In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ancient Near Eastern Law

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Mesopotamian Law: General Overviews and Textbooks
  • Mesopotamian Law: Anthologies and Text Editions
  • Mesopotamian Law: Comparative Studies
  • Mesopotamian Law: Women and Law
  • Mesopotamian Law: Marriage and Family Law
  • Mesopotamian Law: Slavery
  • Mesopotamian Law: Judicial Procedure
  • Social Justice and Decrees of Social Equity
  • Laws of Ur-Namma
  • Laws of Lipit-Ishtar
  • Laws of Eshnunna
  • Laws of Hammurabi (Code of Hammurabi)
  • Middle Assyrian Laws
  • Neo-Babylonian Laws
  • Model Contracts
  • Hittite Law: General Overviews
  • Hittite Law: Texts
  • Egyptian Law: General Overview
  • Egyptian Law: Texts
  • International Law and Treaties
  • Legacy of Mesopotamian Law

Biblical Studies Ancient Near Eastern Law
Pamela Barmash
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0295


Law played a major role in the cultures of the ancient Near East. Law from Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) is evidenced in collections of formal law, records from historical cases, and decrees of social equity. The law of the Hittite Empire is also recorded in a collection of formal law, the Hittite Laws, and in legal records. By contrast, not much evidence remains of the law of ancient Egypt, and only a few documents relating to law survive. A developing system of international law is reflected in treaties and diplomatic texts. Mesopotamian law influenced rabbinic law and may have shaped ancient Greek and Roman law.

Reference Works

There is a small number of general reference works with useful entries on ancient Near Eastern law, as well as specialty reference works. Westbrook 2003 has chapters organized in a set structure for each legal culture examined, making it useful for comparison. Barmash 2019 and Strawn, et al. 2015 have entries that address the ancient Near Eastern contest of issue in biblical law.

  • Barmash, Pamela, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

    Comprehensive works that incorporates essays on ancient Near Eastern law.

  • Strawn, Brent, Pamela Barmash, Elisheva Fonrobert, Clare Rothschild, Jeffrey Stackert, and John Witte, eds. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    A number of entries reference ancient Near Eastern law.

  • Westbrook, Raymond, ed. A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law. Handbook of Oriental Studies 72. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

    Comprehensive work in which the law of specific cultures is analyzed in separate chapters in a set structure.

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