The reason for two tablets

“See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”  Hebrews 8:5 (God speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai)

Most people mistakenly think that the reason God used two stone tablets for inscribing the ten commandments was because all ten of them would not fit on one.  This assumption is not only erroneous but it robs us of the true meaning and intention of God extending His covenant to humankind. 

In Mel Brook’s 1981 movie The History of the World we have a comedic rendition of Moses and the Ten Commandments.  We see Moses coming down the mountain with three stone tablets.  Just as he is in the process of presenting them to the Israelites he accidentally drops one of them.  “Hear me, oh hear me, all pay heed, the Lord, the Lord Jehovah has given unto you these 15 …. (a tablet slips from his hands and shatters on the ground) . . .These 10 . . . .10 commandments for all to obey.”

The truth is, and Biblical scholars agree, God instructed Moses to chisel two stone tablets because His intention was to create two exact copies.  One for Him and one for His people.  We know from the scriptures that the very finger of God inscribed them “on both sides, front and back.” (Exodus 31:18 & 32:15)  What isn’t specifically communicated, but is commonly understood in the context of Biblical times, is that whenever a covenant was made, duplicate copies of the agreement were created so that both parties would have a copy.  That same principal of course continues to this day with every legal agreement.  Both parties are supplied with exact copies for their reference and compliance.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for covenant, berith, is used nearly 300 times. There are basically two types of covenants: covenants between equals and covenants between a greater and a lesser.  God’s covenant with humankind is the latter. It is a covenant initiated and extended by Him as the ultimate greater, to His creation, the lesser.  It can be accepted or rejected but it cannot be changed.  However, as with all God’s promises, His covenants are initiated primarily to benefit of the lesser, for the purpose of protecting and prospering them.

When Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” He was referring to this two tablet covenant principle.  God’s ultimate purpose is to duplicate what He has designed and established in heaven upon earth.  In some ways it is like my city’s commitment to inspect and insure that my deck addition is built according to the plans I filed with them for the permit.  God is like a building inspector.  He has committed Himself to insuring that those things which He has designed are carried out precisely according to His plans.  

We know from the New Testament that God’s plans for the redemption of human kind were already recorded in heaven before the creation of the world.  (Matthew 25:34 & Hebrews 4:3)  We also know that the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai was only a shadow of what was yet to come. (Hebrews 10:1)  And the source casting that shadow from heavens glories we now know to be Jesus Christ, God’s son. (Colossians 2:17)

First, I am thankful, for the revelation of God’s covenant grace extended to me through the redemptive death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Nothing compares to understanding and receiving His free gift of salvation.  I am also thankful that God is a covenant keeper and will never fail to keep His covenant promises. And beyond that, what really excites and motivates me is to know that He has a plan for my life.

It is an endless fascination to me that He wants to duplicate through my life on earth the eternal plans He has filed for me in heaven.  Paul speaks to this mystery in writing to the believers in Ephesus.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)  This is a truth worth pondering.  Each new day then can become an adventure to discover what God is doing in heaven and to faithfully replicate it on earth.

I welcome your observations, comments and additions to this conversation.

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1 thought on “The reason for two tablets”

  1. This my most favorite issue to talk about. In Exodus 39 & 40th chapters it is repeated 18 times… Moses did as God commanded him. Then the glory of the Lord so filled the Tabernacle that Moses could not enter. Your article gives much food for thought & self- inspection. We are the Real Tabernacle & Jesus has made full payment; now He is building up His Church & will not compromise on any issue. Those who love His coming will have daily check of own life-style.

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