Is Moses’ Law a rewording of Hammurabi’s code?

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Some claim that Moses’ Law is a rewording of Hammurabi’s code but if we examine the two laws closely we see that this is not a valid argument.

The Code of Hammurabi was a Babylonian law of ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to about 1754 BC. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a seven and a half foot stone stele and various clay tablets. Hammurabi claimed to receive his code from the Babylonian god of justice, Shamash.

The code of Hammurabi consists of 282 laws from property rights and criminal behavior to slavery and divorce. It included many bizarre, unfair, and gruesome forms of punishment. And the laws varied according to social class and gender. It clearly favored the free and wealthy over the poor and opperessed. Mercy and fairness were rare. The code had no spiritual element to it and represented a lower view of human life.  For example, the consequence for theft is to repay ten- to thirty-fold. If that’s not possible, the thief was executed.

By contrast, the Mosaic law was given to Moses by Yahweh the God of the Israelites.  It spoke of sin, purity and responsibility to God and was built on the worship of One God, Creator of all (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Its founding principles were mercy, equality, and justice. While it provided fairness and righteousness, it also dealt with spiritual laws, personal, and national holiness.

So, the the Mosaic law and the cod of Hammurabi were very different in many respects. And it is only natural that there are some similarities between them as would be anticipated from two judicial systems.

It should be noted that the law of Hammurabi is not the only law beside that of Moses. There are similar law codes, even older than Hammurabi’s, that have been found in various other places. These would include the Cuneiform laws, written as early as 2350 B.C.; the Code of Urukagina, 2380 B.C.; the Code of Ur-Nammu, 2050 B.C.; and Lipit-Ishtar of Isin written two centuries before Hammurabi came to power.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

 


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