In today’s sermon- the religion of Kahlil Ghibran- one of the many quotes mentioned was “If you ask an eye for an eye, the whole world will be blind”, which of course elicited “So true” and “Amen” from all over the sanctuary. Denouncing this harsh and violent code has been a cottage industry for preachers of all faiths since the day the obelisk recording it was dug up; Ann Landers virtually based her career on it.
The problem is that it’s not true. Hammuarabi’s code was enlightened and humane for the day. Hammurabi’s dream was that by publishing a uniform code- quite literally set in stone- capriciousness would be eliminated from the law. Sentences would be uniform and proportional- you would not be put to death for putting out an eye; your sentence would be appropriate to your crime. There were even provisions for punishing incompetent judges.
Perhaps most importantly, by being set in stone, and that stone set in the public square, everyone from the highest judge to the lowest peasant knew exactly what the law actually was, what was demanded, and what would happen in what circumstances. Nobody in Hammurabi’s Babylon called the law a “living document”. How unlike the America of today, where no one knows what the state of the law is until the final appeal. The 9th circus - excuse me, circuit- court, which holds the current record of being overturned five times in a single Supreme Court season, would have been fired and imprisoned or beheaded by Hammurabi... and maybe, just maybe, justice would have been better served thereby.