Module 1 Discussion 2: The Origins of Law and the Death Penalty

The codification of laws is central to most Western societies, with a tradition reaching back to ancient codes like Hammurabi’s (perhaps the earliest). How are laws different from other ways of imposing order on societies? Codified laws are based on a conception of justice. Legal disputes and punishments ultimately refer to both the conception of justice and its application to particular behaviors. 
Consider the Mesopotamian context in which Hammurabi’s laws were selected and codified. Read through the selection of Hammurabi’s laws, and try to identify some values that the laws aimed to protect. Which people in particular were protected under certain laws, and which people were not? Hammurabi’s laws are civil in nature; compare these with the civil and religious laws in Hebraic law, included in your reading from Exodus. (Although it is not in your reading, some direct comparisons can also be made with Leviticus 21:23-25 and Deuteronomy 19:4-10.) Reflect on how apt these laws were at preserving cultural and moral values, and how consistent they were with a conception of justice. 
You should spend approximately 4 hours on this assignment.
Part I. Choose three laws from your reading (you may include relevant examples from Hebraic law), and present an argument answering the following question:

Do you think that the code of Hammurabi was a just system for that society? Why or why not? Support your points, and use specific examples.

Part II. Present an argument answering the following question:

The death penalty was a prominent punishment in the Hammurabi code and Hebraic law. In your view, is the death penalty a just punishment in contemporary society? Why or why not? Tie your argument directly to the conception of justice you discussed in Part I, and include specific examples.

In your arguments, begin with a thesis statement and support your thesis with specific supporting points and examples. See the Writing Guide that is posted in the Syllabus module for an example of a thesis statement. Initial posts should have a minimum length of 150 words.

Use examples, and explain the significance of your examples.