Judgments, Part 1 of 3 & Taken From a River: The Legend of Sargon and the Story of Moses

So that’s where the Ten Commandments came from. 

But what about the judges, do they sentence people for crimes or how does that work?

“Now these are the judgments, which thou shalt set before them.

* If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh, he shall go out free for nothing.

If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

If his master have given him, a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

Maid-servants attending to ladies at a banquet, Tomb of Vizier Rekhmire

And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

* And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 

If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. 

And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. 

If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.   And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

* He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

* And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.  

Maid-servant decking a lady with jewellery at a banquet, Tomb of Jeserkarseneb, XVIII Dynasty

But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar that he may die.

* And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

* And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

* And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

* And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed: If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.

* And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.  Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

* If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 

Offering of a necklace and a cap, Tomb of Jeserkareseneb, XVIII Dynasty

And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life.  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.  Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

* And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.

* And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.

* If an ox gore a man or a woman that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.

But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.

If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.

A young servant-girl adjusts an earing of one of the guests, Tomb of Nakht, XVIII Dynasty

Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.

If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

* And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.

* And if one man’s ox hurt anothers that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide.

Or if it be known that the ox hath used to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in; he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the dead shall be his own” (Ex 21:1-36).

Taken From a River:
The Legend of Sargon
and the Story of Moses

Discovered in the Assyrian archive in Nineveh, the Legend of Sargon recounts in fantastic language the birth, ascension and rule of Sargon of Akkad, who established his empire in Mesopotamia around 2300 B.C.

Bronze head of an Akkadian ruler, discovered in Nineveh in 1931, presumably depicting either Sargon or Sargon’s grandson Naram-Sin.
Reign c. 2334–2284 BC (MC)
Successor: Rimush
Spouse: Tashlultum
Dynasty: Akkadian (Sargonic)
Father: La’ibum

Sargon II (721 -705 B.C.), a later Assyrian king who sought to emulate his namesake’s meteoric rise to power, probably commissioned the writing of this legend.

The Legend of Sargon resonates with a number of features also found in Moses’ birth narrative.

Sargon’s mother was a high priestess (reminiscent of Moses’ Levitical lineage). After his secretive birth, Sargon was placed in a reed basket, which was sealed with pitch and set adrift on a river.

Aqqi, drawer of water, rescued the infant, adopt­ed him and raised him to be a farmer. Even­tually, he found favor with the goddess Ishtar and was crowned king.

Moses’ and Sargon’s birth accounts em­ploy a common ancient literary motif, in which a hero is exposed to death during infancy, only to be rescued and to achieve greatness.

The plot of the Sargon legend emphasizes the stunning, and often miracu­lous, nature of the hero’s rise from obscurity to honor.

In the case of Sargon II, use of the device may have been a deliberate attempt after the fact to legitimize his own power grab.

The Biblical narrative, however, includes many unique features, such as the threat of national genocide, the attempt to hide the child and his temporary return to his mother.

Although the relationship between the Sargonic and Mosaic narratives is still being debated, the details of Moses’ birth unquestionably signify his heroic role in God’s plan.

It is helpful to bear in mind that the fictional tale commissioned by Sargon II was written much later than the factual, Biblical account of Moses’ early life.