Did the Law of Moses Copy the Code of Hammurabi?

milkau_oberer_teil_der_stele_mit_dem_text_von_hammurapis_gesetzescode_369-2There is a long list of reasons why skeptics and atheists doubt the veracity of the Bible. One of the reasons is the law code of Hammurabi dating back to around 1754 BC. This code of law was established by the Babylonian king Hammurabi for his subjects in the region of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) “so that the powerful may not oppress the powerless.” History courses in schools make it their best efforts to subtly train the students’ mind to move their eyes away from God with comparing this to the Mosaic Laws.  Some laws in here, admittedly, reflect the Laws of the Torah. However, as the Christian critically examines both laws, he would find that the Law of Moses was not a mere copycat, but a repudiation of the code of Hammurabi and a correction of true morality.

Hammurabi’s code was a hierarchically structured one. The “eye-for-eye” punishment depended on the persons’ position in society. In the Making of the West textbook, the Historians described the code to have had “legally divided society into three categories: free persons, commoners, and slaves . . . .  they reflected a social hierarchy in which some people were assigned a higher value than others” (1). Additionally, the code placed a heavy emphasis on property; offenses against such had a harsh penalty: death. Slaves, too, were considered to be property and were not valued as human beings. Women suffered more than men, were not given much freedom, and had a lesser value than males (not considered to be equals). Finally, Hammurabi’s code was embedded with polytheism and the judgement for an alleged criminal was superstitious.

The God-breathed Mosaic Laws, however, emphasized human value and morality–leading the people back to the upright way the Lord created us to be in the beginning before we sought our own downward paths (Genesis 1:26; Ecclesiastes 7:29). Property was of no importance compared to the life of a being. Slaves were treated as humans; men and women received the same just recompenses. All are equal in the eyes of God and are shown no partiality in the Laws. Simply put, the Laws of Moses was not hierarchically structured.

Despite the two laws’ vast differences, one thing is to also be noted: while the Mosaic Laws was only for the people of Israel, everyone else (called Gentiles in the Bible) was under another law called the Patriarchal dispensation. Such was in effect from the time of Adam until the resurrection of Christ. As a result, Hammurabi’s 282 law code show hints of God’s Patriarchal dispensation before the king distorted it with polytheism, inequality and property–making evident of an objective, universal morality God has instilled in the conscience of His creation that would excuse or accuse them (Romans 2:14,15). It’s the reason for which the code of Hammurabi and the Law of Moses have similarities.

Today, no one is neither under the Patriarchal nor Mosaic dispensations because the Lord of glory nailed them both to the cross in order to bring the Jews and Gentiles into one body–his body:

For [Christ] Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:14-16).

The Lord Jesus Christ gave the world a final, universal law established by His precious blood. Let the reader who has not been reconciled to His body be reconciled (Acts 2:38). We will no longer be judged by the two dispensations or judged by anything else, but by the words that proceeded from the Lord’s mouth (John 12:48).

End Note(s):

(1) Lynn Hunt et al., The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures (Massachusetts: Bedford/St. Martin’s), 14.

For further reading on the Patriarchal Law, read Eric Lyon’s article over at ApologeticsPress.org (click the link to be directed to the article).


2 thoughts on “Did the Law of Moses Copy the Code of Hammurabi?

    1. Danielle Smith

      Thank you, mom!! They’re teaching this stuff in colleges, and so many believers leave from there atheists or skeptics. It’s sad.


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