Western Heritage Essay

Submitted By Katharine-Torres
Words: 761
Pages: 4

The Law: How Ancient Civilizations Handled Order In Their Society

Man has always strived for an ordered existence. To make sense of a chaotic world, order was needed and law was the means for that to be achieved. The influence of their respective deities on the Babylonians, Greeks, and Hebrews fostered the citizens’ adherence to the law. This adherence spawned beliefs that would determine their obedience to the laws and its results.
In the three civilizations, the obligation to obey the laws came directly from the divine. The Babylonian God Marduk was the divine authority that influenced Hammurabis’ code, “To cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil, to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak… to enlighten the land and to further the welfare of the people” (9). Divine authority through the law was apparent in the Greek and Hebrew cultures as well. For the Greeks, reason was the highest esteemed ideal, possessing divine qualities, “Law [as the pure voice of God and reason] may thus be defined as ‘Reason free from all passion’”(135). For the Hebrews, the sovereign that brought them out of bondage in Egypt gave the people an obligation to abide by God’s covenant, “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 before me”(25). Each civilization had divine beings that brought authority to law, whether the divinity is polytheistic, an ideal, or one sovereign deity. In a world of uncertainty, having an authoritative figure such as the divine deities for the Babylonians and Hebrews and ideals for the Greeks, compelled the people to follow them, to bring order to their lives and to share a common goal. The promise of a prosperous life was a reassuring ideal that prompted the people to act in accordance to the legislation. Babylonians had the laws and the repercussions that followed; the common goal was not an aspiration to greatness, so much as an avoidance of the death, destruction, and misery threatened by their ruler. The Greeks motivation was the promise of the good life if they devoted themselves to reason, the noblest of virtues. The Hebrews felt compelled to follow the laws because the laws themselves gave them their identity and community. Without the adherence to them, the Hebrew people would not exist. God said, “You shall love the lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart”(26). With that being said the people became a community, bound by their covenant. With disobedience, comes punishment. The divine authorities of the Babylonian, Greek and Hebrew Civilizations instilled fear in the people through punishment if they failed to abide by the law. The repercussions of straying from authority and legislation resided in death, destruction, and a life of misery. The Babylonians were cautioned with severe retribution if the law was not acknowledged.