Troublesome Topic: The Tablets of Stone Demonstrated Closeness

Lesson 2 of 10

Exodus 31:18


When He had finished speaking with him on MOUNT SINAI,

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He (God) gave to MOSES the two tablets of the testimony,

tablets of stone,

written with the finger

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When He had finished speaking with him on THE MOUNTAIN WHERE GOD SHOWED HIS WILL FOR HIS PEOPLE, God gave THE RESCUED ONE both tablets that served as proof of the new covenant relationship; they were

tablets of stone as was customary for the summary of such a covenant, but this time they were carved by the amazing power of God.

In those days the summaries of all suzerain/vassal covenants agreement were written on stone. If the covenant relationship included numerous and lengthy lists of conditions and curses, these were put on papyrus or parchment. This was also the case with God’s covenant with the children of Israel.

In Exodus 20 we can observe much of what was typically included in a covenant summary. It would have been obvious to a person of that era what this was; it was not a list of commands, but a summary of the covenant which would govern and guide a relationship established by God with His people. The rest of the covenant details are contained in the rest of the books of the law. There we find the rest of the conditions, the blessings and curses, the signs and the witnesses. It was obvious to everyone in ancient times that God had established a suzerain/vassal covenant with the people of Israel.

The engraving of the summary involved carving two identical stones, each with the entire summary of the covenant. These were much like the white, yellow and pink copies of receipts we used to receive at say, a hardware store, where each copy was intended for a specific purpose or person, except the stone copies were more durable. In all known cases, one stone copy was taken by the sovereign king and placed in his most special place; the other stone copy was taken by the vassal king and placed in his most special place. Usually these special places were the temples of their favorite god, or the god they relied on most.

We need to stop thinking that one tablet had approximately half the commands, and the other had the other half. Even though the Bible does not give us this detail, we can be fully confident that each stone had the entire summary, the “ten words,” carved into it by God’s own finger.

Why did Moses bring both stones down the mountain with him, instead of just his copy? The answer is as eye-opening as anything in scripture. By giving Moses both copies, God was announcing emphatically that His most special place was in the middle of His people. Without uttering even the slightest sound God was sending out an unmistakable message that said, “My most important place, is the same as your most important place.” God’s desire to be close to His people reverberated from these two silent stones and was heard clearly by anyone who could count to two. The saga of God’s initiative in establishing closeness and reconciliation could not have been communicated any more clearly than it was that day.

Is my favorite place, the place where I choose to spend most of my leisure time, the kind of place in which God can accompany me? What if our favorite places are full of pornography, violence and bad language? That is precisely the case if we watch a good deal of TV or movies, and it can be true if we spend considerable time on the internet. God has made it clear that His favorite and most important place is the same as ours, but this is a two-way street, requiring that our personal space be the type of place that He would want to spend time in too.

The next lesson in all three versions of the study on Covenants is: God’s Introduction to His Covenant.



The meaning of the name Sinai is hard to determine decisively; in fact it is so unclear that I refuse to venture a guess. Some scholars have made a guess at it, but none of them seem convincing to me; most however, simply say it was a word from an unknown origin, and that it was the place where God gave Moses the law. When I run into situations like this that are very unclear, I assume God wanted his people to focus on what happened there, not the meaning of the name itself. It would appear that God wanted to fill this name with His own new meaning based on what He did there. It was more than the place of the giving of the Law; it was the place “where God showed His will for His people.” Many modern Americans may not like the sound of that because they have a negative view of the Law given through Moses, but as we come to understand it correctly, that negative feeling will be replaced by a sense of awe at what God did.

This mountain has another name, Horeb. That name has a meaning, but if the author had wanted the reader to focus on the meaning of Horeb he would have used the name Horeb instead of Sinai.


The finger of God was a sign of His power, showing that even with one of His fingers He can do more than anyone else, including the fictional gods of the pagans. The story of God bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt is rife with this terminology – “the finger of God.” Pharaoh was usually depicted in carvings with an upraised arm as a sign of his power and authority, indicating, “Don’t mess with Pharaoh or you will pay the ultimate price.” However, as we know, just one finger of our God was able to show all the major deities of the Egyptians to be nothing, and it was able to destroy the most powerful army in the world at that time. Here the power of God was used to carve stone. We should not miss the fact that this powerful finger, which destroyed the Egyptian army, will also deal harshly with us if we become antagonistic toward Him and refuse to obey what He has asked us to do.