While the precise date of Hammurabi's Code of Laws is disputed by scholars, it is generally believed to
have been written between the second year of his reign, circa 1727 BCE, and the end of his reign, circa 1780 BCE, predating
the Hebrew "Ten Commandments" by about 500 years.
Perhaps the single most striking feature of Hammurabi's Code is its commitment to protection of the weak
from being brutalized by the strong. He believed that he had been ordained by his gods Anu (God of the Sky) and Bel
(The Lord of Heaven and Earth, the God of Destiny) to establish the rule of law and justice over his people.
In his own words, Hammurabi said:
"Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of
righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak..."
He referred to himself as the "shepherd of the oppressed and of the slaves," and ordered that "these my
precious words" be written upon his memorial stone, before his image "That the strong might not injure the weak, in order
to protect the widows and orphans ... in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries
Hammurabi's Code addressed the right of the poor to seek redress from wrongs committed by the wealthy or
by the nobility. It also addressed the rights of women, including the rights of women to own property in their own names,
and even the right to divorce a husband for grounds which would be recognised even today.
For our purposes, however, there is one brief section of the Code which addresses the construction industry,
covering prices of construction and contractor liability. Following, see Laws #228 through #233.
Rules Governing Contractors
228. If a builder build a house for some one and complete it, he shall give him a fee of
two shekels in money for each sar of surface.
229. If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which
he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.
230. If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.
231. If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.
232. If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he
did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.
233. If a builder build a house for some one, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the
walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.