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. 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. This is typical of most greater to lesser covenants, like that of a ruler to a subject. 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.

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