Hammurabi’s Code: Was It Just? Hammurabi, the king of ancient Babylonia, erected large pillars of stone throughout his kingdom to establish the laws of the land. The large steles reminded the citizens of the civil and criminal laws that were created by Hammurabi to protect the weak, innocent, and poor of Babylonia. However, by the standards of modern society, Hammurabi’s Code is unjust. For the most part in the modern world, all people are thought to be created and therefore treated equally.
It is instinctual for humans to act in a moral way towards others, and the law in theory protects innocent people from crime and civil injustice. But in ancient Babylonia these standards of society were not present. Hammurabi’s Code, was not in correlation with the modern sense of morality. There is a distinct difference between what is right, and what is the law. But because the government has authority over its citizens, then most people will feel an obligation to act in accordance with whoever it is in the position of authority.
A very prevalent theme in Hammurabi’s Code is that of “An eye for an eye,” or the concept that if someone causes harm to another person, then the perpetrator should receive an equal punishment. In the case of a robbery or a minor crime, this concept would seem reasonable. But there are many instances where this idea becomes immoral. For example, if a man’s house collapses and then kills him, the builder or architect of the house would be sent to death as well. Hammurabi’s code does not account for coincidences or mistakes.
Hammurabi’s Code can be interpreted as sexist, and some of the laws were based on pure chance, or magic, as the Babylonians thought. For example, “If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.
This passage shows that a man’s entire property and his life could be put in jeopardy by the chance that he is a strong enough swimmer to escape the river. Hammurabi’s laws were very unreasonable. Hammurabi’s Code was meant to protect those who were innocent or unfortunate, but the concept that a punishment should be equal to the act commited, is not moral by the standards of a modern society. Many of the laws contained prejudice towards women and slaves, and others left a man’s fate up to chance. Hammurabi’s Code is unjust.