21:1–9; 21:18–21; 22:13–21; 25:5–10), with a view to establishing the role and authority of the elders in the deuteronomic code within the context of comparative ethnographic evidence. … This is a well-argued, clearly presented study.”
— A. D. H. Mayes, Expository Times