Human dignity held above property concerns.
Mosaic Law is based in large part on the idea that mankind is made in God’s image. As such, humans are to be treated with a certain level of inherent dignity and respect. Following this logic meant that crimes against other people were considered more heinous than crimes against property. Under Mosaic Law, and later Western laws which followed a Judeo-Christian model, crimes such as murder, assault and rape are seen as far more serious than burglary, theft or vandalism. In the Old Mesopotamian codes, however, the reverse was true. Crimes against property were punishable by death. Crimes against other people were punished with fines. The Code of Ur-Nammu says, “If a man commits a robbery, he will be killed,” but “if a man commits a kidnapping, he is to be imprisoned and pay 15 shekels of silver.” Property is valued higher than human life. The exact opposite, however, is found in Mosaic Law. The Book of Exodus reads, “if a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep,” and “whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” To modern readers, valuing human life over property is common sense, but this was not common at all during the Bible’s time.