The Quran, Moses and the Tablets of Stone

Another historical error in the Quran

The Holy Bible, God’s true Word and the oldest existing record on Israel’s history, says that God gave Moses two stone tablets containing the laws and commands which Israel had to follow:

"And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God." Exodus 31:18

"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God." Exodus 34:29

"And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone." Deuteronomy 4:13

"These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me." Deuteronomy 5:22

"And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly." Deuteronomy 9:10

The Quran, however, contradicts the oldest extant written record of Israel’s history by claiming that Moses actually received more than two tablets:

And We wrote for him on the Tablets (al-alwahi) of everything an admonition, and a distinguishing of everything: 'So take it forcefully, and command thy people to take the fairest of it. I shall show you the habitation of the ungodly. S. 7:145

And when Moses returned to his people, angry and sorrowful, he said, 'Evilly have you done in my place, after me; what, have you outstripped your Lord's commandment?' And he cast down the Tablets (al-alwaha), and laid hold of his brother's head, dragging him to him. He said, 'Son of my mother, surely the people have abased me, and well nigh slain me. Make not my enemies to gloat over me, and put me not among the people of the evildoers. S. 7:150

And when Moses' anger abated in him, he took the Tablets (al-alwaha) and in the inscription of them was guidance, and mercy unto all those who hold their Lord in awe. S. 7:154

The word for Tablets is alwah and is in the plural form. Arabic has not only singular and plural but also a dual form, that is used when two of something are referred to. The plural is used when three or more are in view. Had the author of the Quran spoken of two tablets, he would have used the form al-lawhayni (the two tablets) in all three verses.

Since the plural refers to any number greater than two the number of tablets has to be at least three according to the Quran, and could be anything between 3 and three million! The passages simply do not limit the possible number of stones that Moses received. They only say that there were more than two, in clear contradiction to the Torah.

Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, one of the classical commentaries of the Quran, suggests the number of the tablets may have been seven or ten which is mere speculation but again supports our claim that (a) the Arabic definitely talks about more than two, and (b) that Muslims are left guessing how many they really were. Moreover, the same commentary claims that those tablets were made of paradise wood tree or some kind of pearls. This also contradicts the Torah which explicitly mentions that they were made of stone.

A Muslim may argue that the Quran uses the plural to refer to the two occasions where Moses received the tablets, since he had broken the first two. Such an interpretation doesn't fit the facts since in Sura 7:150, cited above, the Quran says that Moses received more than two tablets in his first encounter with God which he then "cast down" out of his anger at Israel making and worshiping the calf (cf. 7:148-154).

Thus, a Muslim cannot turn to the Holy Bible in order to tell us how many tablets Moses received since God’s true Word falsifies the Quran. It doesn’t help it in the least.

Sam Shamoun

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