The two versions of the 10 Commandments (one in Yitro and the 2nd in Va'etchanan) have different phrasing, most notably in commandments 4, 5 and 10.

What was actually written on the two tablets?

Some possibilities that I thought of (perhaps, others discussed some of these, too?):

  • The Torah says regarding the luchot that they were written "on both sides". Could this mean that when viewing from one side it had the version from Yitro and the other side from *Va'etchanan?
  • There were two sets of tablets. Could it be that the first one that G-d created had one version and the tablets that Moshe created had the 2nd version?
  • Could this be a קרי / כתיב issue? I.e. one version was written but pronounced differently, and we are, for some reason reciting both versions because we're not completely sure what was written and what was "pronounced"?

There may be other ideas, of course.

  • The קרי/כתיב theory doesn't really work, since there's a real קרי/כתיב in Vaetchanan
    – Heshy
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 16:11
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    @DanF There is actually a very interesting discussion of this change in language found in the second luchot in the opening pages of volume 1 of Sefer Torah HaMelech from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. If I have the time, bli neder, I'll dig it out and see if I can get the reference for an answer. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 16:37
  • If you have it, it is also worth actually looking at the text of the first and second sets of the 10 commandments side by side like is found in the back of the Keter Yerushalayim edition of the Tanach from Hebrew University. The format/layout of the Dibrot as they appear in the Sefer Torah changes. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 16:43
  • re the both sides- the Gemara (can't remember where now) states that according to the opinion that they were written in Ksav Arami, (and that end-letters already existed) that the final-mem's only stood via miracle (i.e. the centre bit stayed in place despite not being attached) This shows that the meaning of 'on both sides' means they were carved the whole way through acc. to that Gemera
    – user15253
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 11:18
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    @rosends A shiur I attended a while ago explained that, indeed, the font on the 1st luach was much smaller than that of the 2nd luach.
    – DanF
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 20:12

1 Answer 1


Ibn Ezra (Exodus 20, 1) brings from "the Gaon" that the first set of tablets had the version of Yitro while the second set had the version of Va'etchanan, but he himself thinks that both had Yitro's version.

Ramban (Exodus 20, 8) also concludes as Ibn Ezra, however in Bava Kama (55,a) Shmuel son of Nochum gives the reason for one variance "because the first tablets where about to be broken while the second set not", this seems to imply as the opinion of the Gaon.

  • 1
    See also R. Reuven Margaliot's discussion of the Gemara in Bava Kama in his המקרא והמסורה in which he suggests that R. Chiya bar Abba in the Gemara there (54b-55a) was unsure about this very point
    – wfb
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 20:29
  • Please bring the actual text quotes in Hebrew from Ibn Ezra and Ramban that you are citing. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 3:18
  • Also, the Bava Kamma you are citing doesn't actually say the 2nd Decalogue was on the 2nd tablets. It only says the textual variations in the 2nd Decalogue may have been a sign that the 1st tablets were shattered. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 3:30

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