Law Codes

A number of documents from Babylonia called Law Codes have been recovered and the fact that these contain parallels with biblical and modern law has evoked considerable interest in modern scholarship. The documents in question are:

The Laws of Urukagina (Sumerian, 2350 BC),

The Laws of Ur-Namrnu (Sumerian, 2112-2095 BC),

The Laws of Lipit-Ishtar (Sumerian 1934-1924 BC),

The Laws of Eshnunna (Babylonian, 1900 BC), and

The Code of Hammurapi (Babylonian, 1792-1750 BC).

Although three of the texts are in Sumerian there is a clear relationship and frequently verbal agreement among all of them, reflecting a continuous literary tradition. With the exception of the Laws of Eshnunna, they are all written in the form of a royal inscription. This fact indicates that they are not legal codes at all and this observation is corroborated by other features, namely the lack of consistency and the fact that the documents are neither comprehensive nor are they ever referred to in the abundant records of actual legal proceedings of the time. Rather, they are collections, within the framework of royal inscriptions, of independent legal decrees issued by various kings to meet specific problems. Collections of these, of which the Laws of Eshnunna is one example, were continuously copied, added to, and elaborated upon. From time to time these were put into royal inscriptions as a boast by the king that he had fulfilled his divine mission to administer his people justly and fairly.