Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What I understand in Exodus 20-23 is that the words are continuous words spoken by God. We know that Moses was given two stone tablets and the commands were written on it by God's own hand.

I wonder what was exactly written on the two stone tablets. Exodus 20-23 is very long and to write all that on two stone tablets would be difficult. It could be written with very small characters. May be only the 10 important points were written.

I need some explanation from experts.

share|improve this question
Bear in mind that, as long as it may be in English, Hebrew has a much more compact script. –  Mason Wheeler Feb 7 '13 at 5:27

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18, NIV)

According to Keil there was only 172 words (the decalogue) in Exodus 20:2–17 that were written on the stones by the 'finger of God'. This would have easily fit.

Nothing is said about the dimensions of the tables: at the same time, we can hardly imagine them to have been as large as the inside of the ark; for stone slab 2 1/2 cubits long and 1 1/2 cubits broad, which must necessarily have been some inches in thickness to prevent their breaking in the hand, would have required the strength of Samson to enable Moses to carry them down the mountain “in his hand” (Ex. 32:15), or even “in his two hands” (Deut. 9:15, 17). But if we suppose them to have been smaller than this, say at the most a cubit and a half long and one cubit broad, there would have been half long and one cubit broad, there would have been plenty of room on the four sides for the 172 words contained in the decalogue, with its threats and promises (Ex. 20:2–17), without the writing being excessively small. (Commentary on the Old Testament, by C.F. KEIL and F. DELITZSCH, 1.463-464)

share|improve this answer
The weight issue would seem to counter the supposition that each tablet was a copy--one for each party of the covenant--with God's copy staying with Israel being a statement that God will remain with Israel. OTOH, "some inches in thickness" might be mistaken--common granite countertops vary from 2cm for bathrooms to about 5cm for moderately customizable kitchen countertops; 3cm version can be 266cm x 137cm. 69x46x2 at 2.7g/cm3 = ~17kg for one small tablet but doubling area and 50% increased thickness would make two tablets a bit heavy for carrying. –  Paul A. Clayton Feb 7 '13 at 14:31
@PaulA.Clayton - Yes I don't really hold to the 'two copies' notion. Ancient Jewish traditions are divided on that. What makes most sense to me judging by the volume of the words is that the last 6 commands were on the second tablet. If is were true the first tablet was Love God, the Second was love your neighbor as yourself. –  Mike Feb 7 '13 at 15:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.