Exodus & Parallels in Other Ancient Near Eastern Law Codes

Contents


Notes

Laws from Exodus 20–23.

Laws from the Code of Hammurabi (1754 BC). Law code of ancient Babylon (in modern Iraq). One of the oldest that is still extant. Carved into stele (a vertical stone slab), part of it is damaged; the laws which were there are lost.

Laws from the Code of the Nesilim (1600 BC). Law code of a Imperial Hittites (in modern Asia Minor). Only a few of the laws are available online, so parallels may run deeper than I have in this document.

Exodus’ parallels with Nesilim are few, but with Hammurabi there are many.


The Ten Commandments

E§1 20.2–3 I am Yahweh, your god, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

E§2 20.4–6 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I—Yahweh, your god—am a jealous god, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

E§3 20.7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of Yahweh, your god, for Yahweh will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

E§4 20.8–11 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to Yahweh, your god. You shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

(See E§54.)

E§5 20.12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that Yahweh, your god, is giving you.

E§6 20.13 You shall not murder.

E§7 20.14 You shall not commit adultery.

E§8 20.15 You shall not steal.

E§9 20.16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

(See E§48.)

E§10 20.17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.


Altars

E§11 20.22–23 You have seen for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.

E§12 20.24–25 You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt-offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it.

E§13 20.26 You shall not go up by steps to my altar, so that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’


Slavery

E§14 21.2 When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt.

H§117 If anyone fail to meet a claim for debt, and sell himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or give 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.

E§15 21.3–6 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. But if the slave declares, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person’, then his master shall bring him before the judges. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life.

E§16 21.7 When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.

E§17 21.8 If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her.

E§18 21.9–11 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

H§156 If a man betroth a girl to his son, but his son has not known her, and if then he defile her, he shall pay her half a gold mina, and compensate her for all that she brought out of her father's house. She may marry the man of her heart.

N§31 If a free man and a female slave be fond of each other and come together and he take her for his wife and they set up house and get children, and afterward they either become hostile or come to close quarters, and they divide the house between them, the man shall take the children, only one child shall the woman take.


Violence

E§19 21.12–14,18–19 Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. But if someone wilfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution. […] When individuals quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or fist so that the injured party, though not dead, is confined to bed, but recovers and walks around outside with the help of a staff, then the assailant shall be free of liability, except to pay for the loss of time, and to arrange for full recovery.

H§206–208 If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him, then he shall swear, 'I did not injure him intentionally,' and pay the physicians. If the man die of his wound, he shall swear similarly, and if he was a free-born man, he shall pay half a mina in money. If he was a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

E§20 21.15 Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.

H§195 If a son strike his father, his hands shall be cut off.

E§21 21.16 Whoever kidnaps a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession, shall be put to death.

H§13–14 If anyone steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death. If anyone take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be put to death.

E§22 21.17 Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.

E§23 21.20–21 When a slave-owner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives for a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

E§24 21.22–23 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life.

H§209–214 If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death. If a woman of the free class lose her child by a blow, he shall pay five shekels in money. If this woman die, he shall pay half a mina. If he strike the maid-servant of a man, and she lose her child, he shall pay two shekels in money. If this maid-servant die, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

H§17–18 If anyone cause a free woman to miscarry, if it be the tenth month, he shall give ten half-shekels of silver, if it be the fifth month, he shall give five half-shekels of silver. If anyone cause a female slave to miscarry, if it be the tenth month, he shall give five half-shekels of silver.

E§25 21.24–25 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

H§196–197,200 If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken. […] If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.

N§6,8 If anyone blind a free man or knock out his teeth, formerly they would give one pound of silver, now he shall give twenty half-shekels of silver. […] If anyone blind a male or female slave or knock out their teeth, he shall give ten half-shekels of silver, he shall let it go to his home.

E§26 21.26–27 When a slave-owner strikes the eye of a male or female slave, destroying it, the owner shall let the slave go, a free person, to compensate for the eye. If the owner knocks out a tooth of a male or female slave, the slave shall be let go, a free person, to compensate for the tooth.

H§119 If he put out the eye of a man's slave, or break the bone of a man's slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.

N§10 If anyone injure a man so that he cause him suffering, he shall take care of him. Yet he shall give him a man in his place, who shall work for him in his house until he recovers. But if he recover, he shall give him six half-shekels of silver. And to the physician this one shall also give the fee.


Property

E§27 21.28–32,35–36 When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. If the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not restrained it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. If a ransom is imposed on the owner, then the owner shall pay whatever is imposed for the redemption of the victim’s life. If it gores a boy or a girl, the owner shall be dealt with according to this same rule. If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slave-owner thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. […] If someone’s ox hurts the ox of another, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the price of it; and the dead animal they shall also divide. But if it was known that the ox was accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not restrained it, the owner shall restore ox for ox, but keep the dead animal.

H§251–252 If an ox be a goring ox, and it shown that he is a gorer, and he do not bind his horns, or fasten the ox up, and the ox gore a free-born man and kill him, the owner shall pay one-half a mina in money. If he kill a man's slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

E§28 21.33–34 If someone leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restitution, giving money to its owner, but keeping the dead animal.

E§29 22.1,3b–4 When someone steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, the thief shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. The thief shall make restitution, but if unable to do so, shall be sold for the theft. When the animal, whether ox or donkey or sheep, is found alive in the thief’s possession, the thief shall pay double.

H§8 If anyone steal cattle or sheep, or a donkey, or a pig or a goat, if it belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirtyfold therefor; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to death.

E§30 22.2–3a If a thief is found breaking in, and is beaten to death, no blood-guilt is incurred; but if it happens after sunrise, blood-guilt is incurred.

H§20–21 If anyone break a hole into a house, he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried. If anyone is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.

E§31 22.5 When someone causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets livestock loose to graze in someone else’s field, restitution shall be made from the best in the owner’s field or vineyard.

H§56–57 If a shepherd, without the permission of the owner of the field, and without the knowledge of the owner of the sheep, lets the sheep into a field to graze, then the owner of the field shall harvest his crop, and the shepherd, who had pastured his flock there without permission of the owner of the field, shall pay to the owner twenty gur of corn for every ten gan. If after the flocks have left the pasture and been shut up in the common fold at the city gate, any shepherd let them into a field and they graze there, this shepherd shall take possession of the field which he has allowed to be grazed on, and at the harvest he must pay sixty gur of corn for every ten gan.

E§32 22.6 When fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, the one who started the fire shall make full restitution.

H§24 If fire break out in a house, and someone who comes to put it out cast his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and take the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.

N§98–99 If a free man set a house ablaze, he shall build the house, again. And whatever is inside the house, be it a man, an ox, or a sheep that perishes, nothing of these he need compensate. If a slave set a house ablaze, his master shall compensate for him. The nose of the slave and his ears they shall cut off, and give him back to his master. But if he does not compensate, then he shall give up this one.

E§33 22.7–8,10–13 When someone delivers to a neighbour money or goods for safe keeping, and they are stolen from the neighbour’s house, then the thief, if caught, shall pay double. If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house shall be brought before the judges, to determine whether or not the owner had laid hands on the neighbour’s goods. […] When someone delivers to another a donkey, ox, sheep, or any other animal for safekeeping, and it dies or is injured or is carried off, without anyone seeing it, an oath before Yahweh shall decide between the two of them that the one has not laid hands on the property of the other; the owner shall accept the oath, and no restitution shall be made. But if it was stolen, restitution shall be made to its owner. If it was mangled by beasts, let it be brought as evidence; restitution shall not be made for the mangled remains.

H§120–125 If anyone store corn for safe keeping in another person's house, and any harm happen to the corn in storage, or if the owner of the house open the granary and take some of the corn, or if especially he deny that the corn was stored in his house: then the owner of the corn shall claim his corn before God, and the owner of the house shall pay its owner for all of the corn that he took. If anyone store corn in another man's house he shall pay him storage at the rate of one gur for every five ka of corn per year. If anyone give another silver, gold, or anything else to keep, he shall show everything to some witness, draw up a contract, and then hand it over for safekeeping. If he turn it over for safe keeping without witness or contract, and if he to whom it was given deny it, then he has no legitimate claim. If anyone deliver silver, gold, or anything else to another for safe keeping, before a witness, but he deny it, he shall be brought before a judge, and all that he has denied he shall pay in full. If anyone place his property with another for safe keeping, and there, either through thieves or robbers, his property and the property of the other man be lost, the owner of the house, through whose neglect the loss took place, shall compensate the owner for all that was given to him in charge. But the owner of the house shall try to follow up and recover his property, and take it away from the thief.

E§34 22.9 In any case of disputed ownership involving ox, donkey, sheep, clothing, or any other loss, of which one party says, ‘This is mine’, the case of both parties shall come before the judges; the one whom the judges condemn shall pay double to the other.

H§9–12 If anyone lose an article, and find it in the possession of another: if the person in whose possession the thing is found say 'A merchant sold it to me, I paid for it before witnesses,' and if the owner of the thing say, 'I will bring witnesses who know my property,' then shall the purchaser bring the merchant who sold it to him, and the witnesses before whom he bought it, and the owner shall bring witnesses who can identify his property. The judge shall examine their testimony, both of the witnesses before whom the price was paid, and of the witnesses who identify the lost article on oath. The merchant is then proved to be a thief and shall be put to death. The owner of the lost article receives his property, and he who bought it receives the money he paid from the estate of the merchant. If the purchaser does not bring the merchant and the witnesses before whom he bought the article, but its owner bring witnesses who identify it, then the buyer is the thief and shall be put to death, and the owner receives the lost article. If the owner do not bring witnesses to identify the lost article, he is an evil-doer, he has traduced, and shall be put to death. If the witnesses be not at hand, then shall the judge set a limit, at the expiration of six months. If his witnesses have not appeared within the six months, he is an evil-doer, and shall bear the fine of the pending case.

E§35 2.14–15 When someone borrows an animal from another and it is injured or dies, the owner not being present, full restitution shall be made. If the owner was present, there shall be no restitution; if it was hired, only the hiring fee is due.

H§242–250 If anyone hire oxen for a year, he shall pay four gur of corn for plow-oxen. As rent of herd cattle he shall pay three gur of corn to the owner. If anyone hire an ox or a donkey, and a lion kill it in the field, the loss is upon its owner. If anyone hire oxen, and kill them by bad treatment or blows, he shall compensate the owner, oxen for oxen. If a man hire an ox, and he break its leg or cut the ligament of its neck, he shall compensate the owner with ox for ox. If anyone hire an ox, and put out its eye, he shall pay the owner one-half of its value. If anyone hire an ox, and break off a horn, or cut off its tail, or hurt its muzzle, he shall pay one-fourth of its value in money. If anyone hire an ox, and God strike it that it die, the man who hired it shall swear by God and be considered guiltless. If while an ox is passing on the street someone push it, and kill it, the owner can set up no claim in the suit.


Miscellaneous

E§36 22.16–17 When a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married, and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. But if her father refuses to give her to him, he shall pay an amount equal to the bride-price for virgins.

E§37 22.18 You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.

E§38 22.19 Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.

N§187–199 If a man have intercourse with a cow, it is a capital crime, he shall die. They shall lead him to the king's hall. But the king may kill him, the king may grant him his life. But he shall not approach the king. […] If anyone have intercourse with a pig or a dog, he shall die. If a man have intercourse with a horse or a mule, there is no punishment. But he shall not approach the king, and shall not become a priest. If an ox spring upon a man for intercourse, the ox shall die but the man shall not die. One sheep shall be fetched as a substitute for the man, and they shall kill it. If a pig spring upon a man for intercourse, there is no punishment. If any man have intercourse with a foreign woman and pick up this one, now that one, there is no punishment.

E§39 22.20 Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than Yahweh alone, shall be devoted to destruction.


Abuse

E§40 22.21 You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

(See E§52.)

E§41 22.22–24 You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans.

H§Sanctions That the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and orphans, I have in Babylon the city where Anu and Bel raise high their head, in Esagila, the temple, whose foundations stand firm as heaven and earth, in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries, set up these my precious words, written upon my memorial stone, before the image of me, as king of righteousness.

E§42 22.25 If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.

H§100–102 [...] interest for the money, as much as he has received, he shall give a note therefor, and on the day, when they settle, pay to the merchant. If there are no mercantile arrangements in the place whither he went, he shall leave the entire amount of money which he received with the broker to give to the merchant. If a merchant entrust money to an agent for some investment, and the broker suffer a loss in the place to which he goes, he shall make good the capital to the merchant.

E§43 22.26–27 If you take your neighbour’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be your neighbour’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbour cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.


Ritual

E§44 22.28 You shall not revile God, or curse a leader of your people.

E§45 22.29a You shall not delay to make offerings from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses.

E§46 22.29b–30 The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: for seven days it shall remain with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

E§47 22.31 You shall be people consecrated to me; therefore you shall not eat any meat that is mangled by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.


Miscellaneous

E§48 23.1–3 You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.

(See E§9.)

E§49 23.4 When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.

E§50 23.5 When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.

E§51 23.6–8 You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

E§52 23.9 You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

(See E§40.)

E§53 23.10–11 For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

H§43 If anyone take over a waste-lying field to make it arable, but is lazy, and does not make it arable, he shall plow the fallow field in the fourth year, harrow it and till it, and give it back to its owner, and for each ten gan ten gur of grain shall be paid.

E§54 23.12 For six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your home-born slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

(See E§4.)


Ritual

E§55 23.13a Be attentive to all that I have said to you.

E§56 23.13b Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.

E§57 23.14–17 Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me.
a You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me empty-handed.
b You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labour, of what you sow in the field.
c You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labour.
Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord Yahweh.

E§58 23.18 You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my festival remain until the morning.

E§59 23.19a The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of Yahweh, your god.

E§60 23.19b You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.


Conquest

E§61 23.20–21 I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.

E§62 23.22 But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes.

E§63 23.23–24 When my angel goes in front of you, and brings you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods, or worship them, or follow their practices, but you shall utterly demolish them and break their pillars in pieces.

E§64 23.25–31 You shall worship Yahweh, your god, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from among you. No one shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfil the number of your days. I will send my terror in front of you, and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send the pestilence in front of you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, or the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates; for I will hand over to you the inhabitants of the land, and you shall drive them out before you.

E§65 23.32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods.

E§66 23.33 They shall not live in your land, or they will make you sin against me; for if you worship their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.

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