Ki Tisa

Image of Moses throwing down the tablets by Marc Chagall

Image of Moses throwing down the tablets by Marc Chagall

Two tablets of stone
Written by God, but destroyed
By Moshe’s anger

Exodus 31:18, 32:19
And God gave to Moses, when they finished speaking on Mt. Sinai, two tablets of Testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God … As soon as [Moses] came near to the camp and saw the calf, and the dancing he became enraged; and he hurled the the tablets from his hands, and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.

Moses knew about the Golden Calf before he descended Sinai, because God told him (Ex. 32:7-8) and threatened to destroy the people (Ex. 32:10). Moses pleaded on behalf of the Israelites, and convinced God to relent (Ex. 32:11-14). But when Moses saw the people dancing around their idol, he became enraged.

It was easy for Moses to remain claim when he only heard about the people worshiping the Golden Calf. But when he saw for himself what God had seen earlier, he became as angry as God had been (the Hebrew is the same in both cases). To paraphrase a popular adage, one visual image is worth a thousand words – even if those words are spoken by God.


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