WAS MOSES A PLAGIARIST? Was the Law of Moses Copied from the Code of Hammurabi?


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Hammourabi_Bas-relief Hammurabi

Hammurabi[1] (c. 1810 – c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of the First Babylonian dynasty of the Amorite tribe,[2] reigning from c. 1792 BC to c. 1750 BC (according to the Middle Chronology). He was preceded by his father, Sin-Muballit, who abdicated due to failing health. During his reign, he conquered Elam and the city-states of Larsa, Eshnunna, and Mari. He ousted Ishme-Dagan I, the king of Assyria, and forced his son Mut-Ashkur to pay tribute, bringing almost all of Mesopotamia under Babylonian rule.[2] In the early twentieth century, many scholars[3] believed that Hammurabi was Amraphel of Genesis 14:1, “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim.” However, the identification is not certain. This view has now been largely rejected,[4] and Amraphael’s existence is not attested in any writings from outside the Bible.[5]

Hammurabi is best known for having issued the Code of Hammurabi, which he claimed to have received from Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice. Unlike earlier Sumerian law codes, such as the Code of Ur-Nammu, which focused on compensating the victim of the crime, the Law of Hammurabi was one of the first law codes to emphasize physical punishment of the perpetrator. It prescribed specific penalties for each crime and is among the first codes to establish the presumption of innocence. Although its penalties are extremely harsh by modern standards, they were intended to limit what a wronged person was permitted to do in retribution. The Code of Hammurabi and the Law of Moses in the Torah contain numerous similarities.

Hammurabi was seen by many as a god within his own lifetime. After his death, Hammurabi was revered as a great conqueror who spread civilization and forced all peoples to pay obeisance to Marduk, the national god of the Babylonians. Later, his military accomplishments became de-emphasized and his role as the ideal lawgiver became the primary aspect of his legacy. For later Mesopotamians, Hammurabi’s reign became the frame of reference for all events occurring in the distant past. Even after the empire he built collapsed, he was still revered as a model ruler, and many kings across the Near East claimed him as an ancestor. Hammurabi was rediscovered by archaeologists in the late nineteenth century and has since been seen as an important figure in the history of law.

Map showing the Babylonian territory upon Hammurabi’s ascension in c. 1792 BC and upon his death in c. 1750 BC

Reign and Conquests

Hammurabi was an Amorite First Dynasty king of the city-state of Babylon and inherited the power from his father, Sin-Muballit, in c. 1792 BC.[6] Babylon was one of the many largely Amorite-ruled city-states that dotted the central and southern Mesopotamian plains and waged war on each other for control of fertile agricultural land.[7] Though many cultures co-existed in Mesopotamia, Babylonian culture gained a degree of prominence among the literate classes throughout the Middle East under Hammurabi.[6] The kings who came before Hammurabi had founded a relatively minor City State in 1894 BC, which controlled little territory outside of the city itself. Babylon was overshadowed by older, larger, and more powerful kingdoms such as Elam, Assyria, Isin, Eshnunna, and Larsa for a century or so after its founding. However, his father Sin-Muballit had begun to consolidate rule of a small area of south central Mesopotamia under Babylonian hegemony and, by the time of his reign, had conquered the minor city-states of Borsippa, Kish, and Sippar.[8]


Thus Hammurabi ascended to the throne as the king of a minor kingdom in the midst of a complex geopolitical situation. The powerful kingdom of Eshnunna controlled the upper Tigris River while Larsa controlled the river delta. To the east of Mesopotamia lay the powerful kingdom of Elam, which regularly invaded and forced tribute upon the small states of southern Mesopotamia. In northern Mesopotamia, the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I, who had already inherited centuries-old Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor, expanded his territory into the Levant and central Mesopotamia[9] untimely death would somewhat fragment his empire.[10]

The first few years of Hammurabi’s reign were quite peaceful. Hammurabi used his power to undertake a series of public works, including heightening the city walls for defensive purposes and expanding the temples.[11] In c. 1801 BC, the powerful kingdom of Elam, which straddled important trade routes across the Zagros Mountains, invaded the Mesopotamian plain.[12] With allies among the plain states, Elam attacked and destroyed the kingdom of Eshnunna, destroying a number of cities and imposing its rule on portions of the plain for the first time.[13]

A limestone votive monument from Sippar, Iraq, dating to c. 1792 – c. 1750 BC showing King Hammurabi raising his right arm in worship, now held in the British Museum

In order to consolidate its position, Elam tried to start a war between Hammurabi’s Babylonian kingdom and the kingdom of Larsa.[14] Hammurabi and the king of Larsa made an alliance when they discovered this duplicity and were able to crush the Elamites, although Larsa did not contribute greatly to the military effort.[15] Angered by Larsa’s failure to come to his aid, Hammurabi turned on that southern power, thus gaining control of the entirety of the lower Mesopotamian plain by c. 1763 BC.[16]

This bust, known as the “Head of Hammurabi”, is now thought to predate Hammurabi by a few hundred years (Louvre)

As Hammurabi was assisted during the war in the south by his allies from the north such as Yamhad and Mari, the absence of soldiers in the north led to unrest.[17] Continuing his expansion, Hammurabi turned his attention northward, quelling the unrest and soon after crushing Eshnunna.[18] Next the Babylonian armies conquered the remaining northern states, including Babylon’s former ally Mari, although it is possible that the conquest of Mari was a surrender without any actual conflict.[19]

Hammurabi entered into a protracted war with Ishme-Dagan I of Assyria for control of Mesopotamia, with both kings making alliances with minor states in order to gain the upper hand. Eventually Hammurabi prevailed, ousting Ishme-Dagan I just before his own death. Mut-Ashkur, the new king of Assyria, was forced to pay tribute to Hammurabi.

In just a few years, Hammurabi succeeded in uniting all of Mesopotamia under his rule.[20] The Assyrian kingdom survived but was forced to pay tribute during his reign, and of the major city-states in the region, only Aleppo and Qatna to the west in the Levant maintained their independence.[21] However, one stele of Hammurabi has been found as far north as Diyarbekir, where he claims the title “King of the Amorites.”[22]

Vast numbers of contract tablets, dated to the reigns of Hammurabi and his successors, have been discovered, as well as 55 of his own letters.[23] These letters give a glimpse into the daily trials of ruling an empire, from dealing with floods and mandating changes to a flawed calendar, to taking care of Babylon’s massive herds of livestock.[24] Hammurabi died and passed the reins of the empire on to his son Samsu-iluna in c. 1750 BC, under whose rule the Babylonian empire quickly began to unravel.[25]

Hammurabi’s Codes of Law

Code of Hammurabi stele. Louvre Museum, Paris. The code on a diorite stele.

The Code of Hammurabi is not the earliest surviving law code;[26] it is predated by the Code of Ur-Nammu, the Laws of Eshnunna, and the Code of Lipit-Ishtar.[27] Nonetheless, the Code of Hammurabi shows marked differences from these earlier law codes and ultimately proved more influential.[28]

The Code of Hammurabi was inscribed on a stele and placed in a public place so that all could see it, although it is thought that few were literate. The stele was later plundered by the Elamites and removed to their capital, Susa; it was rediscovered there in 1901 in Iran and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The code of Hammurabi contains 282 laws, written by scribes on 12 tablets. Unlike earlier laws, it was written in Akkadian, the daily language of Babylon, and could therefore be read by any literate person in the city.[29] Earlier Sumerian law codes had focused on compensating the victim of the crime,[30] but the Code of Hammurabi instead focused on physically punishing the perpetrator.[31] The Code of Hammurabi was one of the first law codes to place restrictions on what a wronged person could do in retribution.[32]

The structure of the code is very specific, with each offense receiving a specified punishment. The punishments tended to be very harsh by modern standards, with many offenses resulting in death, disfigurement, or the use of the “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Lex Talionis “Law of Retaliation”) philosophy.[33] The code is also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence, and it also suggests that the accused and accuser have the opportunity to provide evidence.[34] However, there is no provision for extenuating circumstances to alter the prescribed punishment.

Law code of Hammurabi, a smaller version of the original law code stele. Terracotta tablet, from Nippur, Iraq, c. 1790 BC. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul

A carving at the top of the stele portrays Hammurabi receiving the laws from Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice,[35] and the preface states that Hammurabi was chosen by Shamash to bring the laws to the people.[36] Parallels between this narrative and the giving of the Covenant Code to Moses by Jehovah atop Mount Sinai in the Biblical Book of Exodus and similarities between the two legal codes suggest a common ancestor in the two Semitic backgrounds. Nonetheless, fragments of previous law codes have been found, and it is unlikely that the Mosaic laws were directly inspired by the Code of Hammurabi.[37] Some scholars have disputed this; David P. Wright argues that the Jewish Covenant Code is “directly, primarily, and throughout” based upon the Laws of Hammurabi.[38] In 2010, a team of archaeologists from Hebrew University discovered a cuneiform tablet dating to the eighteenth or seventeenth century BC at Hazor in Israel containing laws clearly derived from the Code of Hammurabi.[39]

Was Moses a Plagiarist? Did Moses Borrow from Hammurabi?

The Code of Hammurabi is a Babylonian legal text composed c. 1755–1750 BC. It is claimed that it is the longest, best-organized, and best-preserved legal text from the ancient Near East. However, it is nowhere near being as organized as the Mosaic Law. It is written in the Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian, purportedly by Hammurabi, sixth king of the First Dynasty of Babylon. The primary copy of the text is inscribed on a basalt or diorite stele 2.25 m (7 ft 4+12 in) tall. The stele was discovered in 1902, at the site of Susa in present-day Iran, where it had been taken as plunder six hundred years after its creation. The text itself was copied and studied by Mesopotamian scribes for over a millennium. The stele now resides in the Louvre Museum.

There is no disclaiming that there are some parts of the Mosaic Law that are similar to certain sections of Hammurabi’s Code. It is for this reason that some scholars have clung to the claim that the Hebrews borrowed their law from Hammurabi and not from Jehovah God.

Here are a few of the differences:

Hammurabi’s Code

Mosaic Law

6. If any one 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. (Sect. 6)

The thief is punished by making compensation to his victim. – Ex. 22:1-9

15. If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be put to death.

16. If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.

(Sect. 15, 16)

“You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.”   (Deut. 23:15)

If a poorly built house causes the death of a son of the owner of the house, then the son of the builder is put to death. (Sect. 230)

“The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, neither shall sons be put to death[121] for the fathers; every man shall be put to death[122] for his own sin.” (Deut. 24:16)

154. If a man has committed incest with his daughter, that man shall be banished from the city.

It is the death penalty for incest under the Mosaic Law. (Lev. 18:6, 29)

196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. [ An eye for an eye ]

197. If he break another man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.

198. If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold mina.

199. If he put out the eye of a man’s slave, or break the bone of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.

200. If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out. [ A tooth for a tooth ]

201. If he knock out the teeth of a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a gold mina.

202. If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.

203. If a free-born man strike the body of another free-born man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina.

204. If a freed man strike the body of another freed man, he shall pay ten shekels in money.

205. If the slave of a freed man strike the body of a freed man, his ear shall be cut off.

(Sect. 196-205)

“You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your fellow man.(Lev. 19:15)


Regardless of the few similarities, it does not prove Moses copied from Hammurabi or Hammurabi copied from Moses. As has been true since Cain killed his brother Abel, all humans have to deal with similar minor and major crimes. This means that similar crimes will be dealt with in different law codes. We have had similar law codes from the beginning for this reason and for another that most Bible scholars shy away from mentioning. The second reason for this the conscience that was instilled in Adam and Eve and is still within all imperfect humans, unless that conscience is ignored or not cultivated; then, it will grow callused, unfeeling. Romans 2:14-15 says, 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the law by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and between their own thoughts they are being accused or even excused.” It is this second reason we find nations throughout history that were not aware of Hammurabi or the Mosaic Law and yet they to had similar law codes making similar things illegal. In fact, there is not one country in human history where crimes do not exist. Every human society has outlawed violent crimes, sex crimes, , arson crimes, theft crimes, and so on.

Even before the Babylonian king Hammurabi (c. 1810 – c. 1750 BC), who lived shortly after Abraham (c. 2020 – 1845 BC), we find not only organized groups and societies but cities like Ur that had their own laws that governed their lives. It is likely that even preflood people had their rules and laws. After the flood of Noah though, Jehovah had handed down rules, regulations, and laws to the heads of families, like Noah, Shem, and Abraham. Thes families were very large because of the long lives of people at that time. The patriarchal rule covered such matters as contracts, treaties, and purchases, rights of those who owned property, work rules, family and community accountability that each member must uphold, for if another was wronged they could go to the patriarch. There were laws for property transfer, laws against theft, punishments for those who violated their marriage vows, slavery, and so on. These were enforced by codes of law whether they were written or unwritten. All in the communities would be well aware of such rules, regulations, and laws. Thus, it was not Moses drawing from Hammurabi, it was Hammurabi, who lived a few centuries before Moses, taking unwritten or written community rules, regulations, and laws that long existed because of the God-given conscience and arranging rules, regulations, laws, or rules according to a system. However, with Moses, the God of the conscience went into greater detail with the 613 laws given to Moses.

When we dig down into the Cod of Hammurabi and the Mosaic law, the 613 laws given to Moses were more just, fair, and impartial. For example, if an Israelite was to assault a servant causing physical harm, the Mosaic Law stated that he had the let his servant go free. Exodus 21:26, “And if a man strikes the eye of his male slave or the eye of his female slave and destroys it, he shall let him go free because of his eye.” Hammurabi Code No. 199 “If he destroys the eye of a man’s slave or beaks a bone of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half his price.” Deuteronomy 24:16, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, neither shall sons be put to death[121] for the fathers; every man shall be put to death[122] for his own sin.” Hammurabi Code No. 199 “If a [house should] cause the death of a son of the owner of the house, they shall put to death a son of that builder.”

So, we might have similar laws for the two primary reasons stated above, but the punishment for common laws was far different. What the Hammurabi Code, the Hittite Code, and the Assyrian Code were nothing more than twisting the early laws and rules of the Semitic patriarchal society under God’s guidance. There is absolutely no evidence from archaeology that the Semitic people borrowed from these pagans. Finally, Hammurabi’s code centered on how to deal with wrongdoers. If you were to look at the 282 laws of the Hammurabi Law Code, there were only 5 that focused on prohibiting the behavior. The approach of the Mosaic Law was to prevent crimes and bad behavior, not punishing after the wrongdoing had been committed. The Mosaic Law not only regulated behavior but also feelings and emotions. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The Mosaic Law even regulated normal body functions. The response to this accusation continues below.

Laws of Hammurabi’s Code and the Mosaic Law

The Bible, the Word of God, given to us by men who were moved along by the Holy Spirit is the torch of civilization and of liberty. When we think of the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the many speeches of the apostle Paul, the book of Psalms and Proverbs, there is no other book that can be likened to it. Nevertheless, this has not stopped secular scholars from comparing the Code of Hammurabi to the Ten Commandments, implying that Moses took the Ten Commandments from the Code of  Hammurabi instead of them being given directly from God. This is hardly the truth and is an insult to every Bible-believing Christian and Jew. The Ten Commandments focus on the worship of Jehovah God; while the Hammurabi Code emphasizes the secular matters. Even when we look to secular matters, we still find a major difference. The Ten Commandments not only forbid murder, but the Mosaic Law as a whole only gives the punishment of death for the willful murder of another and makes a distinction between murder and manslaughter. (Num. 35:9-34; Ex 21:12-14) On the other hand, in the Code of Hammurabi, as the Encyclopædia Britannica shows us, “a strange omission from the code is that of willful murder, and there is uncertainty as to how it was punished or by whom the retribution was inflicted.” (Encyclopædia Britannica, 1971, Vol. 11, page 43)

Under the Mosaic Law, premeditated murder was met with the death penalty, while the unintentional manslaughter received confinement at one of the seven cities of refuge, until the death of the high priest. In other parts of the Near East, the victim’s family member was expected to repay death regardless of whether it was intentional murder or unintentional manslaughter. In this connection, a statement by Philip Biberfeld, a rabbi, in his Universal Jewish History is of interest,

The Code of Hammurabi, the Hittite Laws, and the Biblical Laws contained in the Book of the Covenant and other parts of the Bible go back to a common source which is best preserved in the Bible where it has retained its original simplicity . . . The common source that can be traced in all these codes is identical with the Noahidic Laws which, according to the tradition, were the inheritance of all mankind. In the Book of the Covenant this original divine law was promulgated again with the modifications of Biblical legislation . . . All this establishes beyond any doubt the conviction that the simple and lucid formulations of the Bible were not the product of an artificial process of elimination but those of the original version in all their purity and simplicity. This conclusion has implications which extend far beyond the realm of these ancient legislations. It has a decisive bearing on all those instances where the pure and beautiful Biblical traditions are confronted by mythological parallels with all their ugly distortions.  (Biberfeld 1948, 153-154)


It should also be pointed out as well that the last of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall not covet.” (Ex. 20:17, UASV) That Mosaic Law is unparalleled in the historical records of jurisprudence. It is a law burrows down into the very heart of crime, and yet its implementation is dependent in large measure on the individual person himself.

Says a leading archaeologist G. A Barton: “A comparison of the code of Hammurabi as a whole with the Pentateuchal laws as a whole, while it reveals certain similarities, convinces the student that the laws of the Old Testament are in no essential way dependent upon the Babylonian laws. Such resemblances as there are arose, it seems clear, from a similarity of antecedents and of general intellectual outlook; the striking differences show that there was no direct borrowing.”—Barton, Archaeology and the Bible (1916), 406.

The Mesopotamian people believed the god Shamash gave their law code to Hammurabi so that the people could have a better relationship with one another. The Mosaic Law was given first and foremost to the Israelite people so they could have a good relationship with their God Jehovah. Another difference between the two is that the Mosaic Law was equally applied to all, as there was no class distinction. The Babylonian law code was handed out according to social status, the more harsh punishments going to those, who had no social standing. For example, adultery under the Mosaic Law required that both participants be put to death, whereas the Babylonian law only required that the woman be put to death.

Hammurabi Legacy

Hammurabi was honored above all other kings of the second millennium BC[40] and he received the unique honor of being declared to be a god within his own lifetime.[41] The personal name “Hammurabi-ili” meaning “Hammurabi is my god” became common during and after his reign. In writings from shortly after his death, Hammurabi is commemorated mainly for three achievements: bringing victory in war, bringing peace, and bringing justice.[42] Hammurabi’s conquests came to be regarded as part of a sacred mission to spread civilization to all nations.[43] A stele from Ur glorifies him in his own voice as a mighty ruler who forces evil into submission and compels all peoples to worship Marduk.[44] The stele declares: “The people of Elam, Gutium, Subartu, and Tukrish, whose mountains are distant and whose languages are obscure, I placed into [Marduk’s] hand. I myself continued to put straight their confused minds.” A later hymn also written in Hammurabi’s own voice extols him as a powerful, supernatural force for Marduk:[45]

Tablet of Hammurabi (𒄩𒄠𒈬𒊏𒁉, 4th column from the right), King of Babylon. British Museum.

I am the king, the brace that grasps wrongdoers, that makes people of one mind,
I am the great dragon among kings, who throws their counsel in disarray,
I am the net that is stretched over the enemy,
I am the fear-inspiring, who, when lifting his fierce eyes, gives the disobedient the death sentence,
I am the great net that covers evil intent,
I am the young lion, who breaks nets and scepters,
I am the battle net that catches him who offends me.[46]

Hammurabi Political Legacy

During the reign of Hammurabi, Babylon usurped the position of “most holy city” in southern Mesopotamia from its predecessor, Nippur. Under the rule of Hammurabi’s successor Samsu-iluna, the short-lived Babylonian Empire began to collapse. In northern Mesopotamia, both the Amorites and Babylonians were driven from Assyria by Puzur-Sin a native Akkadian-speaking ruler, c. 1740 BC. Around the same time, native Akkadian speakers threw off Amorite Babylonian rule in the far south of Mesopotamia, creating the Sealand Dynasty, in more or less the region of ancient Sumer. Hammurabi’s ineffectual successors met with further defeats and loss of territory at the hands of Assyrian kings such as Adasi and Bel-ibni, as well as to the Sealand Dynasty to the south, Elam to the east, and to the Kassites from the northeast. Thus was Babylon quickly reduced to the small and minor state it had once been upon its founding.

Copy of Hammurabi’s stele usurped by Shutruk-Nahhunte I. The stele was only partially erased and was never re-inscribed.

The coup de grace for the Hammurabi’s Amorite Dynasty occurred in 1595 BC, when Babylon was sacked and conquered by the powerful Hittite Empire, thereby ending all Amorite political presence in Mesopotamia. However, the Indo-European-speaking Hittites did not remain, turning over Babylon to their Kassite allies, a people speaking a language isolate, from the Zagros mountains region. This Kassite Dynasty ruled Babylon for over 400 years and adopted many aspects of the Babylonian culture, including Hammurabi’s code of laws. Even after the fall of the Amorite Dynasty, however, Hammurabi was still remembered and revered. When the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte I raided Babylon in 1158 BC and carried off many stone monuments, he had most of the inscriptions on these monuments erased and new inscriptions carved into them. However, on the stele containing Hammurabi’s laws, only four or five columns were wiped out and no new inscription was ever added. Over a thousand years after Hammurabi’s death, the kings of Suhu, a land along the Euphrates river, just northwest of Babylon, claimed him as their ancestor.

After extolling Hammurabi’s military accomplishments, the hymn finally declares: “I am Hammurabi, the king of justice.”[37] In later commemorations, Hammurabi’s role as a great lawgiver came to be emphasized above all his other accomplishments and his military achievements became de-emphasized. Hammurabi’s reign became the point of reference for all events in the distant past. A hymn to the goddess Ishtar, whose language suggests it was written during the reign of Ammisaduqa, Hammurabi’s fourth successor, declares: “The king who first heard this song as a song of your heroism is Hammurabi. This song for you was composed in his reign. May he be given life forever!” For centuries after his death, Hammurabi’s laws continued to be copied by scribes as part of their writing exercises, and they were even partially translated into Sumerian.


Modern Rediscovery

The bas-relief of Hammurabi at the United States Congress

In the late nineteenth century, the Code of Hammurabi became a major center of debate in the heated Babel und Bibel (“Babylon and Bible”) controversy in Germany over the relationship between the Bible and ancient Babylonian texts. In January 1902, the German Assyriologist Friedrich Delitzsch lecture at the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin in front of the Kaiser and his wife. He argued that the Mosaic Laws of the Old Testament were directly copied off the Code of Hammurabi. Delitzsch’s lecture was so controversial that, by September 1903, he had managed to collect 1,350 short articles from newspapers and journals, over 300 longer ones, and twenty-eight pamphlets, all written in response to this lecture, as well as the preceding one about the Flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. These articles were overwhelmingly critical of Delitzsch, though a few were sympathetic. The Kaiser distanced himself from Delitzsch and his radical views and, in fall of 1904, Delitzsch was forced to give his third lecture in Cologne and Frankfurt am Main rather than in Berlin.[49] The putative relationship between the Mosaic Law and the Code of Hammurabi later became a major part of Delitzsch’s argument in his 1920–21 book Die große Täuschung (The Great Deception) that the Hebrew Bible was irredeemably contaminated by Babylonian influence and that only by eliminating the human Old Testament entirely could Christians finally believe in the true, Aryan message of the New Testament.

Because of Hammurabi’s reputation as a lawgiver, his depiction can be found in several United States government buildings. Hammurabi is one of the 23 lawgivers depicted in marble bas-reliefs in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in the United States Capitol.[55] A frieze by Adolph Weinman depicting the “great lawgivers of history,” including Hammurabi, is on the south wall of the U.S. Supreme Court building. At the time of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Army’s 1st Hammurabi Armoured Division was named after the ancient king to emphasize the connection between modern Iraq and the pre-Arab Mesopotamian cultures.


The Years Following His Accession

Concerning Hammurabi’s early life nothing is recorded, but since he reigned at least 43 years, he must have been young when he came to the throne. His accession was apparently marked by some improvement in the administration of the laws, wherein, as the date-list says, he “established righteousness.” After this, the earlier years of his reign were devoted to such peaceful pursuits as constructing the shrines and images of the gods, and in his 6th year he built the wall of the city of Laz. In his 7th year he took Unug (Erech) and Isin–two of the principal cities of Babylonia, implying that the Dynasty of Babylon had not held sway in all the states.


Military Operations and Further Pious Works. Inauguration of His Image

While interesting himself in the all-important work of digging canals, he found time to turn his attention to the land of Yamutbalu (8th year), and in his 10th he possibly conquered or received the homage of, the city and people (or the army) of Malgia or Malga. Next year the city Rabiku was taken by a certain Ibik-Iskur, and also, seemingly, a place called Salibu. The inauguration of the throne of Zer-panitum, and the setting up, seemingly, of some kind of royal monument, followed, and was succeeded by other religious duties–indeed, work of this nature would seem to have occupied him every year until his 21st, when he built the fortress or fortification of the city Bazu. His 22nd year is described as that of his own image as king of righteousness; and the question naturally arises, whether this was the date when he erected the great stele found at Susa in Elam, inscribed with his Code of Laws, which is now in the Louvre. Next year he seems to have fortified the city of Sippar, where, it is supposed, this monument was originally erected.

The Capture of Rim-Sin

Pious works again occupied him until his 30th year, when the army of Elam is referred to, possibly indicating warlike operations, which paved the way for the great campaign of his 31st year, when, “with the help of Anu and Enlil,” he captured Yamut-balu and King Rim-Sin, the well-known ruler of Larsa. In his 32nd year he destroyed the army of Asnunna or Esnunnak.


Various Works, and an Expedition to Mesopotamia

After these victories, Hammurabi would seem to have been at peace, and in his 33rd year, he dug the canal Hammurabi-nuhus-nisi, “Hammurabi the abundance of the people,” bringing to the fields of his subjects fertility, “according to the wish of Enlila.” The restoration of the great temple at Erech came next, and was followed by the erection of a fortress, “high like a mountain,” on the banks of the Tigris. He also built the fortification of Rabiku on the bank of the Tigris, implying preparations for hostilities, and it was possibly on account of this that the next year he made supplication to Tasmetum, the spouse of Nebo. The year following (his 37th), “by the command of Anu and Enlila,” the fortifications of Maur and Malka were destroyed, after which the country enjoyed a twelve-month of peace. In all probability, however, this was to prepare for the expedition of his 39th year, when he subjugated Turukku, Kagmu, and Subartu, a part of Mesopotamia. The length of this year-date implies that the expedition was regarded as being of importance.

His Final Years

Untroubled by foreign affairs, the chief work of Hammurabi during his 40th year was the digging of the canal Tisit-Enlila, at Sippar, following this up by the restoration of the temple E-mete-ursag and a splendid temple-tower dedicated to Zagaga and Istar. The defenses of his country were apparently his last thought, for his 43rd year, which seemingly terminated his reign and his life, was devoted to strengthening the fortifications of Sippar, a work recorded at greater length in several cylinder-inscriptions found on the site.

Hammurabi’s Greatness as a Ruler

Of all the kings of early Babylonia so far known, Hammurabi would seem to have been one of the greatest, and the country made good progress under his rule. His conflicts with Elam suggest that Babylonia had become strong enough to resist that warlike state, and his title of adda or “father” of Martu (= Amurru, the Amorites) and of Yamutbalu on the East implies not only that he maintained the country’s influence, but also that, during his reign, it was no longer subject to Elam. Rim-Sin and the state of Larsa, however, were not conquered until the time of Samsu-iluna, Hammurabi’s son. It is noteworthy that his Code of Laws (see above) determined legal rights and responsibilities and fixed the rates of wages, thus obviating many difficulties.

Attribution: This article incorporates text from the public domain: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


  • Arnold, Bill T. (2005). Who Were the Babylonians?. Brill Publishers. ISBN 978-90-04-13071-5. OCLC 225281611.
  • Breasted, James Henry (2003). Ancient Time or a History of the Early World, Part 1. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7661-4946-5. OCLC 69651827.
  • DeBlois, Lukas (1997). An Introduction to the Ancient World. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-12773-8. OCLC 231710353.
  • Van De Mieroop, Marc (2005). King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4051-2660-1. OCLC 255676990.
  • Ziolkowski, Theodore (2012), Gilgamesh among Us: Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic, Ithaca, New York and London, England: Cornell University Press, ISBN 978-0-8014-5035-8




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[1] /ˌhæmʊˈrɑːbi/; Akkadian: 𒄩𒄠𒈬𒊏𒁉 Ḫa-am-mu-ra-bi, from the Amorite ʻAmmurāpi (“the kinsman is a healer”), itself from ʻAmmu (“paternal kinsman”) and Rāpi (“healer”).

[2] Beck, Roger B.; Black, Linda; Krieger, Larry S.; Naylor, Phillip C.; Shabaka, Dahia Ibo (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell.

[3] “AMRAPHEL – JewishEncyclopedia.com”

[4] North, Robert (1993). “Abraham”. In Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D. (eds.). The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 5

Granerød, Gard (Wednesday, June 9, 2021). Abraham and Melchizedek: Scribal Activity of Second Temple Times in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter. p. 120.

[5] IBID.

[6] Van De Mieroop, Marc (2005). King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography. Blackwell Publishing, p. 1.

[7] IBID, 1-2.

[8] IBID, 3.

[9] IBID, 3-4.

[10] IBID, 16.

[11] Arnold, Bill T. (2005). Who Were the Babylonians?. Brill Publishers, p. 43.

[12] Van De Mieroop, Marc (2005). King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography. Blackwell Publishing, p. 15-16.

[13] IBID, 17.

[14] Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 18

[15] Van De Mieroop, Marc (2005). King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography. Blackwell Publishing, 18.

[16] Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 31

[17] IBID, p. 31.

[18] IBID, pp. 40–41

[19] Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 54–55, 64–65.

Arnold 2005, p. 45

[20] IBID, p. 45

[21] IBID, p. 45

[22] Clay, Albert Tobias (1919). The Empire of the AmoritesYale University Press. p. 97.

[23] Breasted, James Henry (2003). Ancient Time or a History of the Early World, Part 1. Kessinger Publishing, p. 129.

[24] Breasted 2003, pp. 129–130

[25] Arnold 2005, p. 42

[26] Davies, W. W. (January 2003). Codes of Hammurabi and Moses. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7661-3124-8. OCLC 227972329.

[27] IBID.

[28] Breasted 2003, p. 141

Bertman, Stephen (2003). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 71.

Davies, W. W. (January 2003). Codes of Hammurabi and Moses. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7661-3124-8. OCLC 227972329.

[29] Breasted 2003, p. 141

[30] Bertman, Stephen (2003). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 71.

[31] IBID.

[32] IBID.

[33] Prince, J. Dyneley (1904). “The Code of Hammurabi”. The American Journal of Theology. 8 (3): 601–609.

Bertman, Stephen (2003). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 71.

[34] Victimology: Theories and Applications, Ann Wolbert Burgess, Albert R. Roberts, Cheryl Regehr, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2009, p. 103

[35] Kleiner, Fred S. (2010). Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective. 1 (Thirteenth ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-495-57360-9.

[36] Smith, J. M. Powis (2005). The Origin and History of Hebrew Law. Clark, New Jersey: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. p. 13.

[37] Douglas, J. D.; Tenney, Merrill C. (2011). Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. p. 1323.

Barton, G.A: Archaeology and the Bible. University of Michigan Library, 2009, p.406.

Unger, M.F.: Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1954, p.156, 157

Free, J.P.: Archaeology and Biblical History. Wheaton: Scripture Press, 1950, 1969, p. 121

Barton, a former professor of Semitic languages at the University of Pennsylvania, stated that while there are similarities between the two texts, a study of the entirety of both laws “convinces the student that the laws of the Old Testament are in no essential way dependent upon the Babylonian laws.” He states that “such resemblances” arose from “a similarity of antecedents and of general intellectual outlook” between the two cultures, but that “the striking differences show that there was no direct borrowing.” – Barton, G.A: Archaeology and the Bible. University of Michigan Library, 2009, p.406.

[38] Wright, David P. (2009). Inventing God’s Law: How the Covenant Code of the Bible Used and Revised the Laws of Hammurabi. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 3 and passim.

[39] “Tablet Discovered by Hebrew U Matches Code of Hammurabi.” Beit El: HolyLand Holdings, Ltd. Arutz Sheva. 26 June 2010.

[40] Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 128.

[41] IBID, p. 127.

[42] IBID, p. 127.

[43] IBID, p. 126.

[44] IBID, pp. 126–127.

[45] IBID, p. 126.

[46] IBID, pp. 126–127.

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