Ajoutez à vos favoris
Recommandez LB
the Louvre with the Bible
Jouez avec LouvreBible !
Subcribe to the newsletter !
Ancient Mesopotamia
Assyria Nineveh
Arslan Tash Til Barsip
Iran Palace of Darius
Phoenicia Arabia Palmyra
Syrian coast
Ougarit Byblos


Code of Hammurabi

Sb 8
Richelieu room 3
Is the Code of Hammurabi
an ancestor of the Mosaic Law?

This inscribed stele made of black basalt
was erected by King Hammurabi of Babylon
during the last years of his life,
in 18th Century BC.
A collection of sentences concerning
exemplary cases of jurisprudence,
it is predominantly a political testament
and a monument to  the glory of the sovereign,
offering a model of wisdom and equity.

 The Mosaic Law, a copy of the Code of Hammurabi ?

Written in Akkadian and divided into three parts, the text contains a prologue and an epilogue framing a corpus of two hundred and eighty-two articles. A152  

At the top of the stele, the sculpted scene depicts the King with his hand raised in front of his mouth, a traditional gesture of devotion, before the sun-god Shamash, identifiable by the flames bursting forth from his shoulders.

This god of justice is holding out to the sovereign the ring and the rod,

emblems of judgement and justice, symbols of authority. A153

 An 'ancestor' of Mosaic law?


Many believe that Moses, when

he wrote the Laws of Israel a century and half later, merely plagiarised the Code. A154

Some of the instructions,
such as the law of retaliation
('an eye for an eye '),

are indeed comparable
to the principles set out by Moses.


Code of Hammurabi

Is it however surprising that the conscience of a remarkable sovereign, like an innate sense of right and wrong (Romans 2:14), led him to draw up a treaty on the practise of justice to "commit the country to truth and fair order"?
There however exists in Law a higher spiritual dimension and perspective of worship. A155
The Ten Commandments highlight the worship of the God of Israel, whereas the Code is particularly interested in secular issues and is satisfied with glorifying the King and serving its political interests. As it was 'holy and righteous and good' (Romans 7:12), the Law exercised a powerful influence over the life of Jews. It regulated their worship and provided for periods of weekly and annual rest, Sabbath and Jubilee, which promoted the economic stability of the nation and protected the rights of the individual. A156
 “The Third Commandment,
'Remembering the Sabbath day to hold it sacred’  (Exodus 20:8-10),
represents a new and unique
contribution to the history of humanity,
a revolutionary innovation:
weekly rest for men, women and animals.
Is the first structured draft of the Human Rights of Men and Women not found
in these Ten Words?”
Albert Hari, Les Droits de l'homme
dans la Bible et aujourd’hui
Even in those places where the two codes differ little in letter, they differ greatly in spirit.
Theft and the concealment of stolen objects are punishable by death (laws 6, 22) while in Israel, punishment consists of compensating the victim (Exodus 22:1, Leviticus 6:1-5).
Anyone housing a fugitive was sentenced
to death (laws 15, 16, 19) while Mosaic
Law prohibited returning a slave who had escaped back to their master. - Deuteronomy 23:15-16.
Questions are sometimes treated in significantly different ways.

The spiritual dimension of the Law suggests

Although the Ten Commandments condemn murder, other Law texts differentiate between the wilful murderer and the unintentional murderer. Surprisingly, the Code does not speak of wilful murder, and it remains vague as to the punishment dealt out. A157

If a pregnant woman aborted in the wake of blows she had received, the punishment was, execution or payment of a sum of money.This varied according to the social class of the aggressor. A158 (laws 209, 214).

Not a plagiarism of the Code of Hammurabi
but a divine inspiration

The Code also provided for punishment through solidarity.
One of the articles is worded as follows:
“If the owner's son dies, then the builder's son shall be put to death”. The Law says the contrary: 
“Fathers should not be put to death on account of children, and children should not be put to death on account of fathers. Each one should be put to death for his own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16).
Each of the articles is arranged in the casuistic form: "If a man does this or that, then...".
View of Mount Sinai.
It is here where Moses received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19 and 20)
 "Your eyes saw even
the embryo of me,
and in your book
all its parts were down in writing."
- Psalm 139:16
The Law says: "But if a fatal accident should occur, then you must give soul for soul.” (Exodus 21:23). A literal analysis of this text shows that the word translated by ‘damage’ in some versions does indeed mean 'fatal accident', and that it relates equally to the mother and the unborn child.  While French legislation does not yet grant
the foetus the status of a person A159 ,
human life is precious in the eyes of God,
even during the early stages of its development.
- Psalm 139:16 A160

 “Before being born, is a child
a thing, a cluster of cells
or a patient?”

 Claude Sureau 

Code of Hammurabi, only a legal guide

As the Code only covers specific and limited cases, it appears to be a legal guide intended to assist the judges in settling matters by providing precedents or by amending previous decisions. It does not therefore seek to establish principles or laws. This constitutes a crucial difference in relation to the Commandments, described as apodictic, because they are categorical and absolute; prohibitions or imperatives that are very brief and comprehensive in themselves which do not require explanation. A161

 “The basic lesson History

has taught me is the same as that
expressed by Jesus.
Nothing in the world is
more effective than love.”
Will Durant
  Note finally the last of the Ten Words: “You must not desire”. This Commandment is unique in the history of law. It touches the root cause of crime, but its observance depends mainly on the person himself. Moreover, while the Code willingly reflects a spirit of revenge, the Law says:
“You must not hate your brother in your heart […] you must love your fellow as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:17,18).
This divine law shall forever influence
Christian thinking.
And for Christians, “All Scripture is inspired of God (Lit. Théopneustos, blown by God), and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” - 2 Timothy 3:16.
This small replica of the statue by Michelangelo shows Moses seated with horns on his head.
According to the Vulgate, the Latin version
of the Bible, Moses had a ' horned ' face after
having received the Law of God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:29).
These horns are in fact just an artistic
oddity due to a translation error (The Thompson Bible, note o).
The Hebrew word also has the sense of issuing rays. The word “suggests the form, rather than
the substance, of one or several horns”.
Paul the Apostle confirms the proper explanation because he speaks of the 'glory' of the face of Moses. - 2 Corinthians 3:7.
Moses     ML 22
Code of Hammurabi  Louvre


Carte Chronologie Libation au dieu ShamashListe rois de Larsa au musée du LouvreAntiquités EgyptiennesAntiquités Romaines Haut de page