The date of the Law Code of Hammurabi and The Ten Commandments

The date of the Law Code of Hammurabi and The Ten Commandments

The importance of dating for archeology[1] cannot be underestimated.  However, dating does not give the definitive answer to human inquiry.  Take for example the Law Code of Hammurabi, (Hammurabi was a king who reigned in Babylonia between 1792 and 1750 B.C.).

The Ten Commandments, also known as The Decalogue, are traditionally estimated to have been given around 1446 B.C.  Others estimate a later date (i.e. 1290 B.C.).[2] Regardless of the acceptance of either date, the dating indicates that Ten Commandments came after the Law Code of Hammurabi.  This has led some to the conclusion that The Ten Commandments were borrowed from Hammurabi’s Law Code.

Nevertheless, dating only demonstrates timing, not necessarily influence.  It gives a chronology, but it does not lay the foundation.

Resemblances between the two do exist.  But a D. Thomas states that, “Despite many resemblances, there is no ground for assuming any direct borrowing by the Hebrew from the Babylon.  Even where the two sets of laws differ little in the letter, they differ much in the spirit…”[3]

Thomas’ assessment, I believe, is correct.  Similarity does not always imply dependence.  Especially is this so with the Commandments and Hammurabi’s Code.

The Old Testament Scriptures make known that God Himself gave the Commandments to His people through Moses (Exodus 20).  Any question or doubt of this assertion is a question or doubt of the Old Testament Scriptures.  And any question or doubt cast upon the Old Testament Scriptures (and/or upon the New) is a question or doubt cast upon its One Holy Author.[4]

Dating items of antiquity does not either prove or disprove the Bible to be God breathed and God give.  Neither does archeology.  What archeology can do is to estimate the dates of documents and artifacts, make assessments of the land and its people in comparison with those living at or around the same time, and draw theoretical conclusions where the evidence is lacking.

Dating, as in archeology, is a helpful tool concerning peoples and cultures of the past.  However, archeology has limitations, as does the Bible.  The Bible is not a science text book.  It is not a ‘how-to’ book to better oneself.  It is a book through which God reveals the Savior, Jesus Christ (John 20:31).

Archeology has its sphere, and it is helpful and useful as long as it remains there.  But where archeology and other disciplines cross their respective boundaries, mischief against God and His Word and His ways more clearly appear, as do those of any who wish to discredit the Scriptures, God, and Christ.


[1] ar·chae·ol·o·gy

/ˌɑrkiˈɒlədʒi/ –noun

1. the scientific study of historic or prehistoric peoples and their cultures by analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other such remains, esp. those that have been excavated.

2. Rare . ancient history; the study of antiquity.(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/archeology)

[2]Robert G. Hoerber (Ed.), Concordia Self-Study Bible, New International Version, (St. Louis: CPH), 83-84.

[3] D. Winton Thomas (ed.), Documents from Old Testament Times (New York: Harper Touchbooks, 1958), 28.

[4] “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (1 Timothy 3:16); “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came

by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

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3 Responses

  1. Pastor Reeder–You stated above, “The Old Testament Scriptures make known that God Himself gave the Commandments to His people through Moses (Exodus 20). Any question or doubt of this assertion is a question or doubt of the Old Testament Scriptures. And any question or doubt cast upon the Old Testament Scriptures (and/or upon the New) is a question or doubt cast upon its One Holy Author.”

    Archaeologists working in Egypt have never found any evidence to support the Exodus account in the Bible, and there is only one archaeological find that even suggests the Jews were ever in Egypt. No Egyptian record contains a single reference to anything in Exodus; and by the time there were enough Jews living in Egypt to constitute an Exodus, the time of the pyramids was long over. No documentary or archaeological evidence links any of the Pharaohs bearing the name [Ramesses] with plagues or Jewish slaves or edicts to kill babies. Indeed, the earliest, Ramesses I, wasn’t even born until more than a thousand years after the Great Pyramid was completed. His grandson, the great Ramesses II, lived even later.

    Furthermore, if the events related to the drowning and destruction of Pharaoh’s army, while chasing Moses into the Red Sea after Moses parted the waters did occur, they are conspicuously absent from the historical record in Egypt. An event that large would surely have been mentioned, but again, we find no evidence of its existence in the historical record.

    Your comments in this blog are trying to fit the evidence into a pattern that supports your belief, which they cannot support. The Jews definitely lived in Babylon during the time the code of Hammurabi was developed and implemented and they (the Jews) were influenced by them. Hebrew rabbis lifted many of the 10 commandments from the code of Hammurabi, and that has been proven using historical analysis.

    Referencing David Hume’s question and applying it to the Exodus story, “which is more likely, that Moses received laws directly from God, led a vast number of people from Egypt, parted the Red Sea and destroyed Pharoah’s army, suspending the natural order as we know it, or that you are mistaken?”

    • Hello Patrick,

      It’s about time that I responded to your post. Thank you for post.

      Concerning the evidence (or lack thereof) of archeology and the Biblical text, archeology neither proves or disproves Holy Scripture or its account. The lack of physical evidence for an ark, the ark of the covenant, or the Ten Commandments themselves do not deny that they actually did exist. What the lack of evidence shows is simply that a lack of evidence exists. The same would apply to the absence of the Exodus account in the Egyptian records. In order to adequately state that no Egyptian record contains a single reference to the Exodus account, this must mean that you have looked at all of them yourself, or that you are going by what someone else has said. Additionally, national historians have been known to omit information that somehow diminish their nation/country in some way

      Honestly, I have not done the research into the archeology. However, the Holy Scriptures, including the Old Testament, testify of Christ, the Savior from sin, death, and the devil (John 5:39). Of Him, the Scriptures are completely consistent. This alone is evidence for their truthfulness, regardless of the physical evidence which many seek. Of course, even if the evidence is there, most will still deny the veracity of the Scriptures and Jesus as Savior, not believing the Word itself.

      As far as a I know, there has been no physical evidence for Christ’s resurrection (apart from the testimonies of the Gospels, early Christian writings, nonchristian historians, etc.), yet such information does not disprove the resurrection.

      As for the code of Hammurabi, I would agree that similarities between it and the Ten Commandments do exist, but to say that the Code is the basis for the Ten Commandments is to, again, deny the text. If you deny the text of Exodus due to the lack of archeological evidence, what else do you deny due to lack of “evidence,” or do you only deny the Bible and its record? Perhaps a rather pointed question is simply, “why?”

      Though you evaluate me as placing the cart before the horse and trying to “fit the evidence”, how are you not doing the same? Because you deny that what is recorded actually existed, how are you not allowing your disbelief to influence any possibility that what is recorded in the text actually existed? An argument from silence does not seem a strong argument at all. On the other hand, neither does an argument of silence disprove the truth.

  2. Pastor–Thank you for taking time to respond. The human was endowed with a large cerebral cortex where the skills of reasoning and logic were developed. The cheetah has speed and strength, birds fly, and the main human attribute is the mind.

    We use the mind to make sense of our world and navigate through life. Part of making our way in the world is using our brain to make connections through evidence and proof.

    The lack of documentation regarding biblical accounts is very troubling and does strongly suggest that what is believed may not be authentic. No evidence of the Exodus in the archeological records or the historical narrative brings into question the validity of the story. I could make the claim that a goat is orbiting the earth and because another does not see it they cannot refute my claim; however, reason and the lack of evidence strongly suggests my claim is false.

    Regarding the resurrection of Jesus it has no evidence in any writings outside the four canonical gospels. No first century historian makes any reference to it whatsoever. Also, we are told as well that upon Jesus’ death saints rose from the grave and walked the earth. First, no first century historian mentions this remarkable event. One would surmise that an event like this would be reported by someone, but alas nothing. Secondly, it would seem that if true, resurrection would be quite common in the first century Palestine area with Jesus, the Jewish saints, Lazarus, and Jairus” daughter all rising from the dead. All of this leads a person to conclude these events are likely not authentic.

    My point is that we are told to “use our heads” or “think before acting” but those attributes are abandoned when one discusses religion. Why is one required to abandon logic and reason when discussing faith but promotes such thinking for the balance of life?

    Lastly, your comment about the gospels being consistent which is proof of their validity is a non-sequitur. Consistency is not proof of authenticity as one can tell a lie in a number of consistent ways but its remains a lie. A number of events in the gospels do conflict and are not consistent such as the different details of Jesus’s birth in the four gospels. John is the only gospel who says believing in Jesus is the way to heaven, but something supposedly that important is strangely missing from the other gospels.

    I just cannot square the circle by believing in events that do not pass reason and lack complete evidence. I wish you well on your journey.

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