September 17, 2008

Back to Hammurabi

We already know of the similarities between some of the Hammurabi laws and the Torah laws, so I decided to actually go down the list and read them for once. Law #146 sparked my interest:

If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.

I don't know about you, but this law reminds me a bit about the story of Sarah and Hagar. As you remember, Hagar after giving Abraham a child, "Tafsa Tachat" (as Israelis would say) angering Sarah, her mistress, and eventually being sent away. Sarah, did not sell Hagar. Perhaps, she was not allowed to since this was some sort of common law. Now, I am assuming this story too place. One of the arguments some make in favor of an ancient Torah is that it's laws and customs date to a more ancient time, well before it could have been written by their supposed source authors. Or, could these customs still have existed later on and the authors merely inserted them in the stories of their forefathers? Or, am I simply seeing something here that doesn't exist?

Here is another one that I will admit may be a stretch, but it got me thinking. Law #116

If the prisoner die in prison from blows or maltreatment, the master of the prisoner shall convict the merchant before the judge. If he was a free-born man, the son of the merchant shall be put to death; if it was a slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina of gold, and all that the master of the prisoner gave he shall forfeit.
What I want to focus on here, is the fact that someone else (in this case, the son) can be put to death for the crimes of another. In Sefer Shmuel II 21: 5, it is described that there was a famine for three years. David inquires of God and he is told that it is happening because of what Shaul did to the Givonites. When David approaches them the Givonites demand the sons of Shaul to be put to death for the crimes of their father David, complies and hands them over and they are hung.

Now, is law of Hammurabi and the story of David similar? I'm not sure. The relevant part (for the moment) is that the very concept of having someone else be put to death (for whatever crime) was something accepted. Or is it?

This does seem to contradict many tenants of judicial law that a father cannot be tried for the sins of the son and vice-versa. On the other hand, we do have it saying it in the Torah that God visits the inequities of the father upon the child. Perhaps the sin of Shaul, was basically an immoral act against God, and not a regular legal crime like the Hammurabi law. Meaning, that a legal law like Hammurabi Law #116, would not exist in Israel and that something so sever as the Givonite story only occured due to the horrible moral crime of Shaul against them. I hope my point is cohesive enough. It's late here :P