And you shall write on the stones all

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the words of the law included here,

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engraving them clearly

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and well done.

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Then you must write all the


Words of  the Law included on these stones, engraving them clearly, with large, easy-to-read letters, and

in a way that will last a long time.



It is obvious that all the words of the law would not fit on a few large stones, especially since they were to be written with large letters (see footnotes 5 & 6). I have separated the parts of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in our English Bibles that describe the covenant of God with Israel (including laws and the tabernacle) from those that narrate history and have come up with a total of 2216 verses that contain the Law. This reference to “all the words of this law” could refer to the summary of the covenant, the Ten Words (the Decalogue), which we call the Ten Commandments, or it could refer to the blessings and curses pronounced on the people immediately thereafter. The Levites read the blessings and curses one at a time in a loud voice and the leaders of the tribes and clans responded to each one by saying “Amen.”


“included here” can mean “here, this, this one, alone, such,” “included herein,” and several other things. “Included herein” is the idea that I think fits best for this context. We do not know for sure if the stones contained the summary of the law, or the blessings and curses of the covenant. I personally think it was a short word of admonition at the top and then the blessings or curse of the covenant, depending on which mountain it was on. Whatever was written on those stones, the ceremony was a powerful reminder that there were consequences for following and consequences for not following the covenant.

To us this terminology seems odd because it sounds like saying, “Write on the stones the words that are on the stones.” That makes no sense to us. But they had the Law in written form and by the words “herein included” they knew what parts God was referring to. Once it was done the stones themselves proved what God’s plan had included, but we only have the command; we have not found these stones intact. It sounds strange to us because we only have half of the puzzle pieces for this situation.


“engraving them clearly” means “to make plain or clear,” but it seems to come from a root word meaning “to dig,” or in relation to stone means “to engrave.” Their idea of making something “clear or plain” was that it should be written with letters large enough that someone could run by it and read it without stopping! That would be very large letters. Another reason engraving was equivalent to making something “plain or clear” was that it lasted a long time; it did not fade like other forms of writing did in ancient times. I have tried to tie together the two meanings of “clearly and engraving with large letters.”


“well done” means “good or pleasing.” Its use here seems a bit strange at first. It should be obvious that any craftsman would want to do his work well and make it look pleasing. So why was it necessary to say this? I think it had to do with an inherent weakness of plastering over stone, and engraving in the plaster. Plaster is naturally susceptible to damage from water, especially if the water sits on the plaster for long periods of time. Therefore I think this was a way of telling the craftsmen that the letters should be carved in such a way that the water would run out of them easily rather than pooling inside them. This would require the engraving tool to be held at a different angle than usual, but it would enable to stones to look nice and be clearly legible for a longer period of time.