Legal Code Analysis

1674 Words 7 Pages
Justice is a highly subjective idea. Every society throughout history has had legal codes with the hopes of achieving what they believed to be justice. However, because each society has different attitudes toward what they believe is just and even toward the purpose of their laws, historians have often seen different concepts arise. Two clear examples of societies having different concepts of justice and of the purpose of legal codes are the Mesopotamians, who believed that justice involved retribution and that the purpose of legal codes was to clearly dictate punishments, and the Hebrews, who believed that justice involved morality and that the purpose of legal codes was to tell people how to live morally correct lives. However, even though …show more content…
This means that a law is written when a society has witnessed situations that need laws addressing them. For example, in the Code of Hammurabi, there are many codes dealing with retribution involving physical violence such as the “eye for an eye” code previously mentioned. This implies that the Mesopotamians most likely lived in a society in which violence was inflicted upon them by one another. As a result, they made a legal code that clearly dictated punishments for people who inflicted violence in an effort to deter said violence. Furthermore, the Code of Hammurabi details different punishments for the same crime depending on whom was the victim of said crime. For example, code 196 as mentioned before dictates that if a noble has his eye knocked out than the perpetrator shall have his eye knocked out as well. However, code 198 states that if a person “has knocked out the eye of a plebeian [commoner], he shall pay one mina of silver.” The fact that the same crime is often written twice in the Code of Hammurabi in order to dole out different punishments shows two aspects of Mesopotamian life: that their concept of justice did not mean equal treatment and that these were crimes in which the nobles and commoners were victims of. Just as the Mesopotamians created laws that dealt with situations they …show more content…
Even if the Mesopotamians focused on retribution and detailing punishments and the Hebrews focused on morality and setting a moral standard, does not mean that there are no similarities between the two groups’ concepts of justice and the purpose of legal codes. First of all, both groups shared the common concept of justice that slavery was a perfectly acceptable practice to have. Both the Code of Hammurabi and Deuteronomy mention slavery. Neither legal codes condemn the practice but instead focuses on legal issues that might arise in which a slave is involved such as the slave’s death or the slave’s running away. Furthermore, a clearer example of the Mesopotamians and the Hebrews having similar concepts of justice and similar legal codes is that even though the Hebrews mostly focus on morality, there is still evidence within the Hebrew Scriptures of the ideas that justice can still involve those related to the perpetrator and can still involve retribution. In Exodus for instance, the second commandment mentions how the Hebrew God will punish the descendants of those who worship graven images of their Lord. While this is about a godly entity punishing the perpetrator’s relations and not necessarily the society, it still demonstrates that Code of Hammurabi attitude of people being punished

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