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A popular image of the Tablets as rounded-off rectangles bears little relationship with religious traditions about their appearance. In this case, the Ten Commandments are represented by the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which in Hebrew usage may be used interchangeably with the numbers 1-10.

The Tablets of Stone, Stone Tablets, Tablets of Law, or Tablets of Testimony (in Hebrew: לוחות הברית Luchot HaBrit - "the tablets [of] the covenant") in the Bible, were the two pieces of special stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments when Moses ascended Mount Sinai as recorded in the Book of Exodus.Exodus  31:18 refers to the tablets as the "Tablets of Testimony" because they give insight into the nature of God.

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. 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

Rectangular tablets passed down by the Hand of God in the 10th century Byzantine Paris Psalter.

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.

At least two miracles are mentioned in connection with the tablets; even though they were bored fully through the stone, and the reverse side expected to be a mirror image, it was not, and both sides appeared normally. Since the letters were bored fully through the stone, the inner part of the letters (for example ס or ם) were not supported by anything, yet the unsupported stone remained in position.


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.



  1. ^ Bava Batra 14a.
  2. ^ Except for a variant tradition where a scroll is shown, only known from Christian examples. [1]
  3. ^ Bava Batra 14a.
  4. ^ Rabbi Ishmael. Horowitz-Rabin (ed.). ed. Mekhilta. pp. 233, Tractate de-ba-Hodesh, 5.  
  5. ^ Margaliot, Dr. Meshulam (July 2004). "What was Written on the Two Tablets?". Bar-Ilan University. Retrieved 2006-09-20.  

See also

World's largest book a stone book the pages of which are inscribed stone tablets

External links



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