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
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 thy 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
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
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