Hammurabi had been an interesting person prior to making this paper. The Code of Hammurabi was very popular topic because it depicts a great person or king. The question that might be asked is who is Hammurabi? On the other hand, to those who have background in the Bible, might know who Moses is and what was his laws all about. Of course, Moses was a Hebrew. The striking contrast between Hammurabi and Moses was that, Hammurabi was a secular king, while Moses was a man appointed by God to lead people out of Egypt.
He was indeed a great leader who had received laws and regulation intended for the Hebrews people. This paper attempts to analyze and differentiate Moses and Hammurabi as well as their respective codes of law. It also tackles a little bit their impact to society and what these laws intended to make of their own people. Justice and Judgment of the Laws of Hammurabi and Moses W.
W. Davies pointed out that Hammurabi had lived and ruled about 2250 B. C. Seven centuries earlier than the Tel-el Anarna writings had originated (p. 7).
Davis also mentioned that many opinions among scholars agreeing that Hammurabi was no other than Ampaphel, King of Shenar and an ally of Chedor Laomer mentioned in Genesis chapter fourteen (p. 8). According to Claude Herman and Walter Johns, the early Babylonia was a mix population and every city had large number of aliens. Claude Herman noted that the freedom to intercourse between those alien or foreigners “must have tended” (Herman), to unite culture which was further assimilated by Hammurabi through a uniform system of law and order.
Thus, the Hebrews who lived with the Babylonians may have carried with them some laws that were governing them back in Babylon, after they went out. It could be possible that as Abraham’s family settled in a new place in Haran of the Canaan land, after leaving Ur of Chaldeans, they maintained these laws but had undergone revisions to suit their own customs and tradition. As W. L. King noted that the Code had found a special place in the Babylonian society and it assimilated cultures of different races.
Of course, the origins of Mosaic laws were the God of Israel. But during the re-pronouncement of Moses, it may be accepted that there might indeed an influence of the Hammurabi Codes of Law in the law of Moses. This is quite significant because although Moses was raised up and educated in Egypt yet it appeared that he was thoroughly acquainted with Hebrew culture and tradition. The Biblical account of the Patriarch suggested that they had already developed cultural values especially in the time of Jacob during the seven years famine.
Joseph tested his brothers’ attitude by putting back the money intended for payment for the goods they brought to Egypt. When Jacob’s sons discovered the money, they reported the matter to their father who instructed his sons to return the money. In fact, there were many instances of similar case mentioned in Genesis. Thus, it was quite clear that during the time of Abraham and Ampaphel, there were already existing cultural values in every nations or settlement of people. Egypt too, had established their own settlement probably much earlier.
The cultural values which Jacob had must have been handed down to him from Abraham. It is quite interesting to note that Abraham was actually originated from Ur of Chaldea which was probably part of Babylon. According to Genesis, Abraham and his family were migrated from Ur of Chaldea to Haran of the land of Canaan (Genesis 11:31). Thus, it is not surprising to find the similarities between the two norms. Darwin in his theory of Evolution once asserted that the degree of similarity determines the same origin (Duane, par. 56).
Hammurabi’s Code Law or laws addressed almost all aspects of social life from individual ethical conduct, soldiers captured in battle, agriculture tenants and land lord, business, corruption, depositing valuable or any products, marriage, husband and wife, debt, conjugal and personal properties, dowry and purchase, price for women, inheritance, extra marital affairs, vows to a god, adoption of a child, physical offense, quarrelling, social health, building or house construction, building and operating a boat, and use of domestic animals.
It is quite easy to agree with Davies that although Hammurabi Code may have been effective social ethical guidelines during his days, yet it was a very secular norm. Davies pointed out that Hammurabi’s Code of law proceeded from a polytheistic people and a purely secular document (p. 8). But one thing very popular in the Code was the punishment of throwing into the river the guilty party. There was also mentioned of the practice of stoning to death but so prevailing were the drowning of the condemned man or party into the water.
In the Mosaic Laws, the capital punishment which was also the most popular verdict was stoning to death or burning alive the guilty party. The Mosaic Laws placed high emphasis on moral righteousness by obeying the laws and all the regulations that were imposed upon the people. The capital punishment serves as a deterrent to any one who commits wrong doings. The Law of Moses was more than just a norm by which people must conduct themselves.
It aimed not only to maintain civilized manner of the society but to make them inwardly righteous; the laws were connected to divine origin as Deuteronomy says, “therefore, you shall love the Lord your God and keep his charges and statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always” (Deuteronomy 11:1). Hammurabi’s social emphasis was mainly concerned the ethical aspect because all the rules dealt only with what was ethically right or wrong, whereas, the Law of Moses dealt not only with the ethical aspect but the moral as well. Deuteronomy chapter ten verse twelve plainly declared the intentions of this law.
It says “and now Israel, what does the Lord your God requires of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your hearts and with all your soul” (NKJV, Bible). Davies pointed out that the Hebrew institution was “far more superior than the Babylonians” (p. 9). Nevertheless, both Codes must have serves well on both sides attaining its objectives as Davies further commented that Hammurabi had ruled for fifty five years and had brilliant achievements, high civilization and extensive literature (Davies, p.
8). Despite this superiority, scholars are unanimous that there were similarities between the two Codes. This leads to source critique that the Mosaic Laws were patterned after Hammurabi’s Codes of Law. However, the strong contrast of the moral origins and purpose made Mosaic Laws superior. According to Joseph White, “Hammurabi Code was purely civil nature while Moses’ was a combination of spiritual and civil (White, p. 95). White said that Moses’ Code was applied wholly “to pastoral people and that all the credit were given to God” (p.
95); while Hammurabi claimed the credit for the Law and the establishments of justice in his kingdom (White, p. 95). Thus, it could be concluded that the basic point of emphasis of each code lies on their religious beliefs. Stephen L Caiger pointed out Hammurabi had dedicated the tabulated laws to the sun god. He had even warned anyone who might destroy or break it (Cager). This implies that Hammurabi was a religious man too, but his faith was very different from Moses.
Moses was a true God-fearing man who loved his people, while Hammurabi was a pagan who had a narrow intellectual outlook of life and had not sympathy for his own people (White, Conclusion Although Hammurabi codes of law and the laws of Moses indeed, had some similarities, yet the Mosaic laws is undeniably superior not because it was constantly being revised as some would put it, but because it was genuinely originated from God who revealed himself to Moses. Hammurabi had also claimed that the codes of law was bestowed upon him by Anu the great king of Anunaki, and Bel, the Lord of heaven and earth (King), translation of the Hammurabi code.
The purpose was to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land But in all the different aspect of the code, there was actually nothing that could make one righteous. Instead the code was simply an ethical issue that the society must conform in order to live; whereas, the Code of Moses had the element of making people inwardly righteous. Its judgment was not simply meant wrong doings with punishment but to make one aware of its consequences from God. Moses Law was not at all rules and punishments but of rewards too.
It was characterized not by condemnation, but by love and inward righteousness. On the other hand, Hammurabi Code was white said is characterized by a narrow intellectual view of life.
Jeffrey, Duane, vii. Evolution and Mormonism. The Code of Hammurabi.