Tuesday, February 09, 2010

What was inscribed on the “Luchot” and by who.

A guest post by David A.

As is well known to biblical students none of the narratives as retold in Devarim (D) are without, at least a few, discrepancies to its parallel episode in the other parts of Khumash.

A quite notable example is the remarkable number of differences found when comparing that most important of events, “matan Torah” as found in D and to its version as recorded in Exodus. (some differences include: name of the location of the event, Sinai vs Khoreb; over a dozen textual discrepancies in the Aseret Hadibrot themselves; also, different reason given for Shabbat; the details of the scene as depicted; definition of the tablets, brit vs. eidut; and much more.). The implications of this are obvious.

In this post I want to ask the simple question, What was inscribed on the “Luchot” and by who?
In Devarim, we find the following verses.

First, Moishe, referring to Hashem and saying:

Deut 4:13. He told you of his covenant that He commanded you to observe, the Ten Declarations, and He inscribed them on the two stone tablets.
Then after reporting the text of the Ten Commandments (declarations), the verse;
5:19. These words Hashem spoke to your entire congregation on the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick cloud, a great voice, never to be repeated, and He inscribed them on the two stone Tablets and gave them to me.

9:10 And Hashem gave me the two stone Tablets, inscribed with the finger of Hashem, and on them all the words that Hashem spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire, on the day of the congregation
It is quite clear that the tablets contained the “Aseret Hadibrot” written by Hashem, (and apparently nothing else).

Oh, and in case you missed it in verse 9:10, we have …

10:4. He inscribed on the Tablets according to the first script, the Ten Statements that Hashem spoke to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire, on the day of congregation, and Hashem gave them to me.
Now let’s read Exodus emphasizing any verse referring to the “tablets” and/or to “writing”.
24:4 Moses wrote all the words of Hashem.

[No clear indication of what Moishe wrote, but the context appears to be either just the Ten Commandments or both the Ten Commandments and the ordinances as given in Ex. 21:1 to 23:19. Nor does it say where Moishe wrote these words.]
24:12 Hashem said to Moses, “Ascend to Me to the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone Tablets and the teaching (“Torah”) and the commandment [Note: singular?] that I have written, to teach them.

[No indication of what exactly was written and on what or where and also what is this “mitzvah”.]
31:18 He gave Moses, when He finished speaking to him on Mount Sinai the two Tablets of Testimony, of stone, inscribed by the finger of God.

[Still not clear what had been inscribed on the Tablets.]

32:15 Moses turned and descended from the mountain, with the two Tablets of the Testimony in his hand, Tablets inscribed on both sides, they were inscribed on one side and the other. 34:16 The Tablets were God’s handiwork, and the script was the script of God, engraved on the Tablets.

[Still no clear indication of what exactly had been inscribed.]

34:1 Hashem said to Moses, “Carve for yourself two stone Tablets like the first ones, and I shall inscribe on the Tablets the words that were on the first Tablets, which you shattered.

[We’re still in the dark as to what exactly are on these tablets.]

And finally it becomes clear with these verses…

34: 27 Hashem said to Moses, “Write these words for yourself, for according to these words have I sealed a covenant with you and Israel.” 34:28 He remained there with Hashem for forty days and forty nights – he did not eat bread and he did not drink water – and he wrote on the Tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Based on context, “he” must of course refer to Moishe.

So, Exodus tells us that Moishe wrote the Aseret Hadibrot on the tablets, (in addition to whatever Hashem may have written previously on them.)

Not exactly what is recorded in Devarim.

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