his long reign, Hammurabi had his scribes chisel a Code of Law into
a black stone pillar eight feet high. As you read the excerpts below, pay
attention what they stipulate. Consider the implications.
If you accuse someone else of any death penalty crime
and do not prove what you has charged, you shall be put to death.
If someone accuses someone else, the accused shall go
and leap into the river. If he sinks in the river his accuser shall take
possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not
guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then the one who accused him shall be put
to death, and the one who leaped into the river shall take possession of
the accuser's house.
If you buy anything from the son or the slave of another
man without witnesses or a contract, you are considered a thief and shall
be put to death.
If any one loses something, and find it in the possession
of someone who says they bought it from a merchant, they both shall go
before the court. The judge will listen to witnesses from both sides (people
who saw the merchant sell it, and people who know it belonged to the other
If an accuser satisfy the judges to impose a fine of
grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.
If you steal something, you must repay it:
The judge shall examine their testimony -- both of the
witnesses before whom the price was paid, and of the witnesses who identify
the lost article.
If the merchant is proved to be a thief, he shall be
put to death. The owner of the lost article receives his property, and
he who bought it receives the money he paid from the estate of the merchant.
If the purchaser does not bring the merchant and the
witnesses before whom he bought the article, but its owner bring witnesses
who identify it, then the buyer is the thief and shall be put to death,
and the owner receive the lost article.
If the owner do not bring witnesses to identify the
lost article, he is an evil-doer, he has slandered and shall be put to
If a man has a debt to repay, he can give his wife,
son, or daughter as labor for three years to repay the money
If you are caught committing a robbery, you shall be
put to death.
If a robber is not caught, then the community will repay
the person who was robbed for the goods stolen.
If fire breaks out in a house, and someone who comes
to put it out takes the property of the master of the house, he shall be
thrown into the same fire.
If a man has destroyed the eye of another free man,
his own eye shall be destroyed.
If a builder has built a house for a man, and the house
falls in, he shall replace all that has been destroyed; if it kills the
householder, that builder shall be slain. If it kills the house owner's
son or daughter, the builder's son/daughter will be put to death.
(There is no 13th Law because, then as now, the number
13 was considered to be an unlucky and evil number.)
If a man strikes the body of a man who is superior in
status, he shall publicly receive sixty lashes with a cowhide whip
If a son has struck his father, his hands shall be cut
If any one "point the finger" (slanders) at
a sister of a god or the wife of any one, and can not prove it, this man
shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be cut
If a man and woman commit adultery, they shall be tied
up and thrown in the water. But if the husband lets the wife live, then
the man won't be killed either
If a man rapes a woman who has never known
a man, this man shall be put to death, but the woman is blameless.
If a man has decided to divorce his wife, then he must
give back to that woman her dowry, and give her the use of field, garden,
and property, and she shall bring up her children. After she has brought
up her children, she shall take a son's portion of her children's land,
and she may marry the husband of her heart.
If a man has married a wife, and sickness has seized
her, and he has decided to marry another, he may marry; but he may not
divorce the sick wife. She shall dwell in the house he has built, and he
shall support her while she lives.
If a man's wife plunges her husband into debt,
tries to ruin her house, and neglects her husband, he may divorce her and
give her nothing as a gift of release. If her husband does not wish to
release her, and if he take another wife, she shall remain as servant in
her husband's house. If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and
ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into
If anyone kidnaps another, and he can't prove it was
for a good reason, then he shall be put to death.
If anyone finds runaway male or female slaves and bring
them to their masters, the master of the slaves shall pay him two shekels
If any one takes a male or female slave, he shall be
put to death. If anyone receives into his house a runaway male or female
slave and does not bring it out into the public, the master of the house
shall be put to death.
If rebels against the government meet at a restaurant
and the owner does not turn them in, he/she will be put to death
If a shepherd lets sheep onto a field without the permission
of the owner, he must pay double the amount of grain the sheep eats
If a "sister of a god" opens a tavern, or
enters a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.
If a judge hears a case and reaches a decision, and
that decision is shown to be a mistake by the judge, 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.
if it is from a temple or the government, you will be
put to death (as will the one who receives the
stolen thing) and your family must repay it plus
30 times the value
if it is from a free man repay 10 times the value
if you can't repay, you will be put to death