Earliest-known Ten Commandments tablet sells for $850,000 at Beverly Hills auction

It’s unknown who paid $850,000 for the oldest-known Ten Commandments tablet, which sold Wednesday at a Beverly Hills auction.

But the new owner of the stone slab — which was declared a “national treasure” of Israel — faces a strict condition, according to the Texas-based auction house Heritage Auctions.

"The new owner is under obligation to display the tablet for the benefit of the public,” said David Michaels, who oversees ancient coins and antiquities for Heritage Auctions. "The sale of this tablet does not mean it will be hidden away.”

Michaels said the tablet probably adorned a synagogue in Yavneh, in what is now western Israel. But the synagogue is believed to have been destroyed by either the 11th century crusaders or by Romans between 400 and 600 A.D.

The marble panel measures 2 square feet and weighs about 115 pounds. It bears 20 lines of Samaritan, an early Hebrew script.

The tablet has nine of the 10 biblical commandments from the Book of Exodus. The missing commandment, according to the auction house, is the directive to refrain from taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Instead, the slab has a commandment used by the Samaritan sect that calls on adherents to “raise up a temple” on Mt. Gerizim. The mountain site is revered by Samaritans and is near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Experts dated the stone to the late Roman or Byzantine era, approximately 300 to 500 A.D., and made their estimate based on the style of the letters used.

Despite the slab’s status as a national treasure of Israel, the Israeli Antiquities Authority allowed it to be exported to the U.S. in 2005.

The tablet was part of a batch of artifacts owned and authenticated by the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y. The auction on Wednesday generated about $1.07 million, according to Heritage Auctions.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno.

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