Hammurabi’s Law Code Reflection
Sept. 21, 2015
Hammurabi’s Law Code
The Hammurabi law code was the foundation of the Babylonian
civilization. Hammurabi, the Babylonian king saw himself as a servant to the
divine. “Name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring
about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the
evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak” (King). This portion
of the Law Code illustrates strong spirituality, a divine respect and reverence
towards the belief of the all-powerful monotheism god.
The Babylonian Civilization was an advanced culture that developed
trade of personal property. The Babylonians had mathematics and
system of weights and scales used to account and document artifacts of
information. Babylonians would use food and coin as currency. Hammurabi
Law Code describes the cultural use of such currency, “If anyone have a
claim for corn or money upon another and imprison him; if the prisoner die
in prison a natural death, the case shall go no further” (King).
Babylonian culture had many skilled professionals that made a living
off of a wide range of tasks. “If any one hire a ferryboat, he shall pay three
gerahs in money per day. If he hire a freight-boat, he shall pay two and one-
half gerahs per day” (King). The law code provided clear guide lines to how
much an artisan should get paid for their labors. “Five gerahs, as wages of
the potter five gerahs, of a tailor five gerahs, of . . . gerahs, . . . of a rope
maker four gerahs, of . . .. gerahs, of a mason . . . gerahs per day” ( King).
Private property such as gardens and houses could be bought and sold
to a merchant (royal agents) or to any other public official. Babylonians
businesses even used the concept of interest and notes were created to
record the transactions between merchants. “If a merchant entrust money to
an agent (broker) for some investment, and the broker suffer a loss in the
place to which he goes, he shall make good the capital to the merchant”
(King). This example explains that investments were covered under Law
Receipts were made and used to track business dealings. The law code
talks about merchant give an agents corn, wool, oil, or any other goods such
as transport and then the receipt was drafted onto a tablet for the merchant
or agent to keep. The code describes that if an agent is careless and doesn’t
take a receipt for the money when doing business with merchants, then his
money would not be considered his own (King).
The Hammurabi’s law code tells us that the Babylonians, like modern
day civilizations, used banking and storage. Hammurabi’s law code provides
clear guide lines on these subjects. “If any one store corn for safe keeping
in another person's house, and any harm happen to the corn in storage, or if
the owner of the house open the granary and take some of the corn, or if
especially he deny that the corn was stored in his house: then the owner of
the corn shall claim his corn before God (on oath), and the owner of the
house shall pay its owner for all of the corn that he took” (King).
The Babylonians used their custom scales and weights to keep track of
the inventories. “Store corn in another mans house he shall pay him storage
at the rate of one gur for every five ka of corn per year” (King). The
Babylonians had a strong understanding of personal property, and the
Hammurabi law tablet provided a lens into the legal matters of ownership,
moral issues and punishment for those that break these laws.
Property also included the owning slaves, socially high ranked citizens
such as priests and merchants participating action of owning and trading
slaves. The Babylonians if they found a slave running away were obligated
under Hammurabi law code to bring the slaves to their masters, master of
the slaves shall pay the finder. If finder didn’t know where to find the
master, this is what would occur; “the finder shall bring him to the palace; a
further investigation must follow, and the slave shall be returned to his
master” (King). Woman in Babylonian were comparable to slaves.
Relationships and wives were bought, and valuables were traded. “If a
man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he
shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she
brought from her father's house, and let her go” (King). The code explained
a punishment for wives that would try to ruin her house and her husband’s
life by having her become a servant in her husband's house legally bound by
The law system managed the legal dealing of the city. The Judges that
enforced the Hammurabi Law Code faced discharge. The fifth law states
that, “If later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through his own
fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case, and he
shall be publicly removed from the judge's bench, and never again shall he
sit there to render judgement” (King). They were also responsible in
processing legal trials. The law code explains,” If the witnesses be not at
hand, then shall the judge set a limit, at the expiration of six months. If his
witnesses have not appeared within the six months, he is an evil-doer, and
shall bear the fine of the pending case” (King).
Punishment in Babylonian culture was extreme in comparison to
modern culture. Hammurabi Law Code illustrates a culture that responds
harshly to crimes and wrong doings. Code twenty-one states,” If any one
break a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before
that hole and be buried” (King). Babylonians thought committing a robbery
and being caught should result in death of the offender.
Class played a role in punishments, lower classed citizens such as
slaves were punished harsher than freeborn.” If a free-born man strike the
body of another free-born man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina. If
the slave of a freed man strike the body of a freed man, his ear shall be cut
off” (King). Justice was an eye for an eye. “If a man put out the eye of
another man, his eye shall be put out. If a man knock out the teeth of his
equal, his teeth shall be knocked out” (King). Punishment varied on social
class, type of crime and what might be seen as just.
In conclusion, the Hammurabi’s Law Code highly influenced the society
and way of life in the Babylonian culture. The Babylonian people had no
choice but to follow the laws or be punished by them. The Law Code
illustrates a view of the ancient Babylonian lifestyle.
King, L.W. “Hammurabi’s Code of Laws.” legacy.fordham.edu. Paul Halsall.
March 1998. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.