Student Series! Code of Hammurabi vs The Ten Commandments

This student series post is by an old AP Art History student who took Humanities afterwards and so she smartly used her AP knowledge of the Stele of Hammurabi to write this great blog post comparing it to the Ten Commandments.

JMF


“An Eye for an Eye Makes the World Go Blind.”

There are many documents and ideologies that have been published throughout the course of history that establish the concept of morality. One of the first documents created to maintain justice in a  society is the Code of Hammurabi. This code played a key role in one of the first civilizations of Mesopotamian society. This was the first example of a set of established laws that was between a king and his people. Shortly after this, the Ten Commandments were created, but instead of it being laws tied between a king and his followers, it’s between a higher authority, God and His people.

The Code of Hammurabi

detail_hammurabi-_law_code-_louvre-_diorite
(via)

There are over 282 laws within the Code of Hammurabi. The top part of the stele depicts Shamash (the Sun god) extending to Hammurabi the rod and ring that are meant to represent his role in keeping civilization in order. Hammurabi was known as the “exalted prince” who wanted to bring about righteousness in the land and rule out the wicked and evil-doers in order to bring peace within the community. If one of these laws were broken, there would be a specific punishment that went along with it, unlike with the Ten Commandments where there is no outright punishment listed. The Code of Hammurabi is presented on a massive, finger shaped black basalt stela pillar with the laws engraved below the depiction of authority between Shamash and Hammurabi. It was made with basalt because this material is known to be a long-lasting, therefore meant to passed on throughout history.

The Ten Commandments

rembrandt_-_moses_with_the_ten_commandments_-_google_art_project
Rembrandt’s Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are composed of a set of biblical rules that correlated with both ethics and worship and they play a fundamental role within the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Ten Commandments were originally created to restore the religous practice of the liberated Isreaelites while they wandered the desert of Sinai. With this covenant, the purpose was to teach people the character of God and the dangers of sin. It was also known as a full promise of complete dedication and devotion to God by accepting these commandments. These were to provide justice, while dealing with spiritual laws and personal holiness. This was a covenant tied between God and his followers. These set of rules are still put forth throughout the various religions and practices of our society today.

Comparison Chart

    The Ten Commandments                            Both                           The Code of Hammurabi

I am the LORD your God: You shall not have strange Gods before me Even though there were many gods worshipped in Babylon, these rules are not diety-centric
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain Even though there were many gods worshipped in Babylon, these rules are not diety-centric
Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day No equivalent law
Honor your father and your mother

 

Respect your parents If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off

If a son…say to his adoptive father or mother: “You are not my father, or my mother,” his tongue shall be cut off

You shall not kill Don’t commit murder – the Ten Commandments just says not to kill while the Code of Hammurabi gives specific punishment for the crimes or bodily harm If he kill a man’s slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina

If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out

You shall not commit adultery Don’t cheat on your spouse If a man’s wife be surprised with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife…
You shall not steal Do not take something that is not yours If anyone steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death

If anyone is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

 

Do not accuse someone of doing something, unless you have physical evidence to back up your accusation If anyone bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife

 

The Ten Commandments uses the word “covet” which is the yearning to poecess something (or someone) but not necessarily action on it…yet

While the Code of Hammurabi is action-focused

If a man take a wife and this woman give her husband a maid-servant, and she bear him children, but this man wishes to take another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife

 

You shall not covet your neighbors goods Same comment as above If anyone steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a goat, if it belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirty fold therefore; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to death

Connection to our Government

The Ten Commandments, Code of Hammurabi, the U.S. Constitution are all covenants between a people and their nation, and meant for people to follow to maintain the order of society. Almost everyone that is able to grasp the concept of morality, should be able to follow these rules whether they are in political or religious manner. All in all, the Ten Commandments and the Code of Hammurabi were meant to serve the purpose of justifying the difference between right and wrong, and punish those whose have committed wrong, as well as the other documents mentioned.

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