The Word Made Fresh
1“That is when the LORD told me, ‘Chisel two stone tablets like the ones you broke before, and then come up the mountain to me.’ The LORD also told me to make a wooden chest, 2and said, ‘I will write the same words on these new tablets that I had written before on the old ones you broke, and then I want you to put them in the wooden chest.’ 3So, I made the chest of acacia wood, and chiseled two stone tablets and went up the mountain carrying the tablets. 4The LORD wrote the same ten commandments as before, the same words the LORD had spoken to you from the fire on the mountain on the day we gathered before it; and the LORD gave the tablets to me. 5That’s when I turned and came down the mountain and placed the tablets in the chest I had made, and that is where they are, just as the LORD commanded me.”
6(The Israelites had traveled from the wells of Bene-Jaakan to Moserah where Aaron had died and was buried. His son Eleazar became the high priest after him. 7From there they had gone to Gudgodah and then to Jotbathah where there were a number of flowing streams of water. 8That was when the LORD had set the Levites apart to carry the sacred chest which contained the Law of the LORD, and to stand before and serve the LORD and to give a good word from the LORD, as they do to this day. 9That is why the Levites were not given any territory as were the other tribes because the LORD is their inheritance. That is what the LORD your God promised them.)
10“I stayed on that mountain forty days and nights, just like the first time, and the LORD listened to me again and decided not to destroy you. The LORD told me, ‘Go now and lead the people to go in and take over the land I swore their ancestors I would give them.’
12“So, Israel, the LORD your God wants you to fear the LORD your God, love the LORD, and follow the LORD’s will, and serve the LORD with all your heart and soul, 13and obey all the LORD’s rules and instructions I am giving you today for your own good. 14All of heaven and earth belong to the LORD, 15but the LORD loved your ancestors and chose you out of all the people in the world. 16You must abandon the stubbornness that is in your hearts, 17for the LORD your God is God of gods and LORD of lords; the Great God, mighty in power, who shows no partiality, accepts no bribe, 18and who protects orphans and widows and foreigners and gives them food and shelter. 19You, too, must care for foreigners among you because you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20Fear and worship only the LORD your God. Keep to the LORD and swear by the LORD’s name. 21Praise only the LORD your God who has done these great and wonderful things for you. 22Seventy of your ancestors went down to Egypt, and now there are as many of you as there are stars in the sky.”
1-2: Moses receives a second copy of the 10 Commandments. Here the order is: 1) God tells him to carve two more stone tablets, 2) to come up to God on the mountain, 3) to make a wooden chest to hold it, 4) God will write the Law again, and 5) Moses will place the tablets in the chest.
3-5: Here the order is: Moses 1) makes the wooden chest, 2) carves the stone tablets, and 3) goes up the mountain where 4) God writes on the tablets and 5) Moses comes down the mountain and puts the tablets in the ark.
6-9: These verses seem to be out of place, a sort of mini travelogue that culminates in reiterating the setting aside of the tribe of Levi. In many translations this section is set off by parentheses.
10-11: We return to the main narrative: Moses spends another 40 days on the mountain, and God’s anger against the people is cooled.
12-22: So, the point of all this, he says, is that they should fear the Lord, love and serve the LORD, and keep the LORD’s commandments. Do not be stubborn any longer, Moses tells them. Look what God has already accomplished for you and worship the LORD alone. God promised Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, and now look at you!
What has the LORD done for you? Look back over the years and identify the times you know God’s hand was in what was happening. And, if things are not going so well for you today, remember how Israel struggled in their relationship with God, but always God was willing to forgive and to guide. That is true for you as well. Ponder for a moment where you are, and where God is, and consider what you might do to re-enter God’s presence. Sometimes God comes to us, but most of the time we must make the first move.