What Really Happened To The Ten Commandments Tablets?

The Ten Commandments are, according to Christian question-and-answer site Got Questions, a sort of summary of the hundreds of other laws, regulations, and mandates given by God to the Israelites. The "Decalogue," as it's known, contains the foundational legal and moral principles that govern the spiritual lives of Christians and Jews around the world. In Exodus 20 (and again in Deuteronomy 5), God delivers the commandments to Moses, who then gives them to his people. A later narrative, in Exodus 32, tells of the commandments having been inscribed on tablets of stone directly by God's finger. Moses, enraged at seeing the Israelites worshipping a golden calf, smashes the tablets into pieces, as Oxford Reference reports. A couple of chapters later, in Exodus 34, the commandments are manifested on stone again, this time by Moses chiseling them out per God's orders.

According to Exodus 25, the original, broken tablets were enshrined into the Ark of the Covenant, a relic consisting of pieces of the Israelites' history that accompanied them on their journey through the desert. Today, the ark — and, presumably, the contents within it — are claimed by one Christian group to be in a church in Ethiopia.

Are the Ten Commandments tablets in Ethiopia?

According to Got Questions, the Ark of the Covenant — and, presumably, the remnants of the Ten Commandments tablets — bounces around the Biblical narrative here and there before disappearing completely by 2 Chronicles 35. It is believed to have been captured by an enemy king, and that is the last anybody ever heard of it. Perhaps it was destroyed in war. Perhaps it was hidden away somewhere and remains, forgotten about, ready to be discovered by archaeologists. Meanwhile, according to Revelation 11, the ark is in heaven.

However, a Christian group in Africa — the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church — claims to have the ark, following a series of historical events that won't be rehashed here. Specifically, as Smithsonian Magazine reports, the group claims to keep the relic in a treasury building near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in the town of Axum. Only one person, the guardian of the ark, is allowed to lay eyes on it.