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Lipit-Ishtar And The Obligation Of Lagash

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To curb the abuses of political and economic power by landed elite, many Mesopotamian rulers put forth freedom proclamations to correct the disruption of the economy and welfare of free citizens who had fallen victim to debt-slavery and the alienation of land. As early as 2400 BCE, Entemena, King of Lagash, issued just such a freedom proclamation when he stated the following: “A remission of the obligations of Lagash he instituted. He returned the mother to the child and returned the child to the mother, and a remission if interest bearing barley loans he instituted. At that time, Enmetena for Lugalemush the Emush of Badtibira, the remission of their obligations he instituted. For Innana, back to Uruk to her control he returned them. For…show more content…
This was most likely done through a decree that nullified all personal debts. The statement “I made the father support his children and the children support their father,” parallels the statement, “returned the mother to the child and returned the child to the mother,” in Enmetena’s proclamation. Like Enmetena’s proclamation, then, Lipit-Ishtar’s proclamation is concerned with the reuniting of families that have been broken apart by debt slavery. Two characteristics of Lipit-Ishtar’s proclamation should be emphasized and remembered as well. First, like Enmetena’s proclamation it makes use of language pertaining to the family in the statement “I made the father support his children and the children support their father.” Second, like Enmetena’s proclamation the cancellation of debts is ethnically limited to the Sumerians and the Akkadians. It is not, then, a general proclamation of freedom to all who are…show more content…
The existence of debt slavery in Israel may largely be attributed to the growing monopoly over resources by Israel’s landed elite. Many of Israel’s small farmers were forced to go to the landed elite to obtain the resources they needed to farm. Typically, loans were procured in order to obtain needed resources and these loans often came with high interest rates attached. Despite the presence of biblical laws which prevent Israelites from charging interest to one another, these laws were generally ignored by Israel’s money-lenders, particularly during the eight century BCE and later. Like so many small farmers in Mesopotamia, then, many of Israel’s small farmers were forced to sell their dependents into slavery in order to pay back loans. Sometimes, they were even forced to sell themselves and their land to pay back these loans. Redeeming oneself or one’s dependents often came with great
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