Bible study 84 – Exodus 34

God (who recently approved of mass-murder over a statue) reads a poem about how he is “slow to anger”, and asks Moses to come back to mount Sinai with a couple of fresh stone tablets for another 40 day sojourn, this time with nothing to eat or drink.

It is unclear exactly what was written on the first two stone tablets that Moses broke, but they almost certainly contained the Ten Commandments from chapter 20. Do you remember that the number “ten” did not appear in that chapter? Well, this time Moses (not God) explicitly writes “the ten commandments” on the tablets – except they are ten completely different commandments!

The first two commandments are much the same as in chapter 20, but the rest seem to be randomly picked from the various rules he listed in the following chapters (keep the Passover festival holy, sacrifice all firstborn livestock, don’t boil young goats in their mother’s milk, etc.). In fact, if the text didn’t explicitly say “he wrote on the tablets (…) the ten commandments” after literally listing up ten commandments, I would have just assumed that Moses wrote all of God’s rules down once more, and that the text given in the Bible was just a summary.

All of this goes completely contrary to everything I have ever read about the ten commandments and the stone tablets, so let me just be very clear here: The first pair of stone tablets (in chapter 24) probably included the standard ten commandments, but they were broken and never mentioned again in the Bible. The second pair of stone tablets explicitly contains ten commandments and nothing else, but these commandments do not include things like “thou shalt not murder”, but rather “thou shalt not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk”; and this is the pair that will be enshrined in the Ark of the Covenant. There is no hint whatsoever that the same text was written on both sets of tablets (as all Christian and most Jewish accounts I have read imply), and certainly not that the entire Torah/Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was written on them (as I believe orthodox rabbis sometimes say). And there is no suggestion that the first ten commandments are more important than the second set of commandments. Maybe my translation is just very different on this point from earlier translations, but at least with my text there isn’t that much room for interpretation. I also don’t understand why this information isn’t prominent in the Wikipedia articles on the Ten Commandments and Tablets of Stone. Overall, this chapter leaves me pretty confused.

When Moses comes down from Sinai, his face is radiating so strongly from having met with God that he needs to wear a veil.

Exodus 34:26
The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.


3 Comments on “Bible study 84 – Exodus 34”

  1. […] respond is promising to kill everyone with a plague; but Moses reminds him of his claim to be “slow to anger”, and that killing all his followers might give him a bad reputation as a god. Moses’ plea is […]

  2. […] Ten Commandments. The original Exodus story used the name “Ten Commandments” only for the later Ritual Decalogue from chapter 34, which left me really confused. In Deuteronomy, however, the first list of […]

  3. […] chapter is a retelling of how Moses got the second set of stone tablets, and it is an absolute […]

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