This book is one of a series of supplementary volumes published alongside the Jerusalem Bible in France and intended to provide a general introduction to the world in which the Bible is set; the series includes such famous titles as Jeremias' jerusa/em in the time of enis and de Vaux's Ancient Israel. It is an exhaustive study of the legal and sociological background of texts dealing with social justice, first in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and then in pre-exilic Israel. The author is a specialist in modern ethics, but has made himself thoroughly familiar with the relevant secondary literature. The book also contains an excellent bibliography on social ethics in ancient Israel and its environment, and a valuable historical survey of the development of scholarly study in this field, up to and including recent Marxist interpretations. The orientation of the book is basically sociological, which makes it a valuable corrective to an excessively theological view of biblical ethics, and anchors the ethical teaching of the biblical writers firmly in social reality. Why Israel should be the society where a call for social justice should be expressed so keenly in law and prophets is a fascinating historical and sociological question, and the author's answer is interesting and controversial. Welcoming the French edition in the Journal of Jewish Studies, John Barton said that an English edition would be invaluable as a student textbook in a surprisingly neglected field. Here it is.