Ancient Babylonian Laws
Prof. Bill Long 8/22/06
Questions to Consider/Additional Laws from Hammurabi*
[*Note--we will begin our discussion on 8/24 with a consideration of Patterson's article.]
The purpose of this and the next essay is to provide some questions to consider when reading the Ancient Near Eastern codes as well as to present additional laws from the Laws of Hammurabi for our more detailed consideration. I have decided that we won't have time to consider the Biblical material on Thursday 8/24. Let's do that on Tuesday 8/29. Thus, spend your time focusing on the non-biblical codes, as well as the additional laws from the LH produced below and in the next essay.
Questions to Consider
When you examine the three non-biblical codes (Laws of Ur-Namma ["LU"]; Laws of Lipit-Ishtar ["LL"]; and Laws of Hammurabi ["LH"]) , I would like you to keep these questions in mind:
1. What is the source of authority for the codes (i.e., where does law originate?)? How does this compare with sources of authority for contemporary legal codes?
2. To what extent can one speak of a legal "code" that is here presented? (Note, however, that the actual laws are only partially presented in the Jurisprudence text--I will clarify that in class).
3. How are the codes structured?
4. What is the purpose of the rather long prologues and epilogues of the codes?
5. How does the content of the Biblical laws (called by scholars the Covenant Code) differ from or show similarities to the Near Eastern codes? This question is relevant for 8/29.
6. What kind of things are said about the kings or law-givers?
7. What is going on in the Epilogue to the Hammurabi Code?
These questions will get us started, even if there are many more that could be posed.
The Code of Hammurabi--Additions
One of the drawbacks of our textbook in this section is that it severely truncates the actual laws in the codes. For example, the LU has 34 "laws" in the Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor [thanks to Michael Banks for making this book available to me]; only 6 appear on p. 9; the LL has about 44 laws in Law Collections, while our text lists but 6; and, most egregiously, the LH has nearly 300 provisions or articles, while our text only lists 4 of them. I think the extreme limitation in this last case, though the complete prologue and epilogue are reproduced, is inexcusable. So, I devote the rest of this essay and the next to listing about 30 or so more laws from the LH. Please be acquainted with them for class on Thursday. I think there is nothing more useful for us than to slowly consider the language of these laws and compare them in our minds to the system we know best--our own.
#5. If a judge renders a judgment, gives a verdict or deposits a sealed opinion, after which he reverses his judgment, they shall charge and convict that judge of having reversed the judgment which he rendered and he shall give twelve-fold the claim of that judgment; moreover, they shall unseat him from his judgeship in the assembly, and he shall never again sit in judgment with the judges.
#6. If a man steals valuables belonging to the god or to the palace, that man shall be killed, and also he who received the stolen goods from him shall be killed.
#7. If a man should purchase silver, gold, a slave, a slave woman, an ox, a sheep, a donkey, or anything else whatsoever, from a son of a man or from a slave of a man without witnesses or a contract--or if he accepts the goods for safekeeping--that man is a thief, he shall be killed.
#8. If a man steals an ox, a sheep, a donkey, a pig, or a boat--if it belongs either to the god or to the palace, he shall give thirtyfold; if it belongs to a commoner, he shall replace it tenfold; if the thief does not have anything to give, he shall be killed.
#9. If a man who claims to have lost property then discovers his lost property in another man's possession, but the man in whose possession the lost property was discovered declares, "A seller sold it to me, I purchased it in the presence of witnesses," and the owner of the lost property declares, "I can bring witnesses who can identify my lost property," (and then if) the buyer produces the seller who sold it to him and the witnesses in whose presence he purchased it, and also the owner of the lost property produces the witnesses who can identify his lost property--the judges shall examine their cases, and the witnesses in whose presence the purchase was made and the witnesses who can identify the lost property shall state the facts known to them before the god, then it is the seller who is the thief, he shall be killed; the owner of the lost property shall take his lost property, and the buyer shall take from the seller's estate the amount of silver that he weighed and delivered."
The next essay continues with more articles from the Laws of Hammurabi.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long