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Friday, December 13, 2013



Ancient Babylon is about 55 miles south of today's Baghdad in Iraq.  King Hammurabi inherited Babylon from his father in 1792 B.C.  This king began to expand his kingdom by taking the city of Kish along with other small neighboring cities.  He built up his army, expanded his kingdom and was able to take control of a vast area stretching from Mari to Ur in southern Mesopotamia.

The Code of Hammurabi managed his vast kingdom by controlling trade routes along the rivers and into the Persian Gulf.  He developed a well-known book of laws called the Code of Hammurabi to maintain order.  This code contained 282 laws and was written in Akkadian, the common language of his people.  This was written on 12 tablets and was carved into an eight foot high black stele, a large stone monument.  The Code was then displayed in public for everyone to see.  At the top of this stele was a carving that depicted Hammurabi justice.  Did you know that the early founders of our country chose to include a depiction of Hammurabi along with twenty-three other lawgivers on several U.S. government buildings, including a marble base and the frieze on the Supreme Court Building?  This was done because of Hammurabi's well known focus on law.  This stele had been taken from Babylon in a battle against the Elamites and was therefore lost centuries.  It was rediscovered in Iran in 1901, and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Hammurabi's laws were sorted into groups:  laws to govern business, labor, personal property, real estate, and family life.  These laws were strict and harsh.  They placed responsibility for crimes not only on the criminals, but also on anyone who might possibly have prevented a crime.  The code was very specific, especially in the areas of punishment.  The death sentence required a trial before a group of judges.

The code of Hammurabi divided the population into three classes:  the awilum(the king and his court, landowners, high officials, craftsmen and professionals), the muskingum(those who owned no property, the beggars) and the wardum(slaves).  Penalties for offenses were less severe for the awilum class.

The following are some of Hammurabi's Laws:

1.    If any one steals the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death as well as the one who receives the stolen thing.  They were both supposed to be put to death.
2.    If any one receives into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or a freedman, and does not bring it at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.
3.    If fire breaks out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out casts his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and takes the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.
4.    If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money shall replace the corn which he has caused to be ruined.
5.   If any one fails to meet a claim for debt, and sells himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or gives them away to forced labor:  they shall work for three years in the house of the man who bought them, or the proprietor and in the fourth year they shall be set free.

Apparently, after the Babylonian captivity, the Jews began using the Babylonian names for the months of their calendar, sometime after 600 BC.  The Babylonian calendar was based on 12 lunar months, each named for a different god.  The year began in the Spring and was divided into three sections:  beginning, middle and end.  As with the Jews, the Babylonians began their day at sunset rather than midnight.

A consideration of Babylonian history shows us the impact of Babylonian influence in the lives of the ancient Israelites.


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