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Lesson Plan

Hammurabi's Code


Social Studies


Students will use Hammurabi's Code as a catalyst to analyze an essential question that societies have dealt with throughout history: "What is the purpose of law. . .to promote good or punish bad?"


Hammurabi's Code
The Ten Commandments


Students will demonstrate knowledge about the inequalities and harsh retaliation demonstrated in the first written laws called Hammurabi's Code. Students will compare and contrast Hammurabi's Code and the Ten Commandments. Students will realize the continual struggle to deal with essential questions in society relating to laws.


Students will work with a partner to list three school rules that are often broken. Students will then list what happens to the offenders. Students will then describe why the rules existed in the first place and determine if their purpose was to promote good behavior or to punish bad behavior. Students will indicate where these rules are written down, and decide what is good and what is bad about having rules written down as opposed to rules that are simply stated verbally.


Students will then examine the first written rules or laws that were put in place by King Hammurabi. The teacher will select 10-15 of the 282 laws (see link below). Students will read the laws selected. Students will then read the Ten Commandments (see link below). The teacher will ask students to explain how these sets of laws differ. Most likely students will realize that there were 282 laws in Hammurabi's Code and only 10 in the other. Hopefully students realize that Hammurabi's code specifies retaliatory punishments whereas the Ten Commandments does not. Also, some may notice that Hammurabi's code has inequalities in the way laws are applied (i.e. rich/poor suffer differ consequences; men/women have different rights). The teacher should ask leading questions to help students realize these ideas. Next, the teacher will ask students which set of laws lasted longer. Why? Students should realize that laws that are too specific are troublesome. Lastly, the students should return to their original partners and brainstorm some Hammurabi style punishments for the three school rules that are often broken.

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