Why two? Is there a reason why they weren't written on just one tablet?
ESV - 18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
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One perspective I have heard is that there were two tablets because the first tablet contained those commandments dealing with people's relationship to God (not having other gods; not making graven images; not taking the name of God in vain; and keeping the Sabbath), and the second tablet contained those commandments dealing with people's relationships with one another (honoring parents, and not stealing, murdering, committing adultery, bearing false witness, or coveting).
As far as I can deduce, there is no Biblical significance to Moses receiving the 10 Commandments on two stone tablets, versus any other number. To read anything else into the number of tablets would be pure speculation. Since no apparent reason is given in Scripture, God's choice of two is sufficient.
My analysis of the whole situation is that there is great significance in having two tablets of stone rather than one. The first one is that both are written "by the finger of God" Exod 31:18. That is truly frightening when one considers it deeply. God in all His majesty takes time to reduce His thoughts about managing human lives and conduct by personally writing and engraving permanently His laws. You could actually call it a manual straight from the manufacturer. Written in stone so that no one could change it. Today we have stone engravings made since the dawn of handwriting. The law of God is eternal, not to be changed or deleted. You can only choose to put it aside. Did God write His law on two tablets because one was going to be too heavy for Moses considering that he had to negotiate his way down a steep rugged mountain? I am not sure, but I think there is greater meaning there. On closer scrutiny it appears that one tablet contained 4 laws that deal with personal worship experience (which cannot be enforced by any external force). Making a law that forces people to worship God, keep His Sabbath, not to make graven images, no idol worship and not take the name of God in vain is contrary to the principles of heaven. Each person must decide freely if they want to worship God. Daniel 2 and 6 show us clearly what happens when Man tries to venture into that area of spiritual life, it ends badly. Sadly Revelation 13 and 17 predict that this is going to happen again with consequent great suffering. The other tablet deals with human social relationships which are actually enshrined in the laws of Man on earth. As far as I can tell every society on earth enforces the laws on the second tablet. Acting contrary to these laws is either frowned upon or punished outright. Governments and authorities on earth are required by God to enforce the laws on this tablet. As far as I know there is no society that permits its people to murder, steal, lie, dishonor parents, commit adultery, and covet other people’s belongings. God put these laws in place to manage human affairs and create a society that cultivates personal growth and development without fear. Thank God all governments on earth have not abdicated their God given authority. Finally I think there is significance in that Moses carried the two tablets one on each hand. In order for the laws on the second tablet to be voluntarily obeyed, a person must have a personal relationship with God. Prisons are full in many countries because those first neglected the laws on the first tablet. God wants to write His laws in our “hearts”. In other words He wants us to love His law and make it a permanent feature in our lives as the blood that that is pumped by the heart. Outward manifestation of our love for God will be shown by a people who then keep the other six commandments on the second tablet. The laws on the second tablet can be considered as the fruit of the laws on the first.
In my opinion, all depictions in all movies and most if not all other artwork showing the “Ten Commandments” on stone tablets; are completely inaccurate and incorrect. They show about one half of the numbered commandments on one stone tablet and the remainder upon the other tablet. This is wrong according to the specific text of the scriptures describing the tablets. On each stone tablet there was writing on the front and the back side of each tablet. Exodus 32:15 (AMPC) 15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tables of the Testimony in his hand, tables or tablets that were written on both sides. I believe it is completely wrong to suggest that you had to use two tablets, both front facing, so as to see about half on the front of one, and half on the front of the second. Both had half of the message on the front and the other half of that tablet’s message on the back of each tablet. I believe that it is significant that there are two and that the best explanation is that two copies of the covenant terms of agreement were required. This is consistent with the first part of the scripture once you realize how ridiculous it would be to have written only part of the agreement on only the front facing sides of separate tables. Scripture purposely included in its detailed description that there was writing on the back of them. Why two? In an oral agreement, which was in that day every bit as binding as a written one, both parties stipulate their agreement to the terms of the covenant. The common form of swearing, or testifying to (hence testimony of) the covenant has each party’s representative saying, “As for me and my household I agree that... (Insert Terms). Example: This well is not my kin’s possession, but rather it’s water will be freely and equally shared by both parties to this blood covenant. Just as importantly, the other party to the agreement does likewise. “As for me and mine, we agree that... etc.” Private agreements were often made orally. Public agreements often were documented on papyrus. Agreements affecting all inhabitants of a region or intended to last indefinitely were committed to lambskin or to stone tablets. This was true of the practices in Egypt where the Hebrews sojourned for the immediately preceding 400 years. Stone tablets might seem atypical today, but we can see it was a well-known and oft practiced craft in their era. We can be thankful in our day that so many of the monuments of historical significance in America had scripture verses carved into their stones to preserve what secularist history revisionists would like to deny were in the hearts of their builders. Without doubt the importance and longevity of this document dictated the use of stone. One tablet included Moses as the representative agreeing to the terms for the people and was likely identical to the other with small but important differences. Israel’s testimony in stone (indelibly and unalterably) stated that as for Moses and the children of Israel, “We agree to keep these commandments, these terms of the blood covenant.” The other tablet has the same terms plus God’s stating, “As for Me... I promise to honor and bless your keeping, and warn that curses are unleashed by your breaking, said terms of the agreement.” Both testimony documents would be required for the agreement to be lawful and enforceable on both parties to the covenant. Bonus Answer: Moses broke the first set God made and wrote out the second himself. How could Moses carve a long (two page) document onto two sides of two stone tablets? There is evidence in scripture that writing on stone was relatively easy and commonplace in Israel by using a diamond tipped stylus. Jeremiah 17:1 THE SIN of Judah is written with a pen or stylus of iron and with the point of a diamond.
This is a good spiritual question. In my opinion, there were two tablets because there would be two great lawgivers for Israel, Moses and Christ. Christ will be giving the law for the Jews when he comes again to judge the nations. It is not as if Christ's new law will contradict the old, rather it will update and reaffirm the 10 commandments and, since they are written on stone, they will not be contradicted. The two days of Christ's activity casting out demons and doing cures (Luke 13:32) correspond to the 2,000 years of the Christian era. This is the time interval between the two tablets. On the third day the Jews will be accepting Christ and the second tablet will be in full force, spiritually speaking.
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