Of the several law codes surviving from the ancient Middle East, the most famous after the Torah is the Code of Hammurabi. This copy was made long after Hammurabi’s time, and it is clear that his was a long-lasting contribution to Mesopotamian civilization. It encodes many laws that had probably evolved over a long period of time, but is interesting to the general reader because of what it tells us about the attitudes and daily lives of the ancient Babylonians. In the following selection, most of the long prologue praising Hammurabi’s power and wisdom is omitted.
15: If anyone take a male or female slave of the court, or a male/female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates [to escape; to be free without permission; to be free without any approval; to be free without any verdict], he shall be put to death [he/she shall die; execution].
16: If any one receive into his house a runaway male/female slave of the court [If anyone keeps/holds an illegal slave], or of a freedman [slave of a free-man], and does not bring it out at the public proclamation [Referring to if doesn’t bring out after requests] of the [police] (Governing body that is similar to present-day policemen and policewomen), the master of the house shall be put to death [he/she shall die; execution].
53: If any one be lazy to keep his dam in proper condition [If one does not maintain their dam], and does not so keep it; if then the dam breaks and all the fields be flooded [the dam breaks and the fields (crops) are flooded/drowned down], then shall he in whose dam the break occurred [owner of the dam] be sold for money, and the money shall replace the [grain] which he has caused to be ruined [ruined crops due to the drowning/flooding]
54: If he be not able to replace the [grain] [replace the flooded grains], then he and his possessions shall be divided among the farmers whose he has flooded. [“Corn” possibly refers to the flooded grains].
108: If a female [who sells wine; wine-seller] does not accept [grain] according to gross weight in payment of drink [salary in accordance to how much the wine is being sold/has been sold for], but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the corn [“corn” might refer to salary/money, or might pertain to the actual food], she shall be convicted and thrown into the water [drowned].
109: If conspirators meet in the house of a female [who sells wine; wine-seller], and these conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court [of justice/prosecution], the female wine-seller shall be put to death [execution, or the like...].
110: If a sister of a nun open[s] a tavern to drink, then shall this woman [then this woman] be burned to death [lit on fire].
138: If a man wishes to separate from his wife [divorce] who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father's house, and let her go.
141: If a man's wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges into debt [to go into business], tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband, and is judicially convicted: if her husband offer her release, she may go her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her husband does not wish to release her, and if he take another wife, she shall remain as servant in her husband's house.
142: If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: "You are not congenial to me", the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father's house.
143: If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast[ed] into the water [drowned].
198: If he put out the eye of a [commoner], or break the bone of a [commoner], he shall pay one [silver] mina.