Learning Biblical Hebrew
11/14/09 at 05:06 AM 0 Comments

Why Moses did break the tablets of stone? - Part 1

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Whenever I am thinking about the story of the golden calf, I imagine myself the people dancing, drinking to the visible "god", thinking that this is him - this is their Lord, who took them out of Egypt to the promise land. This story brings to me a lot of question every time when I read it.

Today we will focus on one of them- why the father of the prophets, Moses, decided to break the two tablets, which contained the 10 commandments? What happened to Moses when he decided to do it - was it his decision or God's commandment?

In order t understand the reasons that Moses had, let us read the passages in The Scriptures that share with us the information of the breaking. The first passage appears in Ex 32:16-19, as written:

"וַיִּפֶן וַיֵּרֶד מֹשֶׁה, מִן-הָהָר, וּשְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת, בְּיָדוֹ: לֻחֹת, כְּתֻבִים מִשְּׁנֵי עֶבְרֵיהֶם--מִזֶּה וּמִזֶּה, הֵם כְּתֻבִים. וְהַלֻּחֹת--מַעֲשֵׂה אֱלֹהִים, הֵמָּה; וְהַמִּכְתָּב, מִכְתַּב אֱלֹהִים הוּא--חָרוּת, עַל-הַלֻּחֹת. וַיִּשְׁמַע יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶת-קוֹל הָעָם, בְּרֵעֹה; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, קוֹל מִלְחָמָה, בַּמַּחֲנֶה. וַיֹּאמֶר, אֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת גְּבוּרָה, וְאֵין קוֹל, עֲנוֹת חֲלוּשָׁה; קוֹל עַנּוֹת, אָנֹכִי שֹׁמֵעַ. וַיְהִי, כַּאֲשֶׁר קָרַב אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה, וַיַּרְא אֶת-הָעֵגֶל, וּמְחֹלֹת; וַיִּחַר-אַף מֹשֶׁה, וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ מִיָּדָו אֶת-הַלֻּחֹת, וַיְשַׁבֵּר אֹתָם, תַּחַת הָהָר"

"Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, "There is the sound of war in the camp Moses replied: "It is not the sound of victory it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear." When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain"

The reason that I decided to look at this passage is because a question of my student that asked: if Moses knew what happened downstairs- why he had to wait until he saw the people of Israel- did Moses doubted the report of The Lord?

Another place in The Scriptures that share with us the story of the breaking is in Deuteronomy 9:15-17:

" וָאֵפֶן, וָאֵרֵד מִן-הָהָר, וְהָהָר, בֹּעֵר בָּאֵשׁ; וּשְׁנֵי לוּחֹת הַבְּרִית, עַל שְׁתֵּי יָדָי. וָאֵרֶא, וְהִנֵּה חֲטָאתֶם לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם--עֲשִׂיתֶם לָכֶם, עֵגֶל מַסֵּכָה: סַרְתֶּם מַהֵר--מִן-הַדֶּרֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶתְכֶם. וָאֶתְפֹּשׂ, בִּשְׁנֵי הַלֻּחֹת, וָאַשְׁלִכֵם, מֵעַל שְׁתֵּי יָדָי; וָאֲשַׁבְּרֵם, לְעֵינֵיכֶם"

"So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands. When I looked, I saw that you had sinned against the LORD your God; you had made for yourselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you so I took the two tablets and threw them out of my hands, breaking them to pieces before your eyes"

The new information here is that the breaking has been a public situation - the people of Israel saw the breaking in front of their eyes. Actually we could end our sayings here, but the Jewish commentators didn't do it - so we will gave them the honor and share with you , my lovely readers the reasons of Moses....

To be continued...

Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

Hebrew       Transcription   Translation
פִּקְפֵּק           piqpēq            Doubted
צִוּוּי              tsiwûy           Commandment
לוּחוֹת הַבְּרִית Lûhôt habberît The tablets of stone
מֹשֶׁה          mōšeh             Moses
עֵגֶל              'ēgel              Calf
זָהָב            zāhāb             Gold


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