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In the additional notes to the Book of Exodus in the Hertz Chumash, Rabbi Hertz writes:

For nearly a century there has been continuous archæological rediscovery of ancient civilizations that had for ages vanished from earth. To take one example: we possess to-day the actual originals of the code of laws, administrative orders and official letters of King Hammurabi, who was a contemporary of Abraham, and is mentioned in the early chapters of Genesis. (Pentateuch and the Haftorahs, Second Edition)

I had no recollection of King Hammurabi appearing in the Book of Genesis. And, despite my reading through of the first few chapters, I was unable to locate him.

Where can King Hammurabi be found in the Book of Genesis?

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According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (here):

In accordance with the suggestion of the late Professor Eb. Schrader, he is almost universally identified with the AMRAPHEL of Genesis 14:1, etc.

Here's a source in the Jewish Encyclopedia:

The identity of the name has long been a subject of controversy among Assyriologists, and is not even yet established to the satisfaction of all scholars. Schrader was the first to suggest ("Cunciform Inscriptions and the Old Testament," ii. 299 et seq.) that Amraphel was Hammurabi, king of Babylon, the sixth king in the first dynasty of Babylon. This is now the prevailing view among both Assyriologists and Old Testament scholars. The transformation of the name Hammurabi into the Hebrew form Amraphel is difficult of explanation, though a partial clue is perhaps furnished by the explanation of the name in a cuneiform letter as equivalent to Kimta-rapashtu (great people or family). On this basis "'am" = "Kimta" and "raphel" = "rapaltu" = "rapashtu."

For some further reading/resources, see this Wikipedia article.

Note that Hertz himself follows this understanding in his commentary to Bereishis 14:1.

  • Rashi 14:1 says that Amraphel is Nimrod though. אמרפל: הוא נמרוד שאמר לאברהם פול לתוך כבשן האש: – Danield Mar 18 '18 at 13:39
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    @Danield - Rashi didn't know much about Assyriology. – nbubis Mar 18 '18 at 14:03
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    @nbubis Rashi may not have been an Assyriologist, however the identification of Amraphel with Hammurabi is as speculative as his identification with Nimrod! – Bach Mar 18 '18 at 16:51
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    @Bach I agree; I don't see any reason why Hammurabi would be a better choice than Nimrod when identifying Aramphel, but רבות מחשבות did a great job tracking down what Rabbi Hertz was talking about. – ezra Mar 18 '18 at 19:32
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    There's no real need to figure out how Hammurabi becomes Amraphel. The Torah itself often uses different names for people, and it's quite conceivable that the Torah uses an entirely different name than that was used by Hammurabi's subjects. – LN6595 Mar 19 '18 at 1:48

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