32:16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
1 sn The expression “the finger of God” has come up before in the book, in the plagues (Exod 8:15) to express that it was a demonstration of the power and authority of God. So here too the commandments given to Moses on stone tablets came from God. It too is a bold anthropomorphism; to attribute such a material action to Yahweh would have been thought provoking to say the least. But by using “God” and by stating it in an obviously figurative way, balance is maintained. Since no one writes with one finger, the expression simply says that the Law came directly from God.
2 sn The restoration of the faltering community continues in this chapter. First, Moses is instructed to make new tablets and take them to the mountain (1-4). Then, through the promised theophany God proclaims his moral character (5-8). Moses responds with the reiteration of the intercession (8), and God responds with the renewal of the covenant (10-28). To put these into expository form, as principles, the chapter would run as follows: I. God provides for spiritual renewal (1-4), II. God reminds people of his moral standard (5-9), III. God renews his covenant promises and stipulations (10-28).
3 tn The imperative is followed by the preposition with a suffix expressing the ethical dative; it strengthens the instruction for Moses. Interestingly, the verb “cut out, chisel, hew,” is the same verb from which the word for a “graven image” is derived – פָּסַל (pasal).
4 tn The perfect tense with vav consecutive makes the value of this verb equal to an imperfect tense, probably a simple future here.
sn Nothing is said of how God was going to write on these stone tablets at this point, but in the end it is Moses who wrote the words. This is not considered a contradiction, since God is often credited with things he has people do in his place. There is great symbolism in this command – if ever a command said far more than it actually said, this is it. The instruction means that the covenant had been renewed, or was going to be renewed, and that the sanctuary with the tablets in the ark at its center would be built (see Deut 10:1). The first time Moses went up he was empty-handed; when he came down he smashed the tablets because of the Israelites’ sin. Now the people would see him go up with empty tablets and be uncertain whether he would come back with the tablets inscribed again (B. Jacob, Exodus, 977-78).