Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Exodus 25:16 - The Testimony: Two Stone Tablets and The Ten Commandments (The Holy Decalogue)

PLEASE SEE UPDATED AND COMPLETE VERSION HERE

As the description of the Ark of The Covenant states,  inside the Ark there were Two Stone Tablets with the Ten Commandments written upon them. Let's take a look:

Exodus 25:16
16 And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.

‎16 ‏וְנָתַתָּ֖ אֶל־הָאָרֹ֑ן אֵ֚ת הָעֵדֻ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶתֵּ֖ן אֵלֶֽיךָ׃



As Exodus 25:16 states, inside the Ark of the Covenant was The Testimony ("העדת" / eduth ).  The detailed description of what this Testimony was, can be found in sever places in Pentateuch, but the most appropriate is Deuteronomy 10:3-5:
3 And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand.

4 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.

5 And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me.
‎3 ‏וָאַ֤עַשׂ אֲרוֹן֙ עֲצֵ֣י שִׁטִּ֔ים וָאֶפְסֹ֛ל שְׁנֵי־לֻחֹ֥ת אֲבָנִ֖ים כָּרִאשֹׁנִ֑ים וָאַ֣עַל הָהָ֔רָה וּשְׁנֵ֥י הַלֻּחֹ֖ת בְּיָדִֽי׃

‎4 ‏וַיִּכְתֹּ֨ב עַֽל־הַלֻּחֹ֜ת כַּמִּכְתָּ֣ב הָרִאשׁ֗וֹן אֵ֚ת עֲשֶׂ֣רֶת הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֶּר֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֲלֵיכֶ֥ם בָּהָ֛ר מִתּ֥וֹךְ הָאֵ֖שׁ בְּי֣וֹם הַקָּהָ֑ל וַיִּתְּנֵ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה אֵלָֽי׃

‎5 ‏וָאֵ֗פֶן וָֽאֵרֵד֙ מִן־הָהָ֔ר וָֽאָשִׂם֙ אֶת־הַלֻּחֹ֔ת בָּאָר֖וֹן אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשִׂ֑יתִי וַיִּ֣הְיוּ שָׁ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוַּ֖נִי יְהוָֽה׃

As you can read from this description, The Testimony was actually Two Tablets of Stone, with the Ten Commandments written(engraved) upon them.

The actual text of The Testimony is known as The Ten Commandments, The Ten Sayings, The Decalogue,
Aseret Ha Devarim(heb.) or Aseret Ha Dibrot(heb). Exodus 20:2-17 provides an exact text of what was written upon these two Tablets of Stone:

Exodus 20:2-17

2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
‎2 ‏אָֽנֹכִ֖י֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֧ר הוֹצֵאתִ֛יךָ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם מִבֵּ֣֥ית עֲבָדִֽ֑ים׃
‎3 ‏לֹֽ֣א יִהְיֶֽה־לְךָ֛֩ אֱלֹהִ֥֨ים אֲחֵרִ֖֜ים עַל־פָּנָֽ֗יַ

4 לֹא-תַעֲשֶׂה לְךָ פֶסֶל, וְכָל-תְּמוּנָה, אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל, וַאֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת--וַאֲשֶׁר בַּמַּיִם, מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ
‎5 ‏לֹֽא־תִשְׁתַּחְוֶ֥֣ה לָהֶ֖ם֮ וְלֹ֣א תָעָבְדֵ֑ם֒ כִּ֣י אָֽנֹכִ֞י יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ אֵ֣ל קַנָּ֔א פֹּ֠קֵד עֲוֹ֨ן אָבֹ֧ת עַל־בָּנִ֛ים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁ֥ים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִ֖ים לְשֹׂנְאָֽ֑י׃
‎6 ‏וְעֹ֥֤שֶׂה חֶ֖֙סֶד֙ לַאֲלָפִ֑֔ים לְאֹהֲבַ֖י וּלְשֹׁמְרֵ֥י מִצְוֹתָֽי׃ ס

‎7 ‏לֹ֥א תִשָּׂ֛א אֶת־שֵֽׁם־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ לַשָּׁ֑וְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יְנַקֶּה֙ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־יִשָּׂ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ לַשָּֽׁוְא׃ פ
‎8 ‏זָכ֛וֹר֩ אֶת־י֥֨וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖֜ת לְקַדְּשֽׁ֗וֹ
‎9 ‏שֵׁ֤֣שֶׁת יָמִ֣ים֙ תַּֽעֲבֹ֔ד֮ וְעָשִׂ֖֣יתָ כָּל־מְלַאכְתֶּֽךָ֒
‎10 ‏וְי֙וֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔֜י שַׁבָּ֖֣ת׀ לַיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑֗יךָ לֹֽ֣א־תַעֲשֶׂ֣֨ה כָל־מְלָאכָ֡֜ה אַתָּ֣ה׀ וּבִנְךָֽ֣־וּ֠בִתֶּ֗ךָ עַבְדְּךָ֤֨ וַאֲמָֽתְךָ֜֙ וּבְהֶמְתֶּ֔֗ךָ וְגֵרְךָ֖֙ אֲשֶׁ֥֣ר בִּשְׁעָרֶֽ֔יךָ
‎11 ‏כִּ֣י שֵֽׁשֶׁת־יָמִים֩ עָשָׂ֨ה יְהוָ֜ה אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֶת־הַיָּם֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֔ם וַיָּ֖נַח בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֑י עַל־כֵּ֗ן בֵּרַ֧ךְ יְהוָ֛ה אֶת־י֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖ת וַֽיְקַדְּשֵֽׁהוּ׃ ס

‎12 ‏כַּבֵּ֥ד אֶת־אָבִ֖יךָ וְאֶת־אִמֶּ֑ךָ לְמַ֙עַן֙ יַאֲרִכ֣וּן יָמֶ֔יךָ עַ֚ל הָאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ׃ ס

‎13 ‏לֹ֥֖א תִּֿרְצָֽ֖ח׃ ס

‎14 ‏לֹ֣֖א תִּֿנְאָֽ֑ף׃ ס

‎15 ‏לֹ֣֖א תִּֿגְנֹֽ֔ב׃ ס

‎16 ‏לֹֽא־תַעֲנֶ֥ה בְרֵעֲךָ֖ עֵ֥ד שָֽׁקֶר׃ ס
‎17 ‏לֹ֥א תַחְמֹ֖ד בֵּ֣ית רֵעֶ֑ךָ לֹֽא־תַחְמֹ֞ד אֵ֣שֶׁת רֵעֶ֗ךָ וְעַבְדּ֤וֹ וַאֲמָתוֹ֙ וְשׁוֹר֣וֹ וַחֲמֹר֔וֹ וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר לְרֵעֶֽךָ׃ פ

The text above is grouped by the traditional Jewish division:
  • 1st commandment - verse 2-3
  • 2nd- verses 4-6
  • 3rd - verse 7
  • 4th - verses 8-11
  • 5th - verse 12
  • 6th - verse 13
  • 7th - verse 14
  • 8th - verse 15
  • 9th - verse 16
  • 10th - verse 17th.

The Exodus 32:15 provides even more details about the Tablets:
15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.

‎15 ‏וַיִּ֜פֶן וַיֵּ֤רֶד מֹשֶׁה֙ מִן־הָהָ֔ר וּשְׁנֵ֛י לֻחֹ֥ת הָעֵדֻ֖ת בְּיָד֑וֹ לֻחֹ֗ת כְּתֻבִים֙ מִשְּׁנֵ֣י עֶבְרֵיהֶ֔ם מִזֶּ֥ה וּמִזֶּ֖ה הֵ֥ם כְּתֻבִֽים׃
Each of the two(2) Stone Tablets contained all of the ten(10) commandments: five(5) on the front and five(5) on the back. The Tablets looked like this

Also, Exodus 32:15 states that Moses could carry both Tablets at once, meaning that they were neither too large nor too heavy. I'm yet to do the proper calculations of the most likely dimensions and weight of the Tablets, but it appears that each Tablet was approximately  ~1.227 cubits(56cm) in width, ~1.455 cubits(66cm) in length and between 0.5-1cm thick. The stone that the Tablets were made of was similar to either Granite or Marble, and black or dark in appearance so that the engraved text would be clearly visible.
Considering the density of stone being 2563kg/cu^3 and thickness of 0.5cm , each such Stone Tablet would weigh 4.6kg; both Tablets would weight a total of 9.2kg - a very reasonable weight.

And here is the rendering of how the Tablets would compare to an average person measurements. As you can see it looks very reasonable, therefore Moses could have accomplish this task without any excessive hardship.

Back to the Exodus 25:16: the Tablets were put into the Ark of the Covenant...

Both Tablets would fit inside the Ark nice and tight, thus always being very protected and secure during the Ark operation and transport. 

And as 1 Kings 8:9 notes:
9 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.

‎9 ‏אֵ֚ין בָּֽאָר֔וֹן רַ֗ק שְׁנֵי֙ לֻח֣וֹת הָאֲבָנִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִנִּ֥חַ שָׁ֛ם מֹשֶׁ֖ה בְּחֹרֵ֑ב אֲשֶׁ֨ר כָּרַ֤ת יְהוָה֙ עִם־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּצֵאתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

Thus, once inside the Ark, the Two Tablets of Stone with the Testimony upon them would look like this:


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