Although not as widely known as those promulgated by Ur-Nammu, Lipit-Ishtar and Hammurabi, there were many other law codes in the ancient Near East. One such ancient law code comes from the city-state of Eshnunna which flourished from the end of the Third Dynasty of Ur to the time of the Babylonian king, Hammurabi. Two tablets containing the Eshnunna code were discovered at Tell Abu Harmal, in the Diyala region east of Baghdad by archaeologists from the Iraq Directorate of Antiquities in 1945. Unlike the Ur-Nammu code, these tablets were written in the Akkadian language, the Semitic tongue spoken in ancient Assyria and Babylonia. Although we are not certain concerning the date of the Eshnunna code, it is thought to have been promulgated during the reign of Bilalama, about 2000 B.C. Albrecht Goetze, of Yale University, translated them into English.

The code begins with a brief prologue which tells how Tishpak, the chief god of Eshnunna, bestowed upon some ruler (whose name has not been preserved) "the kingship over Eshnunna." It is Goetze's suggestion that the ruler was probably Bilalama. Sixty paragraphs of the code have been preserved. They deal with such varied subjects as the price of commodities, the wages of labor, the hire of wagons and boats, assault and battery, marriage, divorce, and adultery. The behavior of oxen and the responsibility of their owners are discussed in the Eshnunna code, in the Code of Hammurabi, and in the Bible.

The Eshnunna Code states: "If an ox gores an (other) ox, and causes (its) death, both ox owners shall divide (among themselves) the price of the live ox, and also the equivalent of the dead ox." (53)

An exact parallel occurs in the Mosaic law: "And if one man's ox hurts another's, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide." (Exodus 21:35)

It was the responsibility of the owner of the oxen to take steps to prevent this from recurring. The Eshnunna code adds: "If an ox is known to gore habitually, and the authorities have brought the fact to the knowledge of its owner, but he does not have his ox dehorned, it gores a man and causes (his) death, then the owner of the ox shall pay two-thirds of a mina of silver." (54)

{Kings of Sumeria}

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