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The Oldest Code of Laws in the World The code of laws promulgated by Hammurabi, King of Babylon B.C. 2285-2242   By: (-1750? BC)

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First Page:

THE OLDEST CODE OF LAWS IN THE WORLD

THE CODE OF LAWS PROMULGATED BY HAMMURABI, KING OF BABYLON B.C. 2285 2242

TRANSLATED

BY

C. H. W. JOHNS, M.A.

LECTURER IN ASSYRIOLOGY, QUEENS' COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE AUTHOR OF "ASSYRIAN DEEDS AND DOCUMENTS" "AN ASSYRIAN DOOMSDAY BOOK"

EDINBURGH T. & T. CLARK, 38 GEORGE STREET 1903

PRINTED BY MORRISON AND GIBB LIMITED

FOR

T. & T. CLARK, EDINBURGH

LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT, AND CO. LIMITED NEW YORK: CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

FIRST IMPRESSION . . . February 1903.

SECOND IMPRESSION . . . March 1903.

THIRD IMPRESSION . . . May 1903.

FOURTH IMPRESSION . . . June 1903.

"The discovery and decipherment of this Code is the greatest event in Biblical Archaeology for many a day. A translation of the Code, done by Mr. Johns of Queens' College, Cambridge, the highest living authority on this department of study, has just been published by Messrs. T. & T. Clark in a cheap and attractive booklet. Winckler says it is the most important Babylonian record which has thus far been brought to light." The Expository Times .

INTRODUCTION

The Code of Hammurabi is one of the most important monuments in the history of the human race. Containing as it does the laws which were enacted by a king of Babylonia in the third millennium B.C., whose rule extended over the whole of Mesopotamia from the mouths of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates to the Mediterranean coast, we must regard it with interest. But when we reflect that the ancient Hebrew tradition ascribed the migration of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to this very period, and clearly means to represent their tribe father as triumphing over this very same Hammurabi (Amraphel, Gen. xiv. 1), we can hardly doubt that these very laws were part of that tradition. At any rate, they must have served to mould and fix the ideas of right throughout that great empire, and so form the state of society in Canaan when, five hundred years later, the Hebrews began to dominate that region.

Such was the effect produced on the minds of succeeding generations by this superb codification of the judicial decisions of past ages, which had come to be regarded as 'the right,' that two thousand years and more later it was made a text book for study in the schools of Babylonia, being divided for that purpose into some twelve chapters, and entitled, after the Semitic custom, Ninu ilu sirum , from its opening words. In Assyria also, in the seventh century B.C., it was studied in a different edition, apparently under the name of 'The Judgments of Righteousness which Hammurabi, the great king, set up.' These facts point to it as certain to affect Jewish views before and after the Exile, in a way that we may expect to find as fundamental as the Babylonian influence in cosmology or religion.

For many years fragments have been known, have been studied, and from internal evidence ascribed to the period of the first dynasty of Babylon, even called by the name Code Hammurabi. It is just cause for pride that Assyriology, so young a science as only this year to have celebrated the centenary of its birth, is able to emulate astronomy and predict the discovery of such bright stars as this. But while we certainly should have directed our telescopes to Babylonia for the rising of this light from the East, it was really in Elam, at Susa, the old Persepolis, that the find was made. The Elamites were the great rivals of Babylonia for centuries, and it seems likely that some Elamite conqueror carried off the stone from a temple at Sippara, in Babylonia.

However that may be, we owe it to the French Government, who have been carrying on explorations at Susa for years under the superintendence of M. J. de Morgan, that a monument, only disinterred in January, has been copied, transcribed, translated, and published, in a superb quarto volume, by October. The ancient text is reproduced by photogravure in a way that enables a student to verify word by word what the able editor, Father V... Continue reading book >>




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