Follow up to my other question regarding what was written on the two tablets:

Devarim 10:2:

ואכתוב על הלחות את הדברים אשר היו על הלוחות הראשונים אשר שברת

I shall write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke.

Does the word דברים mean "words" or does it mean "Commandments", in this context? (The commandments are collectively called עשרת הדברים.)

Devarim 10:4

ויכתוב על הלוחות כמכתב הראשון

He wrote on the tablets like the first writing

Does the term מכתב, here, mean "writing", implying that it was the exact writing, meaning all the same words that were on the first tablets were written exactly the same way on the 2nd tablets? Or, does it mean "script", implying that G-d used the same "font style", but the actually words were different on the 2nd tablets?

My premise, here:

The translation of these two words are related. E.g., if the meaning in the 2nd verse is "writing" meaning that it was the same words, then the meaning in the 1st verse would probably be "words" as well. It would then imply that the Torah, itself, is stating that the two tablets had the same wording.

I looked in the Mikra'ot Gedolot and did not see any commentary focus on those ideas.

  • Note that the translation Commandments is not really correct. Devarim means statements in this context Aug 8, 2017 at 14:48
  • דברים in this context does not mean words, as we see the pasuk calls the contents of the tablets עשרת הדברים he.wikisource.org/wiki/…
    – wfb
    Aug 8, 2017 at 14:51
  • @wfb That's an idea that I stated in my question. It still doesn't completely determine that this is what it means in this specific context. The 1st & 2nd verses that I cited would go together to prove my point. I.e., if the word in the 2nd verses means "writing" it may imply that the the 1st & 2nd tablets were identical, so the term "devarim" would mean "words", probably.
    – DanF
    Aug 8, 2017 at 14:53
  • 2
    @DanF Perhaps I wasn't clear. This is a different pasuk than what you quoted in your question--in this pasuk, the aseret hadibrot are called עשרת הדברים. The aseret hadibrot are not 10 words long, yet the Torah refers to them as עשרת הדברים, thus we see that דברים in this context does not mean words
    – wfb
    Aug 8, 2017 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


If you look at the Targum Onkelos to Devarim 10:2 for הדברים it is seen that the translation is פתגמיא, which means according to the first definition found in Jastrow, decrees. It does not in this usage mean words, but each of the ten decrees or ten commandments.

So the translation would be:

"And you will write upon the tablets, the decrees, which were on the first tablets which you shattered..."

In Devarim 10:4, the Targum of כמכתב is ככתבא which is: like the writing or like the writ. The prefix of Kaf means like or similar to. So the wording of the second tablets is not exactly identical. It is modified.

So the translation of Devarim 10:4 would read:

"And it will be written on the tablets, similar to the first writ, the ten decrees which G-d spoke to you all on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the gathering, and (which) G-d gave to me."

  • Like need not mean modified (and more precisely, the כ prefix need not imply non-identity)
    – Double AA
    Aug 8, 2017 at 18:42
  • I agree the the Kaf prefix has many possible meanings depending on context. In this context, particularly from the fact that the text of the 10 commandments is actually different from parshat Yitro to parshat V'Etchanan, it means similar to. See definition 3 for Adjective and definition 4 for Preposition. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/like Aug 8, 2017 at 20:11
  • 1
    The differences in Vaetchannan may not be relevant since not everyone agrees that is what was written on the second set of tablets judaism.stackexchange.com/a/84609/759 . Essentially your argument that the second tablets were different is not based on grammar and is actually just circular since it assumes that the Vaetchanan text is on the second set which is essentially its own conclusion.
    – Double AA
    Aug 8, 2017 at 20:13
  • @DoubleAA In the answer you link to, he claims Ramban to Shemot 20:8 discusses the two sets of luchot, their content & agreeing with Ibn Ezra that the wording on both is identical. Ramban is only discussing the subject of Zachor and Shamor in regard to Shabbat. He makes no statement like is claimed by Ir Elevant. Haven't had a chance to look at Ibn Ezra yet. But that answer doesn't appear to be accurate. Aug 9, 2017 at 1:20
  • @DoubleAA Looking at the Ibn Ezra to Shemot 20:1 quoted in the answer from Ir Elevant that you link to, it also does not say what he claims. The Gaon that Ibn Ezra disagrees with says the 1st of the 10 commandments in Shemot is on one tablet, the 2nd of the 10 is on the second tablet of Betzalel and everything in parshat V'Etchanan was only taught by Moshe, not written. He is misreading and misunderstanding both Ramban & Ibn Ezra. Aug 9, 2017 at 1:58

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