23 Nov, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

The world’s oldest known complete stone inscription of the Ten Commandments was sold at an auction in Beverly Hills on Wednesday for $850,000, though it is unlikely that Moses would recognize this version as his own.

The two foot square slab of marble weighs 115 pounds and is engraved with 20 lines of Samaritan script listing nine of the Bibical commandments. It intentionally excludes “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”, replacing it with a rule for Samaritan worshipers to “raise up a temple” on Mount Gerizim.

The Ten Commandments listed on the tablet are translated on the Heritage Auctions site and vary considerably from the original Biblical commandments.:

  • Dedicated in the name of Korach
  • I will call you to remember for goodness forever
  • God spoke
  • all these words
  • saying I am the Lord
  • your God you shall not have
  • for yourself other Gods
  • besides me; you shall not make
  • for yourself a sculptured image or any likeness;
  • for I the Lord
  • your God am an impassioned God;
  • Remember the Sabbath day
  • keep it holy; honour
  • your father and your mother;
  • you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery;
  • you shall not steal; you shall not bear [false witness] against your neighbour
  • you shall not covet; you shall erect
  • these stones that
  • I am commanding you today
  • on Mount Gerizim rise up to God

“The workmen who found it did not recognize its importance and either sold or gave it to a local Arab man, who set the stone into the threshold of a room leading to his inner courtyard, with the inscription facing up,” said David Michaels, director of ancient coins for Heritage Auctions. “Some of the letters of the central part of the inscription are blurred — but still readable under proper lighting — either from the conditions of its burial or foot traffic while it was resting in the courtyard.”

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It was believed to have been originally made between 300 and 500 CE and placed at the entrance of a Samaritan house of worship. It is believed that the building was later destroyed by the Romans, leaving the tablet  buried in the rubble until an Arab construction worker found it in 1913 during excavations for a railroad near Yavneh, Israel.

 The Arab used the stone in his home’s courtyard, with the engraving concealed. He sold it to Y. Kaplan, a municipal archaeologist in 1943, who owned it until he passed away in 2000.
“He immediately recognized its importance as an extremely rare ‘Samaritan Decalogue,’ one of five such known stone inscriptions that date to the late Roman-Byzantine era (300-640 CE) or just after the Muslim invasion of the seventh century CE,” added Michaels.

Rabbi Shaul Deutsch, founder of the Living Torah Museum, in Brooklyn, New York acquired the tablet for temporary display through an agreement with the Israel Antiquities Authority and then bought it outright after a legal settlement. The Israeli Antiquities Authorities (IAA) approved export of the piece to the United States in 2005, under condition that it must be displayed in a public museum. Rabbi Deutsch sold  the tablet this week with the stipulation that the buyer must put it on public display.