Amazing Kids! Magazine

What Was Just and Unjust About Hammurabi’s Code?

By Pamela Suarez


Have you ever heard or read about the Code of Hammurabi? It’s the code of laws that was partly based on the concept of retribution, or “an eye for an eye,” and the concept of restitution, payment to victims for any type of loss. Actually, the Code of Hammurabi created laws that were both unjust and just. Here is why.

First of all, the Code of Hammurabi created laws that were just. When a law is helpful for the innocent, then it is a good law to protect the innocent. For example, one of Hammurabi’s laws that some people thought was just was law 232. Law 232 says, “If a person’s goods are ruined, the builder shall make compensation for all that has been ruined. If he did not construct the house properly and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means (his own money).” This law is fair because it punishes the builder for not constructing the house properly. Because it punishes the builder for not building the house correctly, it is a great law of Hammurabi. This shows that this law is a good law for the person that lives in the house that got destroyed.

A thing to consider why the Code of Hammurabi was unfair is that it was unfair to victims. When victims don’t feel comfortable with the law, then the law is unjust. Law 213 was unjust: If he has struck the slave-girl of a free man and causes her to lose the fruit of her womb (unborn child/fetus), he shall pay two shekels of silver. The reason some people think this law is unjust is that law 209 of Hammurabi’s Code says the same thing; but instead, it’s the daughter of a free man, and the daughter of the free man receives more shekels than the slave girl. This proves that this law of Hammurabi is unjust for the slaves/victims.

Finally, some people thought law 23 was just. Law 23 says, if a robber is not caught, the man who has been robbed shall formally declare whatever he has lost before God, and the city and the mayor in whose territory or district the robbery has been committed shall replace for him whatever he has lost. Because a robber broke into a house and was not caught, the mayor needs to replace whatever was stolen. Some people think this law is just because the mayor is going to replace the things that got robbed; probably some of those things were valuable. This demonstrates that some people thought this law was just for the person that got robbed because the mayor is going to replace the things that got stolen.

In conclusion, if you ever get a chance to go on the Internet and look up the laws of Hammurabi, you will see if you think some of his laws are just or unjust.