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The Oldest Laws In the World

The two oldest laws in the world come from the Middle East. These two sets of laws still impact our cultures today.

In Babylon, now modern-day Iraq, King Hammurabi had a code of laws engraved on tablets. There are hundreds of laws he had written down around 1800 B.C. A stela (gigantic stone with carvings) containing large portions of this code was found in Iran by archeologists, and eventually the stela made its way to the Louvre, in Paris, France. Here are a representative:

The Code of Hammurabi

The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus, the second book of the Pentateuch, part of the Torah (or Old Testament). The text is Exodus 20:2-17. These commandments are described within the text as given directly from God to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

There are similarities between the prologue, body, and epilogue, demonstrating that this form of the law was known in that culture and time. There are thousands of fragments of the Torah found all over the Middle East, including the major find of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 indicating the accuracy with which these laws and the text of the Torah have been handed down over thousands of years.

The Ten Commandments

  1. "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me..."

  • "You shall have no other gods before me."

  • "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."

  • "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

  • "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you."

  • "You shall not murder."

  • "You shall not commit adultery."

  • "You shall not steal."

  • "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

  • "You shall not covet."

  • Codified law has been in existence ever since these two law codes began. Many law codes in western nations, including the United States, have been developed with similar underlying philosophy: there is certain behavior required for civilized behavior for the good of society. The ancient culture of the Middle East still impacts western nations to this day.

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