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The 2nd tablets of the Ten Commandments

I received an email the other day asking a question and I thought I would pass my response along to you, my readers. Who, the Lord or Moses, wrote the Ten Commandments on the second set of tablets? While the Lord wrote the first set (the ones that were destroyed when Moses came down the mountain to discover the Israelites bowing to the golden calf), it seems a little murkier who actually inscribed the second set.

First, here are the relevant passages with some initial observations that set the stage to address the question at hand.

Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets (Exodus 32:15-16).

  • Exodus seems to go out of its way to emphasize the divine origin of the tablets that would soon be destroyed.

The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke” (Exodus 34:1).

  •  Lord tells Moses that he will write on the new tablets that were on the first ones

The first passage says that the Lord inscribed the first set and states that the Lord will also write on the second. Thus, we can now turn to the passage that led to the original question.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:27-28).

There are two prepositions that need to be evaluated to grasp these two verses and who wrote what where with regards to the second set of tablets. 

1)      “these” – In verse 27, the Lord tells Moses to “write down these words, for in accordance with these words…” – What does “these” refer to here? I would say that “these” refers to the stipulations/rules of verses 12-26 – not the 10 Commandments. 

2)      “he” – In verse 28 we read, “And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.” – What is the antecedent of he in this passage.  It seems to be “Lord,” not “Moses,” in accordance with verse 1 of this chapter.

So, to draw some conclusions, the Lord commands Moses to write down the stipulations of verses 12-26 as support structures for the covenant whereas the Lord wrote on the stone tablets the words of the Ten Commandments.  So, it is the Lord who writes the terms of the covenant and Moses who writes the supporting document.  

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