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It is necessary to have laws in place because not only do they maintain order, they also protect the rights of an individual and the general safety of people. No one is forced to follow the laws that are in place. However, not following these laws results in consequences. In ancient times, two famous lawmakers were Hammurabi and Moses. Hammurabi was the ruler of the Babylonians from 1792-1750 B. C. E. The Babylonian civilization developed in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Hebrew civilization, on the other hand, developed when Moses was appointed by God and led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the Sinai Desert. Even though Moses and Hammurabi handled situations differently, their beliefs are very similar. Some of the beliefs they have in common are their beliefs on marriage, retaliation, and theft. The first thing they have in common is their ideas of marriage. In both the Hebrew and Babylonian society, marriage was thought of as a “legal contract. ”They strongly believed that there shouldn’t be any sexual relations with another woman or man while married. The punishment for those who didn’t abide by these rules was very harsh. Even though Hammurabi and Moses had the same idea of what a marriage should be like, there are some differences. In the Babylonian society, if a woman was caught cheating on her husband, the woman was to be punished. “If a man’s wife caught lying with another, they shall be strangled and cast into the water. . . ”, (Hammurabi, 129).
However, there isn’t any punishment for if a man was caught cheating on his wife. Unlike Babylonia, in the Hebrew society there is punishment for the man in a marriage, if he has committed adultery. “If a man is caught sleeping with another mans wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. . . ”, (Deut. 22:22). In the Mosaic laws, it was also possible for a man to have more than one wife but in the Babylonian society it was prohibited. The goal of a marriage was to have children and protect property rights. The Hebrew law allowed a man to divorce his wife simply because he found something he did not like about her or that he was not pleased with. All the man has to do is write a bill of divorce and put it in her hand and then she is put out of the house. This did not protect the wife as much as Hammurabi’s Code did. In Hammurabi’s code, a man could also divorce his wife without a reason but if they had a child together she could keep the kids, get the dowry, and use of the property.
Not only were the two societies against adultery, they were also against incest. However, they were not concerned about this because they found it disgusting. Hammurabi’smain concern was maintaining a clear line of inheritance. Moses, on the other hand, was concerned with the people remaining holy. Incest was against the morals of the Hebrew people. The Hebrew society basically believed that anything that went against their ethics were acts of evil. They would refer to these acts as defilement. Defilement was believed to be “abominable”, meaning that it was horrific. They thought that if someone disobeyed the laws, it would impact the community both spiritually and socially. Another similarity between the two is their beliefs on retaliation. In both societies they believed that what a person does to someone else, shall be done unto them and this was considered their punishment. Lex talionis means the law of retaliation in Latin. The law of retaliation is the idea that punishment for a offense should be equal to the offense committed. “If a man has knocked out the eye of a patrician, his eye shall be knocked out”, (Hammurabi, 196). The Mosaic laws is like a summary of Hammurabi’s code when it comes to retaliation. They both state pretty much the same ideas of what should happen to someone who harms someone else. Although it seems like the goal of these laws was to get revenge or to get even, it was not.
The goal of these laws was to simply protect people’s lives and to use fear as a way of teaching people not to steal. It taught the people to do unto others as they would want done unto them. This is a rule still taught today. The last similarity between Hammurabi and Moses is theft. Whatever a thief stole had to be paid back to the person the thief stole from. However, Hammurabi believed that the thief should repay ten or thirty times what was stolen. “If a patrician has stolen ox, he shall pay thirtyfold. If he be a plebeian he shall return tenfold”, (Hammurabi,8). In the Hebrew society, a thief was not required to pay back as much as they would have in the Babylonian society. Also, in the Babylonian society, a person’s social status played a major role in how much the thief had to repay to them. If the thief could not pay back what he stole, then he was to be put to death. This made it clear to the people not to steal. Especially if they were unable to reimburse what they stole. If the person committing the robbery was caught, they were automatically put to death. Moses and Hammurabi differed greatly in agriculture. Farmers in the Hebrew society were taught that it was their responsibility to care for the poor. “Land was to lie fallow…poor could gather the residue from such fields, orchards, or vineyards” (Wolf, 8). This shows that the Hebrews looked out for each other. They were also taught that no matter who the person is or the condition they are in, they should not be treated badly. This compassion found in the Hebrew laws is not found Hammurabi’s code. This allows us to see that Babylonia was wealthier and more urban. In Babylonia on the other hand, it was more like every man for himself. So, if you were unable to provide something for yourself, you were just expected to do without it. This is probably why stealing was such a big issue.
Farming was a big deal in Babylonia because it was key to the well-being of the entire Mesopotamia area. “If a farmer were lax. . . . thus allowing water to break through… he would have to replace the lost crop” (Wolf, 8). Not being able to replace the crop resulted in his goods being sold to his neighbor. This shows just how serious farming was in this area. In conclusion, Hammurabi’s Code and the Mosaic Laws are very similar but yet very different. They have similar perceptions of marriage, retaliation, and theft but are different in agriculture.Each society had consequences for people who decided not to follow the rules put in place. Both societies also had rather harsh consequences, but it was their way of keeping order and making it harder for people to want to do wrong. Moses was trying to remove evil from society and Hammurabi focused on preventing people from commiting crimes.
They do not force people to follow the rules that they have, but with such gruesome consequences it almost leaves them with no other choice but to follow them. Hammurabi and Moses are two of the earliest and most famous lawgivers. Hammurabi was the leader of the Babylonians and Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt. The two were from very different periods in history, but their mindset was pretty much the same when it came to what was right and what was wrong. They just had different ways of punishing those that did wrong.
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