The Hammurabi code is one of the oldest preserved codes of law dating back to 1772 BCE. This is roughly the time after the flood (-2105BCE), the tower of Bavel (1765BCE) and the Patriarchs.

Although the laws are starkly different from Jewish law there are those that bear resemblance e.g. 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth'. Is there any way of postulating that he Hammurabi code could have derived from the 'Jewish philosophy' of the time (be it from Noach, Avraham, Shem, Ever, etc.)?

Is it also possible that Jewish laws that were coded formally later, derived as improvements/successors to earlier laws such as the Hammurabi code? And is the Hammurabi code mentioned at all in Jewish scripture?

(There seems to be inconclusive discussions about this topic in secular scholarly writings. One suggestions is that Hammurabi is Amraphel Melech Shinar mentioned in Bereishit (14:1), at the battle between the four and five kings, however Rashi says that this refers to Nimrod)

  • 1
    Sure. It's all possible.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 21:18
  • FWIW, I attended a lecture by an archaeologist once comparing the Hammurabi code and torah. He pointed out many similarities and differences, but he didn't say that either source acknowledges the other. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 1:46
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    As an aside the Daat Mikra mentions that "there are those that liken him [Amraphel Melech Shinar] to the Babylonian king known as 'Hammurapi'". In the footnote he merely mentions that he ruled over the land 'across the river' and instituted a law called 'Hammurapi law' and that it was discovered after much archaeological digging in a city in the Babylon region. He then cites another source to which I don't understand the abbreviation.
    – bondonk
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 22:48
  • I was answering a duplicate question, but the answer is very relevant here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/61166/967
    – gt6989b
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 16:43
  • Relevant source I found on VBM: hatanakh.com/download/file/fid/6479
    – bondonk
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


The similarity and relationship between the Code of Hammurabi and the Torah have been noted by many. Some responses:

R' J.H. Hertz (summarized):

R' Hertz shows that the more we know about The Code of Hammurabi, the more we can appreciate the Torah's laws in Mishpatim. The areas that our codes differ shed light on the beauty and majesty of Torah. ... One general area of law that is ignored by Hammurabi and is a focal point of the Torah is how to treat the poor and needy with consideration and assistance. These examples show that the Torah is spiritually elevated above The Code of Hammurabi and this speaks to a Divine Author.

From AskMoses:

Most of the social and economic and political laws of the Torah fall into the category of what we call mishpatim – rules that can be derived by logic... Accordingly, it is not so surprising that Hammurabi came to similar conclusions that are stated in the Torah.

Furthermore, G-d gave laws of social and economic conduct to Noah (who preceded Hammurabi) and this was the original code of law that man was given. It can probably be shown that Hammurabi's code is merely a derivation from this earlier source. [citation needed]

From the Virtual Beit Midrash:

It is reasonable to assume that the Torah wished to retain the laws of the ancient nations, as long as they did not involve injustice or heresy. When those laws had a moral foundation, the Torah did not want to deviate from them in any significant manner, in order that the Jewish people more readily accept them. Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Eder ha-Yakar, p. 42) bases his position on that of Rambam.


Rav Kook accounts for the similarity between the laws of the Torah and those found in the ancient Near Eastern codes, by pointing to the truth and justice embodied in those codes, as well as to the social-educational factor that would not allow for any significant deviation from them.

In recent generations, rabbinic authorities as well as academicians have argued that along with the recognition of the similarity between the Torah and ancient Near Eastern law, note should be taken of the differences between them. It is precisely the similarity between the two that often highlights the points at which the Torah deviates from its ancient parallels. Reflecting upon these points can be highly instructive regarding the values underlying the laws of the Torah.


It is precisely the comparisons that we have drawn between the Torah and the various legal codes of the ancient Near East that strengthen our recognition of the moral intensity and uniqueness of the Torah.

For a more detailed explanation, including examples, please see:

  • All of our latter sources are broken links today. Can you please update them?
    – Lee
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 10:58
  • These (Shi`ur 1, Shi`ur 2, Shi`ur 3) might be the shi`urim you previously linked to. Regardless, I found this articles series incredibly enlightening.
    – Lee
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 12:16

Rabbi J. H. Hertz (Hertz who was Chief Rabbi of the British Empire not Shimshon Rafael Hirsch) discusses this in his Chumash and points out that much of the background of the time of Avraham (such as the buying of the Mearas Hamachpela) can be understood from this. He also points out that certain halachos can be understood as deliberately stating "do not follow Hammurabi's code as it is against what Hashem wants". Two examples he gives are different punishments for causing the death of different castes and not killing a child for his fathers action. If a builder causes the death of a person through negligence, he was put to death. If he caused the death of the owner's child, his child was put to death.

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