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Similarities Of Religous Documents Essay, Research Paper

A society that consists of complex organization is defined as a civilization.

A civilization is made up of different factors, including government, religion, and culture. Through these factors evolved a set of principles for the people to live by. These were called codes of conduct. Through the examination of the Judgments of Hammurabi, the Egyptian “Negative Confessions,” and the Ten

Commandments, inferences will be drawn to explain the reasoning that may have

promoted their creation and the similarities among others.

In the eighteenth century BC the Babylonian king, Hammurabi, conquered

the Sumerians. Government, religion, and culture dictated life in Mesopotamia.

Each city-state was ruled by a monarch, king, or priest-kings. These rulers were highly worshipped and seen as intermediaries between the Sumerians and their gods. (Craig, 7) The kings controlled the economy. Detailed examination was taken before the applying of any idea, such as the distribution of crops. The Sumerians practiced polytheism. Their gods were of human form, “only differing from humans in their greater power and immortality.”(Craig, 8) The people concentrated on satisfying their gods during their present life. Therefore, Sumerians cultivated several methods of divination to discover the wills and intention of the gods. They studied the internal organs of animals to better understand abnormalities and they gave rise to astrology by the examination of the heavenly bodies. (Craig, 8) The people’s culture was based around the family unit, commerce, and agriculture. The Codes of Hammurabi revolved around this culture. (Craig, 8)

The Code of Hammurabi was created during Hammurabi’s reign from 1792-1750 BC. According to Alfred J. Andrea, “the laws were inscribed in a stone pillar that measured over seven feet in height and more than six feet in circumference.”(Andrea, 12) The code stated the laws the society was obligated

to obey. Hammurabi stated the purpose of his laws were, “to promote the welfare

of the people, to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil, that the strong may not oppress the weak.” (Andrea, 12) The society was left in chaos after the fall of the Ur Dynasty. Hammurabi created his codes to reestablish order.

One of the major factors in Sumerian civilization was the family unit.

Many of the laws created by Hammurabi focused on the family. One of the laws

stated in his code was, “If a man marries a wife, and sickness has seized her, and he has decided to marry another, he may marry, but his wife whom the sickness has seized he shall not divorce. She shall dwell in the house he has built and he shall support her while she lives.”(Andrea, 15) This law shows a man cannot decide to leave his present wife over sickness but he must preserve his marriage until she dies. From this law can be determined that some of the Sumerian society was infected with long-term illnesses. Wives who were ill were often abandoned by their husbands. The husband’s reason of abandonment could be his sick wife no longer satisfied him. There would be no purpose for her since she could no longer be a caretaker nor produce child for the husband. Yet, at the same time, it can be understood a man is allowed to remarry in hopes of forming a new family with his new wife. Due to the abandonment of wives, many were probably left without homes or money leading them into poverty. The suggested reasoning behind this law was to reduce divorce, poverty, and abandonment among sick wives.

Through the examination of Hammurabi’s codes, it is clear that commerce was very important in Sumerian society. The third largest category under Hammurabi’s code was commerce. Certain sections of the codes dealt with regulating builders, surgeons, and other professions. (Craig, 8) Hammurabi created a code which stated, “If a builder has built a house for a man, and his work is not strong, and if the house he has built falls in and kills the house holder that

builder shall be slain.”(Andrea, 16) Through a critique of this law, several

conclusions can be drawn. It may be presumed that builders were not responsible

in their building. If a person puts their profession into practice, it should be because they studied and mastered it. Therefore, no such misfortune should occur. Hammurabi believed this to be true so the law was created.

The Sumerians depended highly on farming as their source of food, so

agriculture was important. Thus, many of the laws contained within Hammurabi’s

code of conduct pertained to agricultural matters. Even though the society used a monetary system, crops such as corn and sesame were valued. One of

Hammurabi’s code stated “If anyone open his ditches to water his crop, but is

careless, and the water flood the field of his neighbor, then he shall pay his

neighbor corn for his loss.” (Counsel, 1) Hammurabi thought people should be

responsible for their actions as seen through most of his laws. If the person who flooded his neighbor did not make an amends for ruining the field, the person whose field was flooded would go hungry. Therefore, if the laws were not put into effect, no one would care about the agriculture and the society would suffer as a result.

Another civilization that occurred during early history was the Egyptian

civilization. The Egyptians were ruled by Egyptian kings called pharaohs. The

pharaohs were dictators. They created the laws of the land, their laws were never questioned, and the people were their servants. (Craig, 10) Religion played an enormous part in Egyptian life. They practiced a polytheistic form of religion, involving half-man, half-animal gods. From this religion, they had an advanced view of the after life. They mummified the dead because they believed humans had two bodies, one physical and one spiritual. If the body was correctly preserved then the spirit would continue in their afterlife. (Craig, 11) Religion also dictated their culture. The pharaohs were considered gods. In order to secure their entrance into the after life they followed strict codes of conduct, such as reflected in the Negative Confessions. (Andrea, 19)

The Negative Confessions were created by the priest of the gods during the New Kingdom in 1575. These confessions are a chapter from The Book of the Dead, also known as The Chapters Coming Forth by Day. (Andrea, 19) These confessions stated what one did not do. The purpose of following the guidelines was to secure entrance into the afterlife. The confessions took place in the Hall of

Two Truths. In this hall, the deceased proclaimed his/her purity by stating

everything he did not do that may have caused offense to the gods. He was judged by the forty-two deities. (Andrea, 19) Some examples of these confessions are, “I have not ordered to kill, I have not made anyone suffer, I have not damaged the offering in the temples.”(Andrea, 21) The confessions granted the Egyptians a seat among the gods.

Several reasons lead to the creation of the Negative Confessions. Egyptians lived a miserable life. They could not object to any of the pharaoh’s rules. They were expected to complete his every desire. In effect, they became his

slaves. Egyptians lived in constant paranoia. As a result of this paranoia, the

Egyptians were obsessed with the afterlife. They believed their present life

influenced their spiritual life. If they disobeyed a pharaoh’s rule on earth, they believed punishment would follow in the afterlife. The confessions served many of the pharaohs purposes. First, the confessions served moral and ethical guidelines. Egyptians followed these guidelines and society was kept in order. Secondly, these confessions served as guidelines to establish the approval of the gods in the afterlife. The Egyptians wanted a better life and if they followed these confessions they were given hope for a prosperous afterlife.

Moses lead the Hebrews out of slavery from Egypt into the Sania Desert.

In the process of wandering the Sania Desert for forty years, Moses encountered

problems with the Hebrews. Due to the enormous number of Hebrews, each Hebrew was supposed to look after each other, but some did not. Moses tried to instill the idea of monotheism among the Hebrews. The Hebrews were reluctant to believe in such a God who was suppose to be kind, but at the same time tortured them with years of enslavement to Egypt. Moses found himself in despair by the

situation. God called Moses up to Mt. Sania to deliver the Ten Commandments to

the Hebrews.

The Ten Commandments were written about in the Bible, and can be found under Deuteronomy. The commandments were guidelines for the Hebrews to live their lives. Some of the commandments reflected monotheism. For example, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods besides me.”(Andrea, 58) In return for the Hebrews following these laws, God would give them his guidance and protection. It is believed that the Hebrew’s new God may punish them for

their sins but later in time they would be rewarded with divine favor. (Craig, 67)

Different key elements gave rise to the creation of the Ten Commandments. The first commandment states, the people will not have any other gods besides him. (Andrea, 58) The Hebrews, who had lived in Egypt, were influenced by their religion and practiced polytheism. God wanted the Hebrews to stop worshipping others and devote themselves to him. God created commandments such as, “You shall honor your father and mother, You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, and You shall not desire anything that belongs to your neighbor.”(Andrea, 59) From these commandments it can be reasoned murder and stealing occurred as well as disrespect among each other. There were different reasons for the creation of these commandments.

After the Hebrews regained their freedom, the people raged out of control and

forgot about religious beliefs. God created the commandments to reestablish

order. In the Ten Commandments God states, “Neither shall you covet your

neighbors’ wife; and you shall not desire your neighbors house, his field, or his man servant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbors.”(Andrea, 59) Through these commandments God wanted to create a

community among his people. If each Hebrew respected each other’s personal

property, a prosperous community would develop. God also stated, “know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and

steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand

generations.”(Andrea, 60) It can be inferred God wanted the Hebrews to

understand the commandments as well as the fact that he was eternal. He

governed their present life and their eternal life.

Similarities can be found among Hammurabi’s codes, the Negative Confessions, and the Ten Commandments. Comparable circumstances may have encouraged the creation of each of the codes of conduct. Religion was one of the major influences on each document. There is also a connection among the time periods which may have influenced the establishment of similar laws within each document.

Each document was alike in the fact that they served as codes of conducts

for the civilizations. Also, the concept of control was a common purpose used for the creations of each document. The Sumerians and Hebrews were in chaos

before the documents existed, therefore control was essential. The Negative

Confessions served the pharaohs as rules to keep Egyptian society in control.

Many similarities existed through religion. Sumerians and Egyptians both

practiced polytheism. However, the Hebrews were one of the first people to

practiced monotheism. Sumerians believed if they disobeyed the gods, they would

be punished on earth. The Egyptians, on the other hand, believed punishment

would follow in the afterlife. In the Hebrew’s religion, God punished the Hebrews on earth as well as in their eternal lives if the commandments were disobeyed.

Each code of conduct has relations to a prior code. For instance,

Hammurabi had many codes pertaining to personal injury, such as, “If a man

strikes the body of a man who is superior in status, he shall publicly receive sixty lashes with a cowhide whip.”(Andrea, 150) Some of the Egyptian’s codes of

conduct reflected Hammurabi’s personal injury codes. Thus, Egyptians stated in a broader sense, “I have not done any harm, I have not caused pain, and I have not caused tears.”(Andrea, 21) The codes in the Ten commandments resemble the

Egyptian’s Negative Confessions as well. A couple of the Egyptian’s confessions

were, “I have not killed, and I have not ordered to kill.” (Andrea, 21) However, one of the commandments states “You shall not kill.” (Andrea, 59) Another example of the commandments reflecting the confessions were, “I have not robbed the poor, I have not stolen the cakes from the dead, and I have not taken milk from the mouth of children.” (Andrea, 21-22) Later the commandment, “You shall not steal” was created. (Andrea, 59). Another of Hammurabi’s code stated, “If brigand has not been taken, the man plundered shall claim before god what he has lost and the city and governor in whose land and boundary the theft has taken placed shall restore to him all that he has lost.” (Andrea, 14) God then created the commandment in which no one is to take the private belongings of their neighbor, including their field. (Andrea, 59) The similarities that lie among the codes are remarkable.

As a result, these codes of conducts have been adopted by modern civilization.

Some countries in the middle east have prevalent Hammurabi s code a tooth for a

tooth . (Andrea, 15). The Ten Commandments still exist in religions such as

Catholicism. Some of the Negative Confessions are still used as guidelines into the afterlife.

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