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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Exodus 31:18

When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

Adam Clarke Commentary

When he had made an end of communing - When the forty days and forty nights were ended.

Two tables of testimony - See Clarke's note on Exodus 34:1. Tables of stone - That the record might be lasting, because it was a testimony that referred to future generations, and therefore the materials should be durable.

Written with the finger of God - All the letters cut by God himself. Dr. Winder, in his History of Knowledge, thinks it probable that this was the first writing in alphabetical characters ever exhibited to the world, though there might have been marks or hieroglyphics cut on wood, stone, etc., before this time; see Exodus 17:14. That these tables were written, not by the commandment but by the power of God himself, the following passages seem to prove: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mountain, and be thou there; and I will give thee tables of stone Which I Have Written, that thou mayest teach them;" Exodus 24:12. "And he gave unto Moses, upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, Written With The Finger Of God;" Exodus 31:18. "And Moses went down from the mount, and the two tables of testimony were in his hand; the tables were Written on both their sides. And the tables were The Work Of God, and the Writing Was The Writing Of God, graven upon the tables;" Exodus 32:15, Exodus 32:16. "These words [the ten commandments] the Lord spake in the mount, out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice; and he added no more, But He Wrote Them on two tables of stone;" Deuteronomy 5:22. It is evident therefore that this writing was properly and literally the writing of God himself. God wrote now on tables of stone what he had originally written on the heart of man, and in mercy he placed that before his eyes which by sin had been obliterated from his soul; and by this he shows us what, by the Spirit of Christ, must be rewritten in the mind, 2 Corinthians 3:3; and this is according to the covenant which God long before promised to make with mankind, Jeremiah 31:33. See also what is said on this subject, Exodus 20:1; (note), Exodus 34:1; (note), and Exodus 17:14; (note).

"No time," says Dr. A. Bayley, "seems so proper from whence to date the introduction of letters among the Hebrews as this, for after this period we find continual mention of letters, reading, and writing, in the now proper sense of those words. See Deuteronomy 27:8; Deuteronomy 31:9. Moses, it is said, επαιδευθη, was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians - in all the learning they possessed; but it is manifest that he had not learned of them any method of writing, otherwise there had been no want of God's act and assistance in writing the two tables of the law, no need of a miraculous writing. Had Moses known this art, the Lord might have said to him, as he does often afterwards, Write thou these words; Exodus 34:27. Write on the stones the words of this law; Deuteronomy 27:3. Write you this song for you; Deuteronomy 31:19. Perhaps it may be said, God's writing the law gave it a sanction. True; but why might it not also teach the first use of letters, unless it can be proved that they were in use prior to this transaction? It might be thought too much to assert that letters no more than language were a natural discovery; that it was impossible for man to have invented writing, and that he did not invent it: yet this may appear really the case from the following reflections: -

  1. Reason may show us how near to an impossibility it was that a just and proper number of convenient characters for the sounds in language should naturally be hit upon by any man, for whom it was easy to imitate and vary, but not to invent.
  • From evidence of the Mosaic history, it appears that the introduction of writing among the Hebrews was not from man, but God.
  • There are no evident vestiges of letters subsisting among other nations till after the delivery of the law at Mount Sinai; nor then, among some, till very late."

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    Bibliography
    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/exodus-31.html. 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    Two tables of testimony - See Exodus 25:16; Exodus 32:15.

    The tables of stone which represented the covenant between Yahweh and His people, and which, when covered with the mercy-seat were to give the sanctuary its significance, are now delivered to Moses in accordance with the promise in Exodus 24:12.

    The history of what relates to the construction of the sanctuary is here interrupted, and is taken up again in Exodus 35:1.


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    Bibliography
    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/exodus-31.html. 1870.

    The Biblical Illustrator

    Exodus 31:18

    Written with the finger of God.

    God’s writing

    It is said of these tables that they “were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.” Some infidels have carped at this; and I must say it does seem to me as if it were not human finger, or human stylus, or pen, but God Himself that engraved it; but why should it be thought impossible for God to engrave upon stone? Have we not discovered that the lightning can carry our messages--that the lightning let go at London can print at Dover, as has been more recently shown--is it not found that the very rays of light themselves can engrave the most exquisite and intricate imagery; and should it be thought strange, then, that God should Himself engrave upon stone the Ten Commandments? The fact is, the higher we rise in scientific knowledge, the more we see how true this Book is, how worthy of God to write it, how dutiful in man to believe, and bless Him and rejoice in Him. (J. Cumming, D.D.)
    .


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    Bibliography
    Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 31:18". The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/exodus-31.html. 1905-1909. New York.

    Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

    "And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God."

    It was for the purpose of receiving these tables that God had called Moses up into the mountain, as revealed in Exodus 24:12, and thus this is a fulfillment of the promise of God made to Moses at that time. The size of these tables concerns some scholars, but there is no way to determine exactly the size of them, other than by the necessary deductions from the fact of Moses' having been able to carry them in his hands, and from the further truth that they were designed to repose within the ark of the covenant, yet with enough room left for the pot of manna and the rod which budded. As for still another "problem," did God actually inscribe the tablets, or did Moses do so at God's direction? No matter how it was done, the eternal truth can be no better expressed than in the words here recorded: "TABLES OF STONE; WRITTEN WITH THE FINGER OF GOD!" We do not believe that any comment is needed.


    Copyright Statement
    James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

    Bibliography
    Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/exodus-31.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him on Mount Sinai,.... After all those laws, orders, and instructions before related, which having done, he ceased to converse with him any longer in that manner he had, and at parting gave him

    two tables of testimony; the two tables of the law, which is a testimony of the will of God, and contained the duty of the Israelites both towards God and man, and are reducible to these two, love to God, and love to our neighbour: five of the commands of the decalogue were written on one table, and five on the other; or it may be rather four on one table, the first being the largest, and containing the duty owing to God, and six on the other, which regard the duty of men one to another; so Orpheus the Heathen poet, speaking of the law of Moses, calls it διπλακα θεσμονF19De Deo, "prope finem". . "Tables of stone"; the Targum of Jonathan will have them to be of the sapphire stone, from the throne of glory; the paraphrast seems to have respect to Exodus 24:10 and, with as little appearance of truth, says their weight was forty seahs; it is more probable they were of marble stone, of which there were great quantities in Mount Sinai. Dr. Shaw saysF20Travels, p. 443. that part of Mount Sinai, which lies to the westward of the plain of Rephidim, consists of a hard reddish marble like "porphyry", but is distinguished from it by the representations of little trees and bushes, which are dispersed all over it. The naturalists call this sort of marble "embuscatum", or "bushy marble"; some think Sinai had its name from thenceF21See Buxtorf. in voce סנה. . This may denote the firmness, stability, and duration of the law, not as in the hands of Moses, from which these tables were cast and broke, but as in the hands of Christ, and laid up in him the ark of the covenant, the fulfilling end of the law for righteousness: and it may also figure the hardness of man's heart, which is destitute of spiritual life, obdurate and impenitent, stupid, senseless and ignorant, stubborn and inflexible, and not subject to the law of God, and on which no impressions can be made but by the power and grace of God:

    written with the finger of God: by God himself, and not by an angel, or by any creature or instrument: and it is by the finger of God, the Spirit, grace, and power of God, that the laws of God are put into the inward part, and written on the heart, to which the apostle refers, 2 Corinthians 3:3. This account is given by way of transition to what is recorded in the next chapter.


    Copyright Statement
    The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
    A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

    Bibliography
    Gill, John. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/exodus-31.html. 1999.

    Geneva Study Bible

    And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables i of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

    (i) By which he declared his will to his people.

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    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/exodus-31.html. 1599-1645.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

    tables of stone, written with the finger of God — containing the ten commandments (Exodus 24:12), called “tables of testimony,” because God testified His will in them.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
    This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

    Bibliography
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/exodus-31.html. 1871-8.

    Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

    When Moses had received all the instructions respecting the sanctuary to be erected, Jehovah gave him the two tables of testimony-tables of stone, upon which the decalogue was written with the finger of God. It was to receive these tables that he had been called up the mountain (Exodus 24:12). According to Exodus 32:16, the tables themselves, as well as the writing, were the work of God; and the writing was engraved upon them ( חרוּת from חרת = χαράττειν ), and the tables were written on both their sides (Exodus 32:15). Both the choice of stone as the material for the tables, and the fact that the writing was engraved, were intended to indicate the imperishable duration of these words of God. The divine origin of the tables, as well as of the writing, corresponded to the direct proclamation of the ten words to the people from the summit of the mountain by the mouth of God. As this divine promulgation was a sufficient proof that they were the immediate word of God, unchanged by the mouth and speech of man, so the writing of God was intended to secure their preservation in Israel as a holy and inviolable thing. The writing itself was not a greater miracle than others, by which God has proved Himself to be the Lord of nature, to whom all things that He has created are subservient for the establishment and completion of His kingdom upon earth; and it can easily be conceived of without the anthropomorphic supposition of a material finger being possessed by God. Nothing is said about the dimensions of the tables: at the same time, we can hardly imagine them to have been as large as the inside of the ark; for stone slab 2 1/2 cubits long and 1 1/2 cubits broad, which must necessarily have been some inches in thickness to prevent their breaking in the hand, would have required the strength of Samson to enable Moses to carry them down the mountain “in his hand” (Exodus 32:15), or even “in his two hands” (Deuteronomy 9:15, Deuteronomy 9:17). But if we suppose them to have been smaller than this, say at the most a cubit and a half long and one cubit broad, there would have been plenty of room on the four sides for the 172 words contained in the decalogue, with its threats and promises (Ex 20:2-17), without the writing being excessively small.


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    The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

    Bibliography
    Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/exodus-31.html. 1854-1889.

    Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

    The law was written in tables of stone, to show how lasting it is: to denote likewise the hardness of our hearts; one might more easily write on stone, than write any thing good on our corrupt natural hearts. It was written with the finger of God; by his will and power. God only can write his law in the heart: he gives a heart of flesh; then, by his Spirit, which is the finger of God, writes his will in the heart, 2 Corinthians 3:3.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

    Bibliography
    Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

    on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/exodus-31.html. 1706.

    Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

    The Lord had promised these tables at the opening of the interview. Exodus 24:12. And now the time approached for Moses to go down to the people, the Lord delivers them. Reader! remark with me, they were written, it is said, on stone, and with the finger of God. None but God himself can write his law on the stony heart of man. See that sweet scripture, 2 Corinthians 3:3. Lord grant that this may be my portion! Hebrews 8:10.

    REFLECTIONS

    It is a comfortable consideration, suited to all ranks and orders of men, that what the Lord calls any man to, he graciously fits him for. If Bezaleel and Aholiab be appointed to the curious construction of the tabernacle building, the Holy Ghost will make them fit for the employment. And when Jesus called his poor fishermen of Galilee to be fishers of men, how soon were they qualified for the arduous work. My God! send me where, and how, and for what purpose thou art pleased; be thou but with me, and I shall soon demonstrate how thy strength is made perfect in human weakness.

    But let me not close the chapter until, in the view of the qualified workmen for the tabernacle, I behold thee, thou first and last, thou Author and finisher of our faith, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man. Hail, Holy Jesus! thou who art the foundation stone of the spiritual building; who hast reared up an everlasting tabernacle of redemption in thy blood and righteousness, and finished the work the Father gave thee to do. Lord, finish the work in my soul also, and make me as a fit stone for thy temple, now than hast, I trust, hewn me out of the rough quarry of nature; that, being built upon thee as the chief corner stone, and fitly framed together, I may be found an habitation for God through the Spirit.


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    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/exodus-31.html. 1828.

    The Pulpit Commentaries

    EXPOSITION

    THE TABLES OF TESTIMONY. It had been assumed, in the directions given for the construction of the ark, that God would give, in some material form, a document to be called "the testimony," which was to be laid up inside it (Exodus 25:16). It is not too much to say that the tabernacle, with its various appurtenances, was constructed for this purpose; the rest of the tabernacle was designed with a view to the holy of holies the holy of holies was designed as a receptacle for the ark—and the ark was designed as a receptacle for the tables of testimony. This section could, therefore, scarcely be concluded without some definite account of the document which was to give the ark and the tabernacle itself, its main significance.

    Exodus 31:18

    When he had made an end of communing. Literally, "when he had finished speaking." Two tables. Rather, "the two tables"—i.e; the tables promised when he went up into the mount (Exodus 24:12). Of stone. Stone was the ordinary material on which Egyptian documents were engraved, both at the time of the Exodus, and before and after. They were, however, for the most part, either inscribed upon the natural rock, or engraved on the walls of temples or tombs. Inscriptions upon slabs of stone are rare, more especially in the early times, and would scarcely have occurred to Moses himself. Written with the finger of Godi.e; "inscribed supernaturally"—not cut by any human hand. Compare Exodus 32:16. It is idle to speculate on the exact mode of the Divine operation.

    HOMILETICS

    Exodus 31:18

    The Tables of Testimony

    were in many respects like the document impressed upon them. For instance, they were—

    I. OF STONE, AND THEREFORE ENDURING AND WELL NIGH IMPERISHABLE. Few things are more enduring than some kinds of stone. Inscriptions exist, engraved on stone, which are certainly anterior to Abraham. No remains in metal go back so far. Gold and silver are, comparatively speaking, soft. Iron corrodes. Steel was unknown at the period. The material selected to receive the moral law was as nearly indestructible as possible. The tables may still exist, and may one day be discovered under the mounds of Babylon, or in the bed of the Euphrates. The character of the material was thus in harmony with the contents of the tables, consisting, as they did, of laws whereof no jot or tittle shall pass away till the fulfilment of all things (Matthew 5:18).

    II. WRITTEN WITH THE FINGER OF GOD. The stones had the laws engraved upon them by a Divine agency which is called "the finger of God." The laws themselves had been long previously written with the finger of God in the fleshly tables of men's hearts. The Divine power, which was competent to do the one, could no doubt with can accomplish the other. The human heart is the most stubborn of all materials, and the most difficult to impress permanently.

    III. TWO-FOLD. Twin tables, alike in the main, but inscribed differently. So was the law of the tables two-fold—containing

    It is uncertain how the Ten Commandments were divided between the two tables, but quite possible that the first four were written on one table, and the last six on the other. In that case the material division would have exactly corresponded to the spiritual.

    IV. WRITTEN ON BOTH THEIR SIDES (Exodus 32:15). So the moral law—the law of the Decalogue—is written both within and without the human heart—presses externally upon men as a rule of right which they are constrained to obey, and approves itself to them from within, as one which the voice of conscience declares to be binding, apart from external sanction. The book seen in vision by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:9) was "written within and without" (ib, 10), like the tables; but its entire contents were "lamentation, and mourning, and woe." The moral law, as convincing us of sin, has a painful side; but it sustains as much as it alarms, and produces as much effort as mourning.


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    Bibliography
    Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". The Pulpit Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/exodus-31.html. 1897.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

    And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

    These tables of stone, were not prepared by Moses, but probably by the ministry of angels. They were written with the finger of God - That is, by his will and power immediately, without the use of any instrument. They were written in two tables, being designed to direct us in our duty, towards God, and towards man. And they were called tables of testimony, because this written law testified the will of God concerning them, and would be a testimony against them if they were disobedient.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

    Bibliography
    Wesley, John. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/exodus-31.html. 1765.

    Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

    18And he gave unto Moses. It must be observed, that, after the voice of God had been heard from the midst of the fire, and He had delivered the Ten Commandments, and the form of the tabernacle had been described, and the work had been already finished by the artificers, though its dedication had not yet taken place, Moses was again withdrawn from the sight and intercourse of men, that he might be taught apart by himself to be a faithful interpreter of the Law. For although God had briefly comprised in the Ten Commandments the sum of His doctrine, which might suffice for the rule of a pious and righteous life, still a clearer exposition was needed, such as Moses afterwards added. With this object he was taken up into the sanctuary (adytum) of heaven, as it were, in order that he might familiarly learn all things that concerned the full and complete understanding of the Ten Commandments, since he could never have attained their genuine meaning if God had not been his Master and Teacher. Hence we gather that he wrote his five books not only under the guidance of the Spirit of God, but as God Himself had suggested them, speaking to him out of His own mouth. Wherefore he observed silence for forty days, that he might afterwards freely speak by the authority of God. Thus ought all true pastors of the Church to be disciples, so as to teach nothing but what they have received. But although God might in a moment have fully perfected His servant, yet, in order more surely to evince that he advanced nothing which did not proceed from the school of heaven, he was separated for forty days from the human race, so that the Israelites might henceforth look up to him as to an angel sent from heaven; for there could be no savour of earth about him who had thus lived with God, without meat and drink, or any other means of nourishment, and divested of all infirmity of the flesh.

    Finally, the Ten Commandments were written on two tables, so that they might never be lost. I have elsewhere stated why they were divided into two tables, viz., because they consist of two parts, the first of which is the rule of piety, whilst the second prescribes how we must live righteously, innocently, and chastely with men. Thus the worship of God comes first in order, and then the duties of charity follow. The tables were of stone, inasmuch as it is usual for enduring monuments to be engraven on brass, or stones. That they were “written with the finger of God,” we must understand to mean that the characters were formed without the hand or skill of men, by the secret virtue of God; nor is it a matter of wonder that a writing should have suddenly been brought into existence at the same will (nutu) of God, whereby the waste and shapeless materials of the world, which they call chaos, were changed so as to be resplendent with astonishing elegance and beauty. This expression, however, is metaphorical, whereby what is only applicable to men is figuratively spoken of God; for God is not corporeal so as to write with His finger; and for Him to act is only to command; as it is said in the Psalms,

    “He spake, and all things were made; he commanded, and they were created.” (Psalms 33:9.)

    Many approve of the allegory, that the Law was written by the Spirit of God on stones, because the hardness of our heart does not receive it without the grace of regeneration; but we must rather hold to the antithesis of Paul, wherein he shews that the Gospel differs from the Law in this respect, because it is written on fleshy hearts, subdued unto obedience, (2 Corinthians 3:3;) and indeed it is by no means fitting that we should trifle in such conceits as this, when the simple intention of God is abundantly manifest, viz., that the Law was registered upon stones, in order that the perpetuity of its doctrine should be maintained in all ages.


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    Bibliography
    Calvin, John. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/exodus-31.html. 1840-57.

    Scofield's Reference Notes

    tables of stone

    (See Scofield "Exodus 20:4").


    Copyright Statement
    These files are considered public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available in the Online Bible Software Library.

    Bibliography
    Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Exodus 31:18". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/exodus-31.html. 1917.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    Exodus 31:18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

    Ver. 18. Written with the finger of God.] Of the Decalogue, above all other Holy Writ, God seems to say, as Paul, [Philemon 1:19] "Behold, I have written it with mine own hand"; i.e., By mine own power and operation.


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    Bibliography
    Trapp, John. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/exodus-31.html. 1865-1868.

    Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

    Exodus 31:18. Two tables of testimony So named for the reason given, ch. Exodus 25:21. These tables were of stone; and it was usual, in the most ancient times, to engrave laws on tables of marble, wood, brass, &c. The ten commandments upon these tables are said to have been written with the finger of God: so the heavens are said to be the work of God's fingers, Psalms 8:3 while in the parallel place, Psalms 33:6 it is said, that the heavens were made by the word of the Lord; by which one would conceive, that the immediate agency of God was implied without any subordinate ministration. See ch. Exodus 32:16. Others, however, conceive, that the ministration of angels was used; but there are matters of too abstruse a nature for us to understand perfectly at present. Bishop Patrick very judiciously observes, that "many Pagan nations boasted of deriving their laws immediately from God. Thus the Brachmans report in their histories, that the book of their law (which they call Caster) was delivered by God to Bremavius upon a mount in a cloud; and that God gave also another book of laws to Brammon in the first age of the world. The Persians say the same of those of Zoroaster; and the Getes of Xamolxis. Nay, the Brachmans have a Decalogue like this of Moses, and accurate interpretations of it, in which, they say, there is this prophecy, that one day there shall be one law alone throughout the world. This evidently shews how well the world was anciently acquainted with these books of Moses, and what a high esteem they had for them."

    REFLECTIONS.—Moses is now dismissed, and the tables of the covenant given him to lay up in the ark for a perpetual remembrance. The stones on which the commandments were written, fitly represent the hardness of men's hearts; and the finger of God, that Almighty Grace which can, even on such hearts as ours, inscribe his holy law.


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    Bibliography
    Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/exodus-31.html. 1801-1803.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    i.e. The tables of the law, which was the witness of God’s will and Israel’s duty. See Exodus 16:34.

    Tables of stone; whereby was signified both the durable and perpetual obligation of the moral law, whereas the ceremonial law was to end with the Jewish polity at Christ’s coming; and the stoniness of men’s hearts by nature, in which the law of God could not be written but by a Divine and omnipotent hand.

    Written with the finger of God, i.e. with the power or Spirit of God, by comparing Matthew 12:18; not by any art of man, but immediately by a Divine hand.

    BC 1491


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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/exodus-31.html. 1685.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    The Final Act On The Mount; The Giving of the Covenant Written by God (Exodus 31:18).

    Exodus 31:18

    ‘And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone written with the finger of God.’

    God’s period of fellowship and discussion with Moses (begun in Exodus 25:1) was now over and He gave to Moses two tablets which were the confirmation of the covenant and contained the covenant of the ten words which had been written by His finger, His personal written covenant with His people (see Exodus 32:15-16). These were the sign that the interview was over, and that matters were finalised.

    The ten words would be in groups of five, so that there would be five on each, the covenant number twice repeated in witness. That is why they were called the Testimony. ‘The finger of God’ need not be taken literally. God used His own method of inscribing the tablets. The point was that it was not Moses who had engraved the words on the tablets, but God. ‘The finger of God’ was a favourite way in Egypt of speaking of any wonder that was truly of God (Exodus 8:19). (Some see two duplicate tablets with ten on each, providing copies for both parties in the covenant).

    Notes to Christians.

    In this chapter it is made clear that in the service of God we must receive our Spirit and wisdom from Him. Without that it will not be satisfactory (compare 1 Corinthians 2:11-16). And we learn that where God has a work that He wants done He appoints the men to do it. They are individually chosen, but along with them work a whole team of skilful craftsmen, anonymous to us but known to Him, without whom, humanly speaking, the work of God in completing the living, believing church, His temple, will not be completed.

    And it is made clear that we must set apart a time for God which is wholly for Him, a time when nothing intrudes to prevent our whole attention being on Him. (And we must not only do so for ourselves, we must ensure that it is possible for others). Some may select one particular day, others may select every day, but we must be satisfied in our own minds about what we do (Romans 14:4-6), and that we do it honestly as those who must give account (Romans 14:10-12). And the keeping of such a time to God is to be a sign to Him and to the world that we belong to Him.


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    Bibliography
    Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/exodus-31.html. 2013.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    THE TWO TABLES, Exodus 31:18.

    18. Two tables of testimony — These were soon broken, (Exodus 32:19,) and others were subsequently hewn, (Exodus 34:1-4.) Their size must have been smaller than the dimensions of the ark in which they were deposited, and sufficiently small and light for Moses to carry in his hand. They were doubtless some two or three inches in thickness, to prevent their being easily broken; but they need not have been one foot square to contain all the words of the decalogue. See, further, note on Exodus 32:15. The fact that they were written with the finger of God is no greater a miracle than that they should have been spoken “out of the midst of the fire.” Deuteronomy 4:12. But the ministry of angels may be assumed as one of the means by which these tables, as well as the utterance of the words, were produced. See note on Exodus 20:1. The expression finger of God is simply an anthropomorphic way of designating the divine agency in the preparation of the tables, and is not designed to teach that the infinite Being has a physical “body or parts.”


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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/exodus-31.html. 1874-1909.

    Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

    Exodus 31:18. He gave unto Moses the two tables of testimony — After his forty days’ stay upon the mount, God dismissed him, giving him the ten articles of the moral law, written upon two tables of stone, to be delivered to the people, and to be laid up in the ark, as the standing record of the divine will relating to the principal branches of their duty. In the most ancient times, it must be observed, laws were wont to be engraven upon tables of brass, marble, wood, &c. These tables of stone, it appears, were not prepared by Moses, but probably by the ministry of angels. They were written with the finger of God — That is, by his will and power immediately, without the use of any instrument. They were written in two tables, being designed to direct us in our duty toward God and toward man. They were called tables of testimony, because this written law testified the will of God concerning them, and would be a testimony against them, if they were disobedient.


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    Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/exodus-31.html. 1857.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    Testimony, to inform men of their duty. --- Written, not by Moses, or by any man, but by God himself, or by an angel. (Chap. xxxiv. 1.; Galatians iii. 19.) (Calmet)


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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/exodus-31.html. 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    two tables. These first tables were "the work of God" (Exodus 32:16; Exodus 24:12).

    stone. Singular. The second tables were hewn by Moses (Exodus 34:1-4, and stones in plural) Both written by God. written. See note on Exodus 17:14.

    finger. Figure of speech Anthropopatheia (App-6).


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    Bibliography
    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/exodus-31.html. 1909-1922.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

    And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

    Tables of stone written with the finger of God - containing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:12), called "tables of testimony, because God testified His will in them. The tenor of the language undoubtedly conveys the impression that these permanent records were a work of God's design and execution so special and so proper to Him as not to have been done by the agency of any creature. Some think that the expression implies that letters were then first given to men. But this is an error, for Moses wrote before these tables were given him (Exodus 24:4); and there is reason to believe that written records existed long prior to the Mosaic age (see the note at Exodus 32:16).


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    Bibliography
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/exodus-31.html. 1871-8.

    Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

    THE TWO TABLES GIVEN.

    (18) The termination and crown of the entire conference which Moses had held with God on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18) was the committal to his hands of the two tables of testimony which had been promised before the ascent into the mount was made (Exodus 24:12), and which were pre-supposed in the entire arrangement of the sanctuary. The Court pre-supposed the tabernacle; the outer chamber of the tabernacle, or holy place, was a mere vestibule to the inner chamber, or holy of holies: the inner chamber was a receptacle for the ark; and the ark was a chest or coffer constructed to contain the Two Tables. The entire design having been laid down, it was a first step towards the carrying out of the design to put into the hands of Moses that treasure with a view to which all the directions concerning the tabernacle had been given.

    Two tables of testimony.—Rather, the two tables. The treasure which had been glanced at in Exodus 25:21, and distinctly promised in Exodus 24:12.

    Written with the finger of God.—Comp. Exodus 24:12, where God speaks of “commandments which He has written.” We must understand that the tables were inscribed by some supernatural process, and not by any human hand. The exact nature of the supernatural process is not revealed to us.


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    Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/exodus-31.html. 1905.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
    gave
    24:12,18; 32:15,16; 34:1-4,28,29; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22; 9:9-11; 2 Corinthians 3:3
    the finger
    8:19; 32:16; Jeremiah 31:33; Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20; 2 Corinthians 3:7,8

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    Bibliography
    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/exodus-31.html.

    The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

    The Tables of Testimony

    Exodus 31:18

    Those two tables are two revelations; first, a revelation of man; and second, a revelation of God. In this light we may profitably read the commandments, gathering from them lessons and suggestions of the most far-reaching and useful kind. Given the Ten Commandments and all the other laws relating to them, and we can have no difficulty in finding out the quality of the life to which the commandments were addressed. The statute book of a people Isaiah , in one important sense, the history of a nation. He who reads our laws reads our lives. God has written upon these two tables the history, up to that time, of the human heart. Changing the figure, are not the two stones two mirrors, in which men may see what they have done? The commandments gather up the book of Genesis , and express it in terse lines. It would seem as if the book of Genesis ought to run straight up to the twentieth chapter of Exodus , that it might complete itself. Genesis may be described as covering an experimental period of time. Men were then without written law. Nature was, to a large extent, left to work out its own instinct and its own will. The Genesis which gives us physical beauty also gives us moral ruin. The book of Genesis cannot end in itself. God would not cut us off at the end of Genesis. He would by so doing seem to cut off his own sovereignty, his own purpose, his own fatherhood. After every one of the commandments—not only the Ten Commandments, but all the other laws—God could have given a living illustration of his meaning, quoted from the book of Genesis. The commandments are not abstractions, they are concrete instances; the commandments are not metaphysical moralities, they express the disasters and the catastrophes which have been accomplished in human life. For this reason, let it be repeated, the two tables of stone, written by the finger of God, constitute the Divine revelation of human nature. Let us familiarise ourselves with this idea, and feel its rational force.

    "Thou shall have no other gods before me." What an extraordinary suggestion! How impossible from what the philosophers would call an a priori point of view! Such an idea would never enter the human mind! So we might imperfectly and vainly reason. We would not, indeed, credit the human imagination with audacity enough to attempt to create other gods. Human imagination would rather turn in some other direction—would endeavour to flee away from the whole conception and discipline of the Divine idea, and constitute powers and realms altogether distant from the Divine throne. It required the Divine mind itself to see the possibility of this tremendous apostacy. Strange to say, the very first temptation that assailed mankind, so far as we are enlightened by the book of Genesis , was a temptation in this very direction. In effect it was: "Be gods yourselves; you have the fanciful notion that there is one God who has right of control over you, who may call you nightly to his Baruch , and audit the day"s moral accounts; nothing can be more preposterous; eat of this lovely tree, and the film will fall from your eyes, and a new stature and sense of dignity will be given to the soul, and ye shall be as gods." The temptation was worthy of the man. We sometimes have tributes paid to our dignity from unexpected sources. To have tempted the man back into some anterior point in his development (assuming the theory of development to be true) might have been resented, but to tempt him to fall upwards was a temptation worthy of the subtlest of tempters, and worthy to be addressed to a child of the Divine creation. See, therefore, in the very first instance, how God could have quoted a concrete case in illustration of the opening commandment.

    "Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image"—for the purposes of worship. Again we say the idea is impossible. It does not fit into the structure of things with any sense of propriety. A man will never be so little of a man as to make an image and fall down before it. But in the book of Genesis you find images in plenty. This very thing which we now consider to be an impossibility has been a solemn and humiliating fact in the history of the first families of the race. Rachel knew where Laban"s gods were, and she stole them. So wonderful a thing is human piety: when perverted it will even steal a god.

    "Honour thy father and thy mother? Could a concrete instance be put after that commandment? We have seen that when Esau married into Canaanitish relations he did that which was "a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah." Parental feeling was ignored; parental rights were scorned; parental sympathies were violated and dishonoured.

    "Thou shalt not kill"—a metaphysical impossibility, but an actual fact. From the opening of the book of Genesis to the end, Cain has been, in himself or in his progeny, a dominating figure.

    "Thou shalt not commit adultery." The book of Genesis contains more terrible statements about that crime than about any other, having in it chapters which no man may read aloud.

    "Thou shalt not steal" If Esau has violated one of the commandments, and is quoted as a historical instance: Jacob has violated another, and may be set up in the gallery evermore.

    Thus the commandments are not metaphysical subtleties; are not fanciful suppositions in the Divine mind; are not merely ethical theories; they are one by one expressions of what man himself has done. The Ten Commandments are not ten mysteries. The Ten Commandments do not show that virtue is divisible into ten problems; but they show that vice has discovered ten ways of breaking through the golden circle of obedience. We know the commandments. Were no names mentioned; were the two tables of stone trumpeted by an angel from the radiant cloud, we should say at once, "These words are known down here, they need no exposition; we ourselves are living illustrations of every one of them." This being the case, what a tremendous hold the Bible gets upon every man! It speaks to something in the man; it secures the consent of the conscience of every man. The inward witness does not say, "Such commandments presuppose impossibilities on the part of those to whom they are addressed"; the answer Isaiah , "We have broken these laws one by one; we have wanted other gods; we have thought that a carved image might serve instead of a living Judge; fathers and mothers we have killed as soldiers kill one another on the battlefield; we have killed, committed adultery, stolen, broken holy days, violated sacred places; the angel is not speaking through his great trumpet of thunder to populations a whole universe distant from us, he has studied our history, and he is addressing himself to our iniquities."

    The commandments are also on the other side quite as distinctly revelations of God. Let us consider an inquiry to this effect:—looking at the commandments, what should we infer as to the character of God? For the purposes of this study we are supposing that we have only the commandments as an indication of the moral quality of the Legislator. With the two tables of stone before us, written in a language we can understand, what should we say is the character of the Legislator? Do we not see a wonderful care for mankind? Is there not an undertone of affectionateness in all the majestic speech? Are there not some tears amid all this awful storm? Was not the tempest devised as an accompaniment to hide the grief? Now that we are more carefully learned in all the wisdom of the heavenly kingdom may we not. descry a broken heart where we once only thought of an indignant Jehovah? This is the true care for man—to care for his character, to care for his soul, to be vigilant respecting all the finer elements and qualities of his nature. To dress the body may be but to perpetrate an irony. To care for the child"s physical constitution may be but a cruel sin, but to care for his moral quality, for his temper, his instincts, his soul-forces; to devote attention to his mind, to his motives, to the very springs and first motions of his life—that is care,—a care, indeed, not inconsistent with solicitude regarding matters physical and circumstances of an outward kind; but this is seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. To clothe the child, so far as it is possible, with the garment of a pure character; to make the young soul heroic in all purpose and endeavour; to lead the heart to the mystery of sacrifice, and to make the innermost tenant of the human being ashamed of sin, afraid of it, regarding it as hateful—that is to show true care, true appreciation of human nature. This is what God does here. He is building up an interior heart. He is moulding an innermost life; as for clothing, decoration, circumstance, outward importance—these are fading flowers. God cannot rest until he has made the heart right and purified the fountain of the life.

    Can we fail to see a gracious condescension to the moral capacity of mankind? The Lord is pleased to speak of himself as a "jealous God." Does he mean that? Not as we mean it. This word has sometimes shocked us. It was not spoken to us. God has always spoken to the race in the language of its own day. This is the only speech that could have been understood at the time at which it was spoken. This explains many a difficulty in the earlier books of Scripture. Why persist in taking our modern education back to earlier barbarities? In this way we defraud ourselves of the richest teaching of history, and bring upon the mind a sense of confusion which interferes with the unity of worship and the completeness of sacrifice. You use to children words you will not use to them when they are fully grown men and women. You must avail yourselves of an emphasis which would be out of place in speech addressed to equals, or to those who have made considerable advance in intellectual culture. The Divine meaning could only have been expressed in the words which God used at the time. The word is not the meaning, the meaning is in the word; as the body is not the Prayer of Manasseh , the man is in the body. History sheds off the body and reveals the spirit. This is the law of spiritual progress, and this is one of the innermost secrets of spiritual insight.

    Can we once more fail to see how gradually men have been trained to moral pureness and dignity? The commandments are in a certain sense very rude words. They would be resented if addressed to us personally in some of their details. What man of this century, having passed through the process of Christian culture, could have addressed to him seriously the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill"? The man might be offended; he would suppose he was altogether unknown to the person who thus rudely addressed him, seeing that manslaughter or homicide never came within the imagination, which would have been debased or inflamed into delirium if it could have contemplated the shedding of human blood. We must begin the education of people where they themselves are. Education always goes down to the pupil, and thus lifts the pupil to its own level. It is one of the finest proofs of the gradual revelation of the Divine kingdom that from the first to the last the law pursues an ascending and widening line. How subtly the last commandment seems to link itself on to a higher kingdom. Is it not so in all development, that there is something of feature or nexus, something of subtle indication or fleshly possession, meaning that one kingdom has culminated, and another is just about to come down to earth? That nexus you do not find in "Thou shalt not kill" "Thou shalt not commit adultery" "Thou shalt not steal" These are what we should now term broad vulgarities; but the connecting link or tentacle, just hooking itself on to something almost invisible, is to be found in the last commandment, "Thou shalt not covet" That is the most spiritual word we have yet heard in all the commandments addressed to us in our social relations. The legislator is now giving us to understand that we have a spirit. He is about to prepare the way for some nobler kingdom, and truth, and thought, and relation. Thus by throwing new words into a language God prepares the way for new thoughts that are quickly to follow from heaven. God does not make great gaps which it is impossible either to leap or to bridge over; but by turning common language into uncommon uses, by striking points of departure, by the change of one hue of language, he prepares the way for the next higher kingdom, the next brighter revelation. Now that he has come so far as covetousness, he will, by-and-by, come right into the very centre of the heart and tell us that we are no longer in the infantile school, needing rude instruction about killing and stealing and other iniquities, but must have the heart cleansed, for out of the human heart proceed all those things which offend the heart of God.

    Why go back to these old times? Because we want to be like those teachers who are worshipped for their comprehensiveness and their philosophical temper. The preacher can go back as well as the annalist. When a political historian spends days, and weeks, and months, in the Record Office and in the literary recesses of the British Museum, and then comes forth with his history, we call him a philosophical historian. When he enriches his pages with innumerable references to volumes we never heard of, giving page, chapter, section, and line, we call him a trust-worthy historian. When the social annalist would show his country what the course of his country has been, the farther he can go back into archaic times the more he is respected by modern critics. But when a preacher goes back to Genesis , he is supposed to have gone out of the times, and to have connected himself with forces, and ministries, and institutions which have fallen into desuetude. We protest against such partial criticism. There is a philosophy of religious inquiry as well as a philosophy of political investigation, and we insist upon having the Book of God read as a whole. That is our purpose for going back to its opening pages and to its earliest characters. The book is one. It never goes back or overlaps itself in a backward direction, but from first to last it maintains a line of progress and asserts a vertebral unity which constitutes an unassailable argument for its Divine origin. The books of Scripture must not be broken off one from the other as if they were separated and unrelated stones in a heap. If you take a book out of the Bible you take a stone out of a temple, a star out of a constellation,—a felony that cannot be permitted. So we must not be deterred from going into our records and our museums, and searching into roots, and origins, and beginnings. We, too, must be prayerfully philosophical and rationalistic, turning over page by page, and turning over every page, fearing nothing that comes up; taking it in chronological sequence, and persevering through all rocky places, and dangerous paths, and mountainous districts—on and on, until we come to the trumpets and vials, and thunders, and songs and hallelujahs of the Apocalypse; and having come into these completions we shall know the meaning of the last sweet word—for when all the thunders have died away, when the storm has spent itself on the affrighted hills, there comes this still small voice—"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."


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    Bibliography
    Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 31:18". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/exodus-31.html. 1885-95.

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    Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
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