the Israelites, Greeks, and Romans. All these people groups had two features in common with all other people groups of the time: a dependence on religion and law.
The Basis of Western Law
Given that hundreds of thousands of years of human development happened before we could find a recognizable system of government, once there existed an able form of
government that could determine and defend its endurance, those forms of government persisted and their organizational echoes are still heard and felt today. There
were four, major shifts in Near Eastern and European civilizations, each depositing a significant portion of how Western law would develop. These four shifts were the
Judaic, Greek, Roman, and Christian perspectives of law and order. Three were a mixture of civil and religious laws and one was a theocracy. But the beginning of
Western law would borrow heavily from a civil and religious culture in 17th century Babylon. Hammurabi’s contribution has already been discovered by the reader through
activity and keyword search. What you probably found out is that the nearly 300 laws written onto a stone tablet at the entry of the great city of Babylon married
together two approaches to law: authoritative issuance of the statute and the authoritative punishment for breaking the statute. And that these laws were clearly
posted at the city gate indicates that justice is not fickle. It is predetermined and it is enforceable. Here is an example of laws and subsequent punishments for
breaking those laws found in Hammurabi’s Code (www.globalhistoryhonors.wikifoundry.com). Feel free to stop now and look it up on any mobile device or laptop. It makes
for good reading, and it exposes just how far Western law has strayed from its legal beginnings.
1 If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he cannot prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death. 2 If any one bring an accusation against
a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his
house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped
into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser. 3 If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove
what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death. 4 If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the
fine that the action produces. 5 If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgment in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be
through his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge’s bench, and never again shall
he sit there to render judgment [sic].
What is most fascinating about this code is that law enforcement isn’t exempt from keeping the law. In fact, it doesn’t appear that anyone is exempt from keeping the
law. At face value these laws represent far more than mere statutes, they represent that culture’s view of ethics and ethical behavior. We will see something similar
in the next example as well. Coexistent with Hammurabi we see the beginning of what would become the ancient nation of Israel. Abram, the father of both Judaism and
Islam, was “called” by Jehovah to move out of what is present day southern Iraq. It is quite likely that Abram and Hammurabi lived at the same time, which is
interesting to us because it speaks to the common roots of law and law enforcement of the time. Life spans were longer than they are today. It is surmised that Abram
was 175 at the time of his death. In the same region it was not uncommon for persons to live into their hundreds of years old. Lengthened life spans would have an
interesting effect on laws and law enforcement. If one were to live a very long time, and if that person was the leader of a people group, then law and law enforcement
would endure, and wouldn’t be changed very often. And if those following the leader also lived a long time, they too would be less likely to suddenly have a change of
heart on law statutes and the punishment connected with that statute, should the statute be violated.