Tablets of the Law

Template:Ten Commandments series

For funeral or commemorative tablets carved in stone, see Stele.

The Tablets of Stone, Stone Tablets, Tablets of Law, or Tablets of Testimony (in Exodus  31:18 refers to the tablets as the "Tablets of Testimony".

According to the Bible, there were two sets. The first, inscribed by God, were smashed by Moses when he was enraged by the sight of the Children of Israel worshiping the Golden Calf; and the second, later cut by Moses and rewritten by God.

According to traditional teachings of Judaism in the Talmud, they were made of blue sapphire stone as a symbolic reminder of the sky, the heavens, and ultimately of God's throne. Many Torah scholars, however, have opined that the Biblical "sapir" was, in fact, the lapis lazuli (see Exodus 24:10, lapis lazuli is a possible alternate rendering of "sapphire" the stone pavement under God's feet when the intention to craft the tablets of the covenant is disclosed (24:12).(see, Staples, W. E., "Lapis Lazuli," in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol.3, p. 72)

Both the first shattered set and the second unbroken set were stored in the Ark of the Covenant (the Aron Habrit in Hebrew).

Appearance of the tablets

In recent centuries the tablets have been popularly described and depicted as round-topped rectangles but this has little basis in religious tradition. According to rabbinic tradition, they were rectangles, with sharp corners,[1] and indeed they are so depicted in the 3rd century paintings at the Dura-Europos Synagogue and in Christian art throughout the 1st millennium,[2] drawing on Jewish traditions of iconography. The rounded tablets appear in the Middle Ages, following in size and shape contemporary hinged writing tablets for taking notes (with a stylus on a layer of wax on the insides). For Michelangelo and Andrea Mantegna they still have sharp corners (see gallery), and are about the size found in Rabbinic tradition. Later artists such as Rembrandt tended to combine the rounded shape with the larger size. The length and width of each of the Tablets was six Tefachim, and each was three Tefachim thick - respectively roughly 20 and ten inches,[3] though they tend to be shown larger in art. Also according to tradition, the words were not engraved on the surface, but rather were bored fully through the stone.

The clearest depiction of the stones is given in the Talmudic Midrashic sources as "clear", "flexible" and "transparent".


In Jewish religious tradition, the arrangement of the commandments on the two tablets is interpreted in different ways. Rabbi Hanina ben Gamaliel said that each tablet contained five commandments, "but the Sages say ten on one tablet and ten on the other".[4] Because the commandments establish a covenant, it is likely that they were duplicated on both tablets. This can be compared to diplomatic treaties of Ancient Egypt, in which a copy was made for each party.[5]

Christian replicas

Replicas of the tablets, known as tabots or sellats, are a vital part of the practice of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which claims that the original Ark of the Covenant is kept in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum.[6]

In the Qur'an


The Qur'an states that tablets were given to Moses, without quoting their contents explicitly:

"And We ordained laws for him in the tablets in all matters, both commanding and explaining all things, (and said): 'Take and hold these with firmness, and enjoin thy people to hold fast by the best in the precepts: soon shall I show you the homes of the wicked,- (How they lie desolate).'" (7:145)

These tablets are not broken in the Qur'an, but picked up later:

"When 7:154).


See also


External links

  • Ark of the Covenant page

Template:Characters and names in the Qurande:Zehn Gebote#Bilder 3 testimonies in the covenan t

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