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Sample DBQ response to "Hammurabi's Code: Was it Just?"
Here's the sample. I went with the unjust narrative. FYI, this was written when I was in the tenth grade and I'd like to mention I've improved a lot since.
Was Hammurabi’s Code Just?
The topic of justice is always controversial, usually it is about the punishments dealt out and whether or not they are just. Hammurabi’s Code, the earliest complete group of laws complied, is comprised of 282 laws written by Hammurabi. Hammurabi was the sixth Amorite King of Babylon, who lived about 400 centuries ago and ruled for about 42 years. The Babylonian King ruled with a strict sense of justice, but was his sense of justice fair and just to all of his people? There are three areas of laws in Hammurabi’s Code that can prove that the list of laws were unjust to the people.
The family laws in the code written by Hammurabi were unjust because they were biased. They worked in the favor of men. Law 129 said, “if a married lady is caught [in adultery] with another man, they shall bind them and cast them into water.” Men in this time period were allowed to have second wives (as per Law 148) and concubines, but when a woman cheats, she and the person she was with would be thrown into a river to see if they were guilty enough for death. The family laws show further injustice when in Law 195, it clearly states that if a son has struck his father, his hands shall be cut off. It is not fair to forever take the limbs of somebody for hitting their father in a childish burst of anger, especially when the father can strike them without any repercussions.
The Hammurabi Code can further be proven unjust with its property laws. Law 21 states that a man who has broken through the wall of a house to rob it, then the man is subject to death and should be pierced or hung from the hole he made in the wall. While it is not unjust to punish this man, it is unjust to simply execute him. Capital punishment, no matter the offense, is always a very hasty move and decision, because it doesn’t give the person time to fix their mistake or somehow repay those he harmed. There is nothing to gain from executions and the executed person has no chance of repentance or forgiveness. Law 48, another property law, states, “If a man borrowed money to plant his fields and a storm has flooded his field or carried away the crop…. in that year he does not have to pay his creditor.” In this instance that creditor is slighted and loses his money as a direct result. This shows unjust because the law blatantly favors the farmers and gives no thought to the creditor who might seriously be in need of the money.
Hammurabi’s code is full of injustices in terms of the personal laws. In Law 215 and 218, a surgeon who saves the life of a free man is rewarded with silver, but a surgeon who is unable to save the life of the free man is rewarded with his hands cut off. This unjust punishment leads to less people becoming surgeons in fear of being punished for not being able to save some people on some occasions, especially in a time period where few medical supplies were invented. In Law 196 and Law 199 respectively, if a man knocks out the eye of a free man, his would knocked out, but if a man knocks out the eye of a slave, he only has to pay half his value. These laws were unjust because they put the value of one over the other. Justice is supposed to be blind not classist.
Even though there are some laws in the code that may seem just, like the law that prevents a man from unrightfully disowning his son without reason [Law 168]. They do not outweigh the fact that the majority of the Code of Hammurabi was unjust and unfair to the people it affected. The family, property, and personal laws all prove that the code is not just. The fact that Hammurabi himself justified his authority and power with the belief that he has the divine right to rule by the word of a god of justice, Shamash, who gave him the insight in law (shown in the beginning of the code), does not help the argument that people who defend the code have. Overall, Hammurabi’s Code was unjust because of its biased laws and the fact it favors one person over the other in almost all of its laws.
© 2017 Sumaya Ahmed