Ancient Law Code Supports Scripture
by Robert S. Allen
There has just been added to our museum a seven-foot high, 300 pound replica of the Babylonian Hammurabi Law Code of about 1770 B.C. It was made by the staff of the world famous Louvre Museum in Paris. It is, even to every minute detail, an exact full-size replica, made from casts of the original stone monument, weighing several tons, now in the Louvre. This Hammurabi Law Code stands as a witness and testimony to the students and visitors to the nature of false and unfounded attacks against the Holy Scriptures.
In the 19th century, around 1877, Wellhausen, and other scholars, attacked the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Two of the major and most telling arguments at that time against Mosaic authorship were: 1. Hebrew writing was unknown at so early a period as 1500-1200 B.C. The earliest Hebrew writing then known was the Moabite Stone about 850 B.C. (as though Hebrew script was the only possible medium.) 2. The peoples of the Middle East were not sufficiently advanced culturally to be able to conceive and possess such laws during the Mosaic age. Aiding this argument was the fact that no laws were discovered until the 20th Century.
It was a field day for those 19th Century scholars, as no evidence was known to contradict them. It was terribly destructive, making atheists out of multiplied thousands who believed these pseudo-scientific theories and criticisms against the historical integrity of Scripture. There was not even a hint of the tremendous discoveries to come in the 20th Century.
However, in the matter of writing, just 10 years later in 1887, the Tel el Amarna letters were discovered in Egypt. Letters from all over Palestine, from Hazor, Gezer, Ashkelon, Gaza, Shechem, Lachish, Bebron, Megiddo, written in the 14th Century B.C. and clearly showing the high state of literacy throughout the biblical area. Some of these letters were even pleading for Egyptian help against the Habiru who were taking their cities and lands. In the 20th Century, writings in an archaic Hebrew script were discovered in the Sinai Peninsula and in Palestine dating to the 15th Century and at Lachish dating to 1700 B.C.
In the matter of laws, 20th Century discoveries have revealed a number of law codes contemporary with the Mosaic age and even dating back to 2000 B.C., such as the Urnammu and the Lipit-Ishtar law codes. The most famous, largest, and most comprehensive is, of course, the Law Code of Hammurabi, who ruled Babylonia in 1792-1750 B.C. Here in this magnificent monument we have evidence of both writing and laws several centuries before Moses. Many of these laws are as advanced morally and socially, as those of the Pentateuch. Laws covering marriage, adultery, divorce, child support, labor and wages, suits to recover damages, etc. They cover almost the entire 7-foot high, 2 1/2 -foot diameter of this stone monument in a small beautiful cuneiform script of which full translations in English have been published. It had been carried away by the conquering Elamites to Susa, the biblical Shushan of Queen Esther, and was discovered there in 1902 by French archaeologists. Originally it had stood in the public square of Babylon for the instruction of the populace. They were illiterate. It would seem senseless to engage in such hard labor to engrave this huge stone if the people couldn’t read it.
The German archaeologist Hugo Winckler began excavating at the Hittite capital of Hattusas (Boghaz Koy), Turkey, in 1910. He discovered there a 14th Century B.C. Hittite code of laws. Thus we find the nearby Hittites were writing laws in the same general age that Moses was writing laws.
It seems unreasonable to believe that while all the nations surrounding the Hebrew peoples practiced writing that Israel alone was illiterate and trusting in the oral transmission of its laws and history. All the evidence points to the truth that Moses wrote just as the Bible says he did -- Exodus 24:4; Numbers 33:1; Deuteronomy 31:9, 22. The persistence, to this day, that pentateuchal references to writing are anachronisms and additions to the text centuries later by editors and redactors according to a so-called Documentary hypothesis, and the continued insistence that the Pentateuch was handed down by oral tradition, is absolutely contrary to the hard facts.
Jesus said that if his disciples were to hold their peace “the stones would immediately cry out,” Luke 19:39-40.
Today, when it seems the testimony of Christ’s disciples has become weak if not silent, the very stones are indeed crying out in witness. Archaeology in the 20th Century has produced multitudes of stones with similar testimonies on behalf of our Bible. This Hammurabi Law Code is the latest of a number of stone (and other archaeological) witnesses now in our museum for the benefit of our students and visitors, most of them being original artifacts and not replicas.