Why did Moses Have to Break the Tablets of the Covenant of YHVH?
When Mosheh came down to the camp to find out that Israel had already desecrated the Covenant of YHVH, commonly know as The Ten Commandments, by having broken the Second Commandment and threw the tablets and broke them before their eyes, did he not know what he did? Did he not know that the tablets were written with the finger of Elohim?
Yes, Mosheh was completely aware of the consequences for his actions. When he broke the tablets of the Covenant of YHVH, he knew that they were hewed and written on by YHVH. He knew very well the signification of what he was holding in his hands. Mosheh was with YHVH forty complete days during which he received not only the tablets of the Covenant of YHVH and the instructions of building the Tabernacle and everything in it, but also the laws of the Covenant.
This article is a continuation of the articles “Where is the Ark of the Covenant and will It Take its Place in the Third Temple?“ and “Where are the Tablets of Stone Moses Broke? Are They Lost Forever?“
The Messenger of the presence of YHVH (see Jubilees 1:27 and Act 7:53) narrated everything Mosheh needed to know from the creation to his birth in Egypt. And Mosheh learned that Elohim the Creator of the universe is a loving, faithful but also zealous El. He completely understood the Avrahamic Covenant, the Covenant of the Land, aka “Cutting of the Pieces” (Gen_15:7-18) which had been confirmed for Avraham’s offspring (Gen_17:4-8).
From the narration, Mosheh must have understood that in the ancient world, when two parties wished to make a covenant they took an animal, cut it into two pieces, and the two parties would then walk between them saying “I will do the terms of this covenant, if I do not, you may do to me what we did to this animal.” He must have understood also that the Avrahamic Covenant was a blood covenant; blood was shed for it.
The Covenant of YHVH: unconditional covenant or conditional covenant?
However, in the covenant with Avraham Mosheh learned that the Creator passed between the pieces alone; Avraham did not. That was sufficient for Mosheh to understand that that was a unconditional covenant, a promise, a covenant which in the ancient world was known as “Royal Grant Treaty.” In the unconditional covenant with Avraham, YHVH took the oath to protect the rights of Avraham, the curses of the covenant were against those who might deprive Avraham’s rights and the blessings for those who would bless him. The Grant (gift) is promised to all future offspring of Avraham: Yitschak and Ya’akov, and last but not least the Grant is a reward for Avraham’s faithful service. That was what Mosheh completely understood on the mountain.
At Mount Sinai YHVH Elohim made a different type of covenant with Israel, though. This type of covenants were known in the ancient world as “Suzerain-Vassal Treaty.” In this covenant YHVH reiterated all promises given to the forefathers Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov, but with this exception: it was conditional. The promise made to Ya’akov that his children would be brought out of Egypt and brought in the land of the fathers was unconditional; it was a promise. That promise was “the good news”, “the gospel of the Exodus” as we read in Exo_6:6-8 the seven unconditional promises to Israel:
Deliverance from the bondage in Egypt
1. I shall bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exo_6:6)
2. I shall deliver you from their bondage. (Exo_6:6)
Redemption and adoption
3. I shall redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments. (Exo_6:6)
4. I shall take you to Me for a people. (Exo_6:7)
5. I shall be your Elohim. (Exo_6:7)
The Promised Land
6. I shall bring you into the land sworn to Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov. (Exo_6:8)
7. I shall give the land to you for a heritage. (Exo_6:8).
These promises were reiterated to Israel only for the sake of the fathers and they did not come without condition. After Israel was delivered from the bondage in Egypt and brought to Mount Sinai, YHVH made it very clear that there would be a condition in the covenant between Him and the new nation. That condition was postulated before the very covenant was given (in Exodus 20). We read about this condition in Exo 19:4-6.
You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. And now, if you diligently listen to My voice, and shall guard My covenant, then you shall be My treasured possession above all the peoples – for all the earth is Mine – and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a set-apart nation. Those are the words which you are to speak to the children of Israel. (Exo 19:4-6)
The condition is the if-then clause in the covenant of YHVH: if you diligently listen to My voice, and shall guard My covenant, then you shall be My treasured possession above all the peoples and you shall be to Me a kingdom … Israel would receive the blessing only if the nation walk in obedience to guard the Covenant of YHVH. And all the people answered together and said, “All that Yehovah has spoken we shall do.” (Exo 19:8) If we review the promise or the unconditional covenant YHVH made with Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov, we should notice that such a condition does not exist in it. Moreover, the Covenant of YHVH with the fathers was de facto a monologue; the fathers did not and did not have to agree upon, say, or except anything. It was a free gift from YHVH.
However, there were certain conditions in the covenant with Israel: blessings for obeying and curses for disobeying YHVH. These two polar conditions were clearly set at Mount Nebo where the Covenant of YHVH was renewed with the new generation that was about to enter the Promised Land. These conditions were set before the nation, because one cannot serve the true Elohim and the same time disobey Him. Mosheh clearly understood this if-then clause and there was no third option. We read,
Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you shall hearken to the commandments of Yehovah your Elohim, which I command you this day; and the curse, if you shall not hearken to the commandments of Yehovah your Elohim, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which you have not known. (Deu 11:26-28)
Without any doubt, the Covenant YHVH made with Avraham is “Royal Grant Treaty” type of covenant: YHVH took the oath, the unconditional promise, not Avraham; the curses of the Covenant are against those who may deprive Avraham from YHVH’s gift, the land (Gen_12:2-3); the land is given as a gift of Avraham’s obedience.
On the other hand, the Covenant YHVH made with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai is clearly the Suzerain-Vassal Treaty: Israel has the full responsibility by having taken the oath to stay in the conditional Covenant and do all YHVH has spoken. Unlike the fathers, Israel had to take the oath, too. They had to say “All that Yehovah has spoken we shall do.” Thus, the Covenant of Sinai was sealed.
We see the same type of covenant in 1Ki_11:29-39 where YHVH made a promise to Yarov’am to give him the tent tribes and even to keep the name Israel for his kingdom at only one condition: to be faithful to the Covenant as King David was. The reason for tearing the kingdom is that King Solomon was unfaithful to the same covenant all Israel had said “All that Yehovah has spoken we shall do.” (see 1Ki_11:9-13). The Elohim of Yarov’am said thus,
And it shall be, if you obey all that I command you, and shall walk in My ways, and do what is right in My eyes, to guard My laws and My commands, as My servant David did, then I shall be with you and build for you a steadfast house, as I built for David, and shall give Israel to you. (1Ki 11:38)
Yarov’am, the king of the Northern Kingdom Israel was unfaithful to Elohim, too. As a consequence for his disobedience, the kingdom was taken from him and his people exiled by the Assyrians. Instead of becoming a great kingdom of Israel, a steadfast house, the king chose the way of idolatry: the same cause for dividing the kingdom of Solomon.
Again, we see here that Elohim set the same condition before Yarov’am: if you obey all that I command you, …, then I shall be with you… It could be other way around; His covenant with the nation of Israel is conditional and the condition is “if you obey all.” This condition we do not see in the Covenant with Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov/Israel. Why is there no condition set before the fathers when YHVH made the Covenant with them?
Israel’s whoring in Egypt
The reason being is that the fathers walked in righteousness, but the Israelites did not. Israel went down in Egypt with all his posterity: seventy souls. And when the last of the twelve sons of Israel died, the Israelites defiled themselves with the abominations and the idols of Egypt. They rebelled against the Almighty and He resolved to pour out His wrath on them to complete His displeasure against them in the midst of the land of Egypt, as we read in Eze 20:5-8.
Thus said the Master Yehovah, “On the day when I chose Israel and lifted My hand in an oath to the seed of the house of Ya’akov, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I lifted My hand in an oath to them, saying, ‘I am Yehovah your Elohim.’ On that day I lifted My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, flowing with milk and honey, the splendor of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Each one of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt! I am Yehovah your Elohim.’ But they rebelled against Me, and would not obey Me. All of them did not throw away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them to complete My displeasure against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. (Eze 20:5-8)
The Israelites were growing comfortable in the Egyptian idolatrous environment of sexual immorality and had they remained a moment longer in Egypt, they would have risked becoming part of it and there would have been no children of Israel to redeem.
For insight on the idolatrous life of the Israelites in Egypt, the reader is encouraged to read the article “Israel’s Whoring in Egypt.”
Therefore, we see that had they walked in righteousness, as their fathers did, there would be no necessity of a conditional covenant; the unconditional covenant, the gift of YHVH would have been extended to them, too. But they failed. They failed and sank in Egypt’s idolatry, hence the necessity for a conditional covenant was set before them: Israel had to take the vow. Faith was required for the gift of YHVH, but they did not have it.
For more knowledge of what the Israelites lacked in Egypt, refer to the article “What is Faith?“
On that day in Egypt YHVH chose Israel, the seed of Ya’akov, and made Himself known to them by His personal Name. He lifted His hand in an oath to bring them out of Egypt and lead them into a land of milk and honey, but a condition was set before them: each one of them to throw away the abominations and the idols of Egypt.
But they rebelled against Him and did not throw away the idols of Egypt. The Israelites forgot that their fathers walked in righteousness, they disregarded the law of circumcision, and even His Name. They defiantly rebelled against Him in Egypt and thus turned back to the Covenant of YHVH that He made with Avraham.
So, the Elohim of Israel resolved to pour out His wrath on them to complete His displeasure against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. He did not punished them in order to destroy them, but He did for the sake of Ya’akov to whom He promised to bring his descendants in the land of milk and honey, the land promised to Avraham.
The two choices Mosheh had
For an intentional, rebellious, and defiant sin a condition must be set: the blessing, if you they hearken to the commandments of YHVH; and the curse, if they will not hearken, but turn aside out of the way of YHVH, to go after other gods (Deu 11:26-28). The nation of Israel lost the privilege of receiving the free gift, the grant YHVH gave to the fathers, due to disobedience.
On the mountain Mosheh clearly understood this, and how angry he became when he saw his people sinning with the golden calf. He did not become angered, enraged, or upset due to some Israel’s provocation, nor did he loose his temper due to a sudden outburst upon losing his patience. Nothing like that.
Mosheh knew that another wrath was about to come upon the children of Israel. He knew that the Elohim of Israel is zealous and would leave that sin unpunished. Mosheh knew that the Israelites broke the Covenant by having made am image of YHVH, which image is nothing less than an idol. The very covenant whose second commandment says thus,
You do not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of that which is in the heavens above, or which is in the earth beneath, or which is in the waters under the earth, you do not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, Yehovah your Elohim am a jealous El, … (Exo 20:4-5)
Having been with the zealous El for forty days and forty nights, Mosheh learned much about Him and he foresaw that another wrath was coming upon his people. He had two choices to make: to hold the tablets of the Covenant of YHVH in his hands and let the nation be destroyed, or to break the tablets and let the nation live. One way or the other, but there was no middle ground.
The great man Mosheh broke the tablets of the Covenant of YHVH and thus had it annulled, rather than to see Israel broken. If the tablets of the Covenant of YHVH were not broken, the nation had to be. He loved his people so much that he chose to nullify the Covenant of YHVH written with His very finger and draw His anger upon himself. This is the man about whom YHVH said this:
Hear, please, My words: If your prophet is of Yehovah, I make Myself known to him in a vision, and I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Mosheh, he is trustworthy in all My house. I speak with him mouth to mouth, and plainly, and not in riddles. And he sees the likeness of Yehovah. (Num 12:6-8)
For what the phrase “And he sees the likeness of Yehovah” mean, the reader is encouraged to read the article “To Foresee Yeshua the Messiah.“
No prophet had arisen in Israel like Mosheh, whom YHVH knew face to face; not until He raised another even greater prophet, as it has been foretold:
I shall raise up for them a Prophet like you out of the midst of their brothers. And I shall put My Words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be, the man who does not listen to My Words which He speaks in My Name, I require it of him. (Deu 18:18-19) See also Act_3:22-26 and Act_7:37.
For what this Prophet has done for us and how we have been delivered from “Egypt” because of the blood of the Lamb, Yehoshua the Messiah, please, read the articles “The Festival of the Unleavened Breads and the Messiah“ and “The Festival of the First-fruits and the Messiah“ from the series “The Appointed Times of YHVH.”
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.