The wikipedia page, and most other depictions of the tablets are that they are of the ten commandments. When I read Exodus, it seems at least to me a little less clear as to what exactly was written, i.e. they have the law and the commandment.

(Ex. 24:12) Now the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.”

(Ex. 31:18) When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

Which makes it seem to me that perhaps not just Exodus 19:1–9 was on the tablets, but perhaps all the "laws", i.e. 20:1-17 and maybe even 20:22–23:33 were written on the tablets.

So my question is what was written on the tablets? Is there evidence that makes it clear what exactly was written on the tablets? (i.e. internal evidence within Exodus or the Torah, the hebrew language, etc..)

There does appear to be at least some Jewish schools of thought that believe this verse implies more than just the ten commandments were on the tablets:

Teachings and commandments. הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה (ha-Torah v’ha-mitzvah). The expression seems too large for the Decalogue, hence Rashi explains that God’s inscription on the tablets comprised all 613 mitzvot of tradition. The 19th-century scholar Meir Lev ben Yechiel Michael (Malbim) took this phrase as the title of his popular Torah commentary. [Torah][1]

There does also appear to be some debate that weight of stone would limit the size, and hence the number of words that could fit on a tablet.

[1]: Torah: a modern commentary

  • 1
    See also, on Christianity.SE: What was written on the two stone tablets of Moses? I don’t mind keeping this question, though; you may get a different perspective here.
    – Susan
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 3:51
  • As per on Christianity.SE, the weight concept is an interesting and useful one to consider. (i.e. Would it have been physically possible to fit them all on a tablet that could be carried, and fit in the ark of the covenant). However is this really all we have to go on? Does the bible or original language give us any other clue at all? Is it really that ambiguous?
    – Jay
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 3:58
  • 1
    Please consider moving additional elaboration/questions into the body of the question. :-)
    – Susan
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 4:00
  • I have moved the references and info in part. I hesitate to put elaborative questions in the main question, as I don't want to make the question too subjective.
    – Jay
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 5:18
  • Of course, any answer can only be opinion, including that of Rashi. However, 2 stone tablets small enough to be carried can only hold just so much writing. Characters chiselled into stone can not legibly be too small, so I think we must assume only the Decalogue. Commented May 25, 2015 at 21:32

8 Answers 8


Answer: The Bible states explicitly that the Ten Commandments were written on the tablets of stone.

The Ten Commandments stand apart in Exodus 20, but aren't named as such. However, they are clearly referenced later in the book.

And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. Exodus 34:28

Deuteronomy also mentions that the ten commandments were written in stone:

And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. Deuteronomy 4:12,13

And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the Lord spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the Lord gave them unto me. Deuteronomy 10:4

In Deuteronomy 5, the Commandments are explicitly repeated and associated with the tablets of stone:

1And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. 2The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, 5while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said:

6“‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

7“‘You shall have no other gods before me.

8“‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 9You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

11“‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

12“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

16“‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

17“‘You shall not murder.

18“‘And you shall not commit adultery.

19“‘And you shall not steal.

20“‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

21“‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

22“These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. Deuteronomy 5:1-22

Note that Moses specifically cites the words spoken to the assembly by God himself as what is written on the tablets. Both Exodus and Deuteronomy record God speaking the 10 Commandments directly to the people before they cause Moses to intercede.

  • 10 is an allusion found in several places in scripture, as also a 'song' is (Deuteronomy 31:22) is meaning the laws. e.g Psalm 92:3, here the psalmist alludes in the same 'song' and 10 strings. Because 'playing music denoted 'doing the laws'. In Numbers 14:22 God uses the same figure of speech to refer to the numerous times that they grieved Him with a stubborn heart. The same figure is in Job 19:3, a book closer in generation to that of the writer of Deutrononmy.
    – Witness
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 21:24
  • Consider, Deut 6--31 and see that if He had only meant the 10, Israel probably would never have been thrown out of their nation on the various occasions because the 10 would have been easier to keep.
    – Witness
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 21:24
  • @Witness Yes, there are other laws besides the 10 Commandments. The question was 'what was written on the tablets of stone?' That seems to be answered straightforwardly by the text. As for the idea that Israel kept the 10, and only violated the others: I don't think that's supported by the scriptures. Israel created images for worship and followed after foreign Gods. A brief glimpse into Kings/Chronicles and the major prophets will show violations of many more (possibly all) of the 10.
    – Solocutor
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 17:21
  • My point was that the writing done on them was symbolic, such that had even half of the laws been written on them, they wouldn't have been fully comprehensive in including all that had to be known that, in Deut 6-31, was enjoined upon them. This aspect is upheld by what Moses says in Deut 31:24-26 after cataloguing them down to their nuances. Or How do you explain Deut 31:24-26? A 10 is symbolic as I indicated and for aspects of the age to come; appearing in forms like; a tithe of the field, 10 horns, 1000 yr reign of Messiah, and in Ezekiel, numerous places!
    – Witness
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 20:54
  • @Witness The law mentioned in Deuteronomy 31:24-26 is more than the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments were written by God on stone tablets and placed in the ark. The remainder of the law was written by Moses and placed beside the ark. Deuteronomy 31 is near the end of Moses' life. He asks for these accumulated writings to be preserved. They are definitely distinct from the stone tablets mentioned in the verses in my post.
    – Solocutor
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 21:48

I don't think any of these answers give a conclusion to the initial question. I have the same confusion and am looking for a reply. I read in Exodus that Yah wrote the first and second set of stones, but the verse people bring out is Exodus 34:28. BUT this is the hands of Moses not God, and is written after the stones were already given, meaning that Moses wrote the Ten Words on the stones after they were written by Yah.

BUT what did Yah write on it? That is your question, right? I haven't found an answer either, and people keep bringing up that Exodus verse, but it doesn't answer anything. I am only able to think that all of the laws in Exodus that are discussed in all of chapters 20-31, had to have been written on the set of stones.

It's not clear, though. Exodus 24:12; 31:18; 34:1, and finally Exodus 34:27-28 - the LORD telling Moses to write additional to what was written in the stones:

27Write down these words, for in accordance with theses words I have made a covenant with you and Israel. 28... he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant - the Ten Commandments.
-- Exodus 34:27-28 NIV

So was it not YHWH that wrote on the first set or second set of stones? Even if Moses wrote on the second set the Ten Words, then it still leaves the question of what was written on the first, and the second (according to the verses I provided) has the same words as the second. So why did Moses only write on the first and/or why was he given written stones and then write the "same thing" on them a few verses later.

Please someone answer the initial question and the consequential questions that follow.

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    – enegue
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 3:20

(Ex. 24:12) Now the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.”

(Ex. 31:18) When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

What was written was what said to Israel verbally. WHICH IS THE COMMANDMENTS AND THE LAW.


God was very clear in Exodus 24:12 - He wrote WITH HIS FINGER, both the law and commands. The only reason you guys are having a difficult time accepting this fact is because you cant justify it as fact after you prematurely abolished the laws in your manmade version of the new covenant, despite the fact God used 2 witnesses, Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31 to make it clear, YOUR NEW COVENNANT MUST permanently write Gods laws on your hearts, causing you to WANT TO obey his laws and commands. That is why Jesus said "if you love me, obey my commands". That word "commands" that Jesus used is the Greek word "entolas", which literally means mosaic laws, statues, judgements, commands, according to the Greek Lexicon. jesus said in the new testament "do not EVEN THINK that I came to abolish the laws", yet you thought it anyways. Wasn't it matthew 22:40 which declared "all the laws and prophets hang on these two commands". The two commands he was speaking of were the law to love the lord your God and to love your neighbor. What is he talking about? Loving the lord your God is the first 4 of the 10 commandments. Loving your neighbor is the last 6 of the 10 commandments. And on these two commands hang ALL THE LAW and prophets. yet manmade Christianity, which prematurely abolished Gods laws cant seem to realize Gods laws are permenantly bound to the commandments. The greatest command is to love God, the next great command is to love your neighbor, these are summed up in the 10 commandments. But Matthew 22:40 takes the understanding even further and tells us ALL THE LAW AND PROPHETS hang on these 2 commands. Think people, you are in the wrong, yet consistently try to justify yourselfs. The laws of God are good according to Paul. He delighted in them. Jesus told us to never even think of abolishing them, yet you did it anyways. That is why your heart of stone is battling, making you think these laws were never inside the arc of testimony, but they were. Exodus 24:12, the words of God foretell it!

  • Welcome to the site, from another fairly new user. Your entire second sentence is an attack on the people who have responded to this question. I hope you will stay around, and gather some things you will find to be edifying.
    – Papa Pat
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 11:03
  • The question here is what was written on the two tablets, no one is arguing whether the law is applicable today or not. The reason for the question is that some people who have studied the text have realised that what was listed as the 10 'commandments' could not have been inscribed on the tablets, as well as the uncertainty regarding who wrote on the second set of tablets. Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 2:34

Jesus said to the pharisees the great command is to love the lord your God with all your heart. Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy, the shema. He then said, and like that command, also love your neighbor as yourself. Understand what Jesus was describing. To love the lord your God is describing the first 5 of the ten commandments. To love your neighbor is describing the last 5 of the ten commandments. But it goes deeper. In matthew 22:40, Jesus says that on these two commands "hangs ALL THE LAWS and prophets". The entire Torah cannot be seperated from the ten commandments like christianity teaches. Our teacher Jesus, or Yahushua in Hebrew, taught that all the laws are attached to these two great commands, and 10 commandments, like branches. These branches bear fruit. And of this theoretical tree, Jesus himself is the root, giving the bread and water of life to the tree. Any branch that does not bear fruit (obedience to the laws) will be cut off. Anyone that wants to be apart of Jesus laws, and obey them, will be grafted into this tree. Jesus was describing the tree of life, in which all the laws are included, NOT done away with or abolished. He told is "do not even think that I came to abolish the law". Yet many think it anyways, to their own destruction. Fact is, the laws of God teach us how God wants us to love him and how he wants us to love our neighbor. "If you love me, obey my commands".

  • Although an interesting perspective, this cannot be the answer. See my comment above. There were only 10 words on these tablets. This is what the Scripture tells us. Only the first part of what Jesus said (love the Lord your God with all your heart...) is already 10 words in Hebrew. So unfortunately, this does not answer our question. Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 2:31

I have been struggling with the same question for years. In Exodus 19-23 God gives the Israelites 'judgements' (Exodus 21;1) which Moses writes down in a book - which by the way, God never commanded Moses to do. This book, Moses decides to keep on the side of the Ark of the Covenant - also never commanded by God to do so. After this, God calls Moses up to Him on the mountain to give him; tablets of stone AND the law(torah) AND commandments (mitsvah) - 3 things. God says that the tablets of stone are the TESTIMONY. And then from Chapter 25 to 31 God gives Moses the pattern of the tabernacle, and the priesthood garments. These tablets did not have written on them what Moses had written in his book, which we call the 10 commandments. What God wrote on the first tablets were a testimony - Also - it is not 'commandments' that were written on the tablets - according to the Hebrew, it is 'debarim' that was written on the tablets - debarim means words.

Yes Deut 10;4 is translated as saying that 'He wrote on the tablets according to the first writing' but in Hebrew the prefix kaph is used which means 'like' - 'like' is not the exact same - it's not a copy but a shadow, a reflection. The second tablets did not contain the exact same thing that was on the first. Yet I cannot still tell you what was written on the first, except that it was a testimony - in Hebrew meaning a witness.

I want to throw another spanner in the works here. There are also two arks - the Ark of the Covenant, and the ark of the Testimony (Exodus 30;6). The ark that God instructed Moses to make covered with gold and with the two cherubim on the lid - Exodus 25, and the simple box of wood that Moses himself had to make when he was on top of Sinai to receive the second set of stone tablets.(Deut 10). The golden box received according to God's instructions His Testimony (i.e. the first two tablets of stone) and the simple wooden box received the second set of tablets. The Ark of the Testimony remained in the Most Holy Place where God dwelt, and the Ark of the Covenant went into battle with the Israelites. The Ark of the Testimony was only allowed to be carried by the sons of Kohath, but the Ark of the Covenant could be carried by any Levite. It is very obvious that these are two very different things - the two sets of tablets and the two Arks.

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    – agarza
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 4:21

Through a comparison of the Bible's passages that speak about the ‘stone tablets’ (we are discussing here) we will able to draw a schedule that answers (I hope) the following three questions (the related Bible passages are included in it):

Who squared* the two stone tablets?

Who engraved the text on them?

What text was engraved on them? (namely, the precise question at issue)

* with the term ‘squared’ I do not claim that the tables had certainly a square, or rectangular form. With this question, I am asking who sawed/chiseled the stone to obtain two tablets of that kind.

Who squared the two
stone tablets?
Who engraved the
text on them?
What text was
engraved on them?
First set God
(Ex 24:12)
(Ex. 24:12; 31:18;
Deut 4:13; 5:22)
The Law and
the Commandments
(Ex 24:12)
Second set Moses
(Ex 34:1; Deut 10:1-5)
(Ex 34:1; Deut 4:13;
5:22; 10:1-5)
The Law and
the Commandments
(Ex 34:1, compared
with 24:12)

As regards the content of the two tablets, it is clear from the above Bible passages that they included not only the so-called ‘Ten Words’ (or, ‘Ten Commandments’; personally, I prefer, ‘the Ten Guidelines’) but also ‘The Law’. Indeed, MT, LXX, and SY all agree on this point (Exo 24:12), namely, that the two tablets contained “The Law and the commandments”:

MT: והתורה והמצוה

LXX: τον νομον και τας εντολας.

(sorry, but I’m not able to reproduce the Aramaic text of SYR)

If someone asks about how all the information (‘the Law and the Commandments) can be inscribed in only 4 writings-areas (supposing a front-and-back scribing) we can say that the answer to this question depends on various factors, as the dimension of the tablets (they did cannot exceed the ark dimension, obviously; for further hints, see also the BH question #55147), the kind of the stone utilized (depending on a given kind of stone the text readability did can be enhanced, or partially hindered), and – partly – Moses’ capability to carry them.

Even if the Bible does not include all these data we have to consider a neglected (so it seems to me, at least) important point: God was the ‘functional foreman’ – to say so – of both sets of stone tablets’ inscribing. This fact implies that the first display of the set of table stones, produced by God’s holy spirit (his ’finger’) was – regarding the dimension, the kind of stone, the text compactness & readability, also considering Moses’ strength – optimal. It is safe to suppose that the second set of stone tablets – squared by Moses – were made according to the model of the first set.

  • 1
    @Agarza. Thanks for the formatting optimization. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 6:27

Exod. 24:12

Now the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.”

The pair are a link among many in a symbolic chain of '2s' scattered throughout scripture, denoting the nature of messiah and, inevitably, Shiloh.

This was a characterisation of messiah by two stones in the Ark of the covenant. So whatever was written on the pair was for symbolic and memorial reasons, more than it was for utility in teaching the laws and the commandmnents.
Even then, had "all the laws and the commandment which I have written for their instruction” been written on the two stone tablets, we would still have a problem of the highly restrictive access into the holy of Holies where they were placed, something even the highest ranking Jew wasn't at liberty to do on whim.

This aspect affirms their purpose, in addition to what Moses does in Deuteronomy 31:24-26;

24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,
25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,
26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

If Moses recited these laws from the stones, then there wouldn't be a need to 're-write that song' in Verses 24-26;
And to;

"Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee"

If anything, What Moses said starting from Deutronomy 6--31 amounted to the 'laws and the commandments', all of which words couldn't fit on the two stones, regardless of what shortened form they might have made of them, if there was short hand back then.

A stone is a generic for a sentient spirit, evil or holy. In Job 28:3,

He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death,

They're evil, as their association with darkness and the shadow of death marks them out.

In Luke 19:40,

And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out,

Messiah meant if children stopped singing, the angels would pickup from where they left off.

In Psalm 91:12,

They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone,

That's to say, on submission to the will of the Most High, the angels would guide such a one away from the paths in life of the fallen angels.

But the highlight of this symbol is in Ezekiel 28, verses 13-16; and in christianity; Revelation (the City gates and foundations).

Ezekiel 28

14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

Stones of fire are junior orders of angels that the cherub was a 'sherperd' over, that duty was the walking among them.

Not forgetting the stone that is a corner in Psalm 118:22.

Revelation 21:19

And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;

Here it meant leaders as messiah is a leader and also a stone, a precious cornerstone(the Jasper) in the foundation..Isaiah 28:16 .

This is the symbolism of a stone and the writting on it.

Here are some more of the '2s' in this symbolic chain if you care to follow, and which pairs point to none other than messiah.

In zachariah alone;
2 olive trees (Zechariah 4:3, 11)
2 branches (Zechariah 4:12)
2 golden pipes (Zecharia 4:12)
2 anointed ones Zechariah 4:14
2 mountains (Zechariah 6:1)
2 donkeys (Zechariah 9:9)
2 rivers (Zechariah 14:8)
A king and a priest (also, Joshua and Zerubbabel)

Quoted from The number two in the book of Zechariah

And the counsel of peace shall be between them both(a '2', Zechariah 6:13)

Else where in the bible;

Bezaleel and oholiab, 'called by name' Exodus 36:2 etc.
Knowing or calling by name is a unique ultimate allusion to messiah and his duties.

Two corner boards joined at the top and the bottom in the tarbenacle of Meeting...Exodus 26:23-24 Elements of the tarbenacle signified servants of God of whom messiah was depicted by several in that Tent including the Ark + its contents, the door to the tarbenacle, its gate and the boards of the corners specially 'joined'.
A corner and a foundation are specials symbol in the Temple of God.

…Two congregations of YAH, Genesis 32:2

Two silver trumpets in Numbers 10:2, that 'gather' the congregation at the door and for the 'journeying.'

Two clean birds for a sin/trespass offering, one associated with earth, another associated with wood, to cleanse a leper. Leviticus 14:4, one used with'earthenware', the other used with 'wood.' Both symbols referring to stature in holiness relative to dispensation of the laws of God.

Two goats of sacrifice presented at 'door', Leviticus 16:8.

Two thresholds in Ezekiel 40:6/43:8, out which water issues to the wilderness in Ezek 47.

Two rivers in Ezekiel 47:9.

Two Bethlehems in scriptures; Micah 5, Joshua 19:15

Above all, Judah and Ephraim, i.e, Judah and Shiloah, one a lawgiver and another the strength/helmet of God's head. Psalm 60:7

Two doors with two leaves Ezek 41:24 ( c.f Isaiah 45:1 + Psalm 119 :19-22)

This is the characterisation of messiah by this chain, starting with the two stones in the Ark of the covenant.

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