(e.g. john 8 32)

Exodus 34:1  (King James Version)

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Adam Clarke
<< Exodus 33:23   Exodus 34:2 >>

Exodus 34:1

Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first - In Exodus 32:16 we are told that the two first tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God; but here Moses is commanded to provide tables of his own workmanship, and God promises to write on them the words which were on the first. That God wrote the first tables himself, see proved by different passages of Scripture at the end of Exodus 32 (Exodus 32:35 (note)). But here, in Exodus 34:27, it seems as if Moses was commanded to write these words, and in Exodus 34:28 it is said, And he wrote upon the tables; but in Deuteronomy 10:1-4 it is expressly said that God wrote the second tables as well as the first.

In order to reconcile these accounts let us suppose that the ten words, or ten commandments, were written on both tables by the hand of God himself, and that what Moses wrote, Exodus 34:27, was a copy of these to be delivered to the people, while the tables themselves were laid up in the ark before the testimony, whither the people could not go to consult them, and therefore a copy was necessary for the use of the congregation; this copy, being taken off under the direction of God, was authenticated equally with the original, and the original itself was laid up as a record to which all succeeding copies might be continually referred, in order to prevent corruption. This supposition removes the apparent contradiction; and thus both God and Moses may be said to have written the covenant and the ten commandments: the former, the original; the latter, the copy. This supposition is rendered still more probable by Exodus 34:27 itself: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words (that is, as I understand it, a copy of the words which God had already written); for After The Tenor ( al pi According To The Mouth) of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel." Here the original writing is represented by an elegant prosopopoesia, or personification, as speaking and giving out from its own mouth a copy of itself. It may be supposed that this mode of interpretation is contradicted by Exodus 34:28 : And He wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant; but that the pronoun He refers to the Lord, and not to Moses, is sufficiently proved by the parallel place, Deuteronomy 10:1-4 : At that time the Lord said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first - and I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables - and I hewed two tables of stone as at the first - And He wrote on the tables according to the first writing. This determines the business, and proves that God wrote the second as well as the first tables, and that the pronoun in Exodus 34:28 refers to the Lord, and not to Moses. By this mode of interpretation all contradiction is removed. Houbigant imagines that the difficulty may be removed by supposing that God wrote the ten commandments, and that Moses wrote the other parts of the covenant from Exodus 34:11 to Exodus 34:26, and thus it might be said that both God and Moses wrote on the same tables. This is not an improbable case, and is left to the reader' s consideration. See Clarke' s note on Exodus 34:27.

There still remains a controversy whether what are called the ten commandments were at all written on the first tables, those tables containing, according to some, only the terms of the covenant without the ten words, which are supposed to be added here for the first time. "The following is a general view of this subject. In Exodus 20 the ten commandments are given; and at the same time various political and ecclesiastical statutes, which are detailed in chapters 21, 22, and 23. To receive these, Moses had drawn near unto the thick darkness where God was, Exodus 20:21, and having received them he came again with them to the people, according to their request before expressed, Exodus 20:19 : Speak thou with us - but let not the Lord speak with us, lest we die, for they had been terrified by the manner in which God had uttered the ten commandments; see Exodus 20:18. After this Moses, with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and the seventy elders, went up to the mountain; and on his return he announced all these laws unto the people, Exodus 24:1-3, etc., and they promised obedience. Still there is no word of the tables of stone. Then he wrote all in a book, Exodus 24:4, which was called the book of the covenant, Exodus 24:7. After this there was a second going up of Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders, Exodus 24:9, when that glorious discovery of God mentioned in Exodus 24:10, Exodus 24:11 took place. After their coming down Moses is again commanded to go up; and God promises to give him tables of stone, containing a law and precepts, Exodus 24:12. This is the first place these tables of stone are mentioned; and thus it appears that the ten commandments, and several other precepts, were given to and accepted by the people, and the covenant sacrifice offered, Exodus 24:5, before the tables of stone were either written or mentioned." It is very likely that the commandments, laws, etc., were first published by the Lord in the hearing of the people; repeated afterwards by Moses; and the ten words or commandments, containing the sum and substance of the whole, afterwards written on the first tables of stone, to be kept for a record in the ark. These being broken, as is related Exodus 32:19, Moses is commanded to hew out two tables like to the first, and bring them up to the mountain, that God might write upon them what he had written on the former, Exodus 34:1. And that this was accordingly done, see the preceding part of this note.

Other Adam Clarke entries containing Exodus 34:1:

Exodus 31:18
Exodus 31:18
Exodus 32:15
Exodus 34:1
Exodus 34:27
Deuteronomy 10:1


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