Notes on The Code of Hammurabi

The following contains my notes and thoughts as I read through the Code of Hammurabi (Available here):

  1. According to the first paragraph, the gods, such as Anu, Marduk, Bel, Ea, and Shamash, call Hummurabi to “bring about the rule of righteousness in the land”. This rule is ultimately intended to “enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind”. At the opening of the law code, is suggests the penultimate goal of the text is to enable to well-being of mankind and allow society to thrive. To use the terminology of Alexander Altmann’s translation of Moses Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem, the Code of Hammurabi is focused on the felicity of mankind.
  2. Paragraph Two offers an impressive CV of Hammurabi. Each element of the CV include an actions which demonstrate justice/mercy/compassion and highlight his ability to unite various polities through religious reformation(s) and projects aimed at expanding food production.
  3. Paragraph three justifies Hammurabi’s invasion over various lands as “Marduk” sending him “to give the protection of right to the land.” In other words, Hammurabi justifies himself through claiming his role, namely protecting the righteous and oppressed, through means of divine charge.
  4. Law 5 is intriguing because it highlights the significance of a judge. For a judge to err in his decision, he is required to pay “twelve times the fine set by him in the case.” That is a lot of money. Further more, “he shall be publicly removed from the judge’s bench.” Removal from the bench in the public’s eye sounds, to me, like a ritual act meant to shame the judge. Harsh punishment in Law 5 brings to light the importance of the role of judge, for both regional/local judges and Hammurabi as a judge.
  5. Law 8 contains a three tiered punishment for stealing an animal from a temple: (1) required payment of thirtyfold for the thief; (2) required payment of tenfold if they are of a freed man; (3) death if the thief is unable to pay.  The gradation of punishments based on ones social status is, if I recall, a tendency in the Code of Hammurabi. It says a much as to the social structure during the 18th century BCE and the self-understanding of the social structure, the self-expressed understanding.
  6. Law 23 specifies that if a thief steals from ones household without being caught, the community is responsible for compensating him for the stolen goods. Like I mentioned in note 5, it says a lot about the perceived social structure of the 18th century BCE.
  7. Law 128 says that if a man is to have a woman as a wife, it is only true with intercourse. The relationship between intercourse and marriage is intriguing.
  8.  At this point, I am reading Law 218. The Code of Hammurabi is notable lengthier are more thorough than the laws in Exodus 21-24. As I read the Code of Hammurabi and consider some arguments by Russell E. Gmirkin (Plator and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible, 2016), I wonder to what extent the Hebrew Bible is related to the Code of Hammurabi. Based on a quick reading, Plato seems like a much more reasonable source of influence.

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