Was it only 10 Commandments on the tablets of stone?

Something that has crossed my mind more than one time about the traditional understanding of the two stone tablets is whether or not it was just the ten commandments on these or was there more? I have a little speculation that the entire covenantal law was recorded on these two stone tablets. I am not proclaiming this dogmatically, just putting forth a possibility. Now I know there are going to be more than a few people reading this who think I have fallen off my rocker, but hear me out.

The Bible does make it clear that the Ten Commandments were written on the two stone tablets. This is mentioned in three places in Scripture—Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, and Deuteronomy 10:4. There is no other specific mention of the Ten Commandments and the stone tablets together anywhere else.

The next important thing to note is that nowhere in the Bible does it specifically state that it was only the Ten Commandments written on the two tablets. There is one verse that people may cite as stating this, but it actually does not. Here is that verse, “These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me” (Deuteronomy 5:22, NIV). It does not say the “Ten Commandments,” it simply says the commandments (or words/utterances) the LORD proclaimed. This is referring to those God gave them at the foot of Sinai as recorded in Exodus 20:1-23:33. If you go and read those chapters, you will quickly realize that the commands God gave that day were more than the Big 10.

In fact, several places in Scripture allude to the fact that there were more than the Ten Commandments on the two tablets. Exodus 24:4, “Moses wrote down everythingthe Lord had said” (emphasis added). Exodus 24:12, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction’” (emphasis added). Elsewhere they were referred to as the “tablets of the Testimony” (Exodus 31:18), the tablets containing the “words of the covenant” (Exodus 34:28), “the tablets of the covenant” (Deuteronomy 9:9), etc. The entire context of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy make it clear that the covenant was more than just the Ten Commandments. Otherwise there was no basis for God to be angry with the Israelites about not bringing proper sacrifices, because that is not contained in the Ten Commandments.

Moreover, there was writing on both sides of the tablets (Exodus 32:15). What we always see today regarding the Ten Commandments is two tablets with five commands on each tablet and only on one side, which simply is not what the Bible describes. Also, the tablets were to be placed into the Ark of the Covenant, which was to be two and a half cubits long by a cubit and a half wide. Depending on what one considers the length of the cubit to be (the shorter cubit of 18 inches or the longer cubit of 21 inches) the Ark of the Covenant would have been either 3 3/4 ft x 2 1/4 ft or 4 1/3 ft x 2 2/3 ft. The Ark was designed to hold the two stone tablets. So those tablets were pretty big. God would have had to write in extra large print to fill up two tablets front and back with just ten commandments.

All of these things together have led me to the speculation that I mentioned at the beginning of this post—that there was more than just the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets. I think the entire covenantal law was inscribed on these tablets (probably written like you see on the tablet in the picture to the right). I think this is why the law was able to withstand the test of time, as parchment would have easily decayed. Because if the Law had only been written on parchment and then subject to suffer from decay, this would have most assuredly prevented its “rediscovery” in 2 Kings 22:8 after it was lost, misplaced, or whatever else you want to call it (no matter what you call it, the law was neglected for some time).

But enough about what I think, what do you think? Do you think I am completely off my rocker or that I might be on to something here?
What'd you think? 


4 Response to "Was it only 10 Commandments on the tablets of stone?"

  • Kreitsauce Says:

    I absolutely believe that the entire law was written on the tablets of stone. The Ten Commandments as we conceive of them are more of a modern convention. They are more like a rough outline of what will be covered in the Law. There's no reason to suspect that the entire Law wasn't written on two tablets.

    Great line of thought!


  • Sean Says:

    I heard a Theologian talking about this topic recently. It seems that the ten commandments were written on one stone and that the second stone was a copy of the first (so there were the same 10 on each). Apparently, at the time and in that area when someone in charge or power were to give commands he would make one copy for himself and then another for the lower officer/peasant. It was sort of like an early legal arrangement, a symbol of understanding on both parties.


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  • Leah Marie Says:

    I am definitely in agreement that there was more than just the 10 commandments written on the two tablets. In fact, weren't there more than just 10 commandments? Exodus 20-31 is loaded with all kinds of instructions from the Lord. I was doing a little research on this topic and found this article. I, like many, was always taught that there were just the 10 commandments until I decided to actually read God's Word for myself, and behold I discovered a lot more than just 10!
    Thanks for you input on this topic. There are many mysteries that only God will ever truly know. Perhaps this is one of them, or have we just misinterpreted the tablets and only took out the things we wanted to hear, such as only the first 10 commandments?