Code of Hammurabi

From Academic Kids

Missing image
An inscription of the Code of Hamurabi

The Code of Hammurabi, created ca. 1700 BC (short chronology), also known as the Codex Hammurabi, is one of the earliest sets of laws found, and one of the best preserved examples of this type of document from ancient Mesopotamia. Other collections of laws include the codex of Ur-Nammu, king of Ur (ca. 2050 BC), the Codex of Eshnunna (ca. 1930 BC) and the codex of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (ca. 1870 BC).

It shows rules and punishments if those rules are broken. It focuses on theft, farming (or shepherding), property damage, women's rights, marriage rights, children's rights, slave rights, murder, death, and injury. The punishment is different for different classes of offenders and victims. The laws do not accept excuses or explanations for mistakes or fault: the Code was openly displayed for all to see, so no man could plead ignorance of the law as an excuse. Few people, however, could read in that era (literacy mainly being the domain of scribes).

Hammurabi (1728 BC–1686 BC) felt he had to write the code to please his gods. Unlike many earlier and contemporary kings, he did not consider himself related to any god, although he did call himself "the favorite of the gods". In the upper part of the stela Hammurabi is shown in front of the throne of the Sun god Shamash.

The laws (numbered from 1 to 282, but numbers 13, 66–99, 110, and 111 are missing) are inscribed in Old Babylonian on an 8 foot tall stela of black diorite. It was discovered in 1909 in Susa, Elam, what is now Khusistan. It is currently on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

The code is often pointed to as the first example of the legal concept that some laws are so basic as to be beyond the ability of even a king to change. By writing the laws on stone they were immutable. This concept lives on in most modern legal systems and has given rise to the term written in stone.


Differences from Mosaic Law

Some parts of the Mosaic law are similar to certain sections of Hammurabi's Code, and because of this certain scholars claim that the Hebrews derived their law from it. Other authors, however, like Thomas (1958) state: "There is no ground for assuming any direct borrowing by the Hebrew from the Babylonian. Even where the two sets of laws differ little in the letter, they differ much in the spirit."

Here are some examples of the differences:

Hammurabi's Code Mosaic Law
Death penalty for theft of church or state property, or for receiving stolen goods. (Sect. 6) Thief punished by making compensation to victim. (Ex. 22:1-9)
Death for helping a slave to escape or harboring a fugitive slave. (Sect. 15, 16) "You must not hand over a slave to his master when he escapes from his master to you." (Deut. 23:15)
If a poorly built house causes the death of a son of the owner of the house, then the son of the builder is put to death. (Sect. 230) "Fathers should not be put to death on account of children, and children should not be put to death on account of fathers." (Deut. 24:16)
Mere banishment for incest: "If a seignior [man of rank] has had intercourse with his daughter, they shall make that seignior leave the city." (Sect. 154) Death penalty for incest. (Lev. 18:6, 29)
Class distinctions in judgment: Severe penalties for persons who harm others of a higher class. Mild penalties for harming members of a lower class. (Sect. 196–205) You must not treat the lowly with partiality, and you must not prefer the person of a great one. (Lev. 19:15)


  • Falkenstein, A. (1956–57). Die neusumerischen Gerichtsurkunden I–III. Mnchen.
  • Kohler, J. & Peiser, F.E. (1890). Aus dem Babylonischen Rechtsleben. Leipzig.
  • Oppert & Menant (1877). Documents juridiques de l'Assyrie et de la Chaldee. Pars.
  • Thomas, D. Winton, ed. (1958). Documents from Old Testament Times. London y New York.

See also


External link

cs:Chammurapiho zkonk de:Codex Hammurapi es:Cdigo Hammurabi fr:Code d'Hammourabi he:חוקי חמורבי it:Codice di Hammurabi la:Codex Hammurabi ja:ハンムラビ法典 pl:Kodeks Hammurabiego pt:Cdigo de Hamurabi fi:Hammurabin laki zh:汉谟拉比法典


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