Moses went into the mountain many times.
It was on his fourth trip that he received what
we now call "the Ten Commandments"... which were actually only a small portion of the
entirety of laws that he received. These first were spoken directly to the people. When the
people became terrified at the great display of the power of God... it stopped. The rest of the
laws were revealed only to Moses, to be passed on to the people. Exodus chapters 20
through 23 contain all of these.
These were not written by the hand of God, like so many people believe.
Moses wrote these down himself.
Here are those first laws called "The Ten Commandments."
Ex.20:1-17 -- "And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which
have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto
thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the
earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor
serve them: for I the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon
the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy
unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold
him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy
work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any
work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy
cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and
earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord
blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the
Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's [goods] house, thou shalt not covet they
neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor
any thing that is thy neighbor's.
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and
the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed and stood afar off. [They
asked Moses to speak with them, rather than God, for fear they would die.]"
There are really only nine distinct laws in these verses.
The first two laws are so similar that they can be the same, with
the 2nd Commandment being a description for the
first commandment. And the law about coveting... is said as
ONE law. There are some versions that combine the first two
laws, and separate the last two... coveting a neighbors wife... and
coveting a neighbors goods.
Tradition lists the Ten Commandments as:
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
10. Thou shalt not covet.
What follows are no less than 46 laws, some of which are repetitions of the first ten
that the people heard directly from God.
Ex.24:4 -- "And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord."
The fifth trip into the mountain, Moses received the instructions for the the ark of the
covenant, the Tabernacle, and the priest's garments and duties. These were also
referred to as "laws" and "commandments."
It was these... that were written on tablets of stone.
These account for the chapters 25 through 31.
Exodus 24:12 -- "And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the
mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments
which I have written; that thou mayest teach them."
Exodus 32:15 -- "And Moses turned, and went down from the mount,
and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both
their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were
the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables."
These were broken by Moses when he returned to the people and saw the golden calf,
and the singing and dancing. 32:19
Some time then passed, it seems, as the tabernacle was constructed and other
things occurred. Then Moses was instructed to make two new tablets and be
ready on the next morning to take them up into the mountain. This certainly
is a hurried request for something that would take quite some work to make...
unless those tablets were clay tablets.
34:1 -- "And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone
like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables,
which thou brakest. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount
Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount."
This then... is what we can gather from this information.
(1) The stone tablets were of a nature that could be broken.
(2) They could be hewed overnight.
(3) They were written upon, on both sides.
(4) They contained only the instructions for the tabernacle.
(5) Moses could climb up and down a mountain carrying them.
These clues suggest that rather than STONE...
the laws were written on tablets made of CLAY.
In Deuteronomy this story is retold.
Here it states that it was "the Ten Commandments" that were written on the tablets
that were given to Moses. This differs from the version in Exodus.
Deuteronomy 10:4 -- "And he wrote on the tables according to the first
writing, the ten commandments, which the Lord spake unto you in the mount out of the
midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the Lord gave them to me."
But... if one reads further... one happens upon a strange statement.
Deuteronomy 10:16 -- "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart,
and be no more stiffnecked."
This last statement is an interpretation in the vein of elaboration that the
Pharisees are noted for. The Pharisees were steeped in magic, in superstition,
and in law. The epistle writer, Paul, was a Pharisee.
Much of Deuteronomy sounds like this... with much repetition, warnings,
and exhortings. This casts suspicion on this entire piece of work as one that is a
re-writing... a re-writing in order to promote a particular interpretation of
the meaning of the scriptures.
Was Moses really the author of such a piece of writing...?
Would the same writer change the facts of a story...?
as well as its writing style...?
In the Addendum
History of the Scriptures
there is a possible explanation.
Wikipedia also contains an interesting study of the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments