|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
32:15-20 What a change it is, to come down from the mount of communion with God, to converse with a wicked world. In God we see nothing but what is pure and pleasing; in the world nothing but what is sinful and provoking. That it might appear an idol is nothing in the world, Moses ground the calf to dust. Mixing this powder with their drink, signified that the backslider in heart should be filled with his own ways.
Verse 15-19. - MOSES BREAKS THE TWO TABLES. The entire conference between God and Moses being now ended, Moses hastened to descend from the mount, and interpose in the crisis that had arisen, he took carefully the two tables of stone, which he had received, in his two hands (Deuteronomy 9:15), and set out on his return to the camp. On the way, he fell in with Joshua, who must have been on the watch for his descent, and the two proceeded together. When a certain portion of the distance had been traversed, the sounds of the festivity which was going on in the camp reached their ears; and Joshua, mistaking the nature of the shouts, suggested that fighting was in progress (ver. 17). Moses, however, better instructed in the actual nature of the proceedings (vers. 7, 8), caught their character more correctly, and declared that what he heard was nothing but shouting (ver. 18). Soon afterwards, the camp came into sight - a disorderly crowd, half stripped of their garments (ver. 25), was singing choruses and dancing round the figure which Aaron had cast - the sights and sounds were those of a dissolute orgy - Moses was struck with horror and in the frenzy of his indignation, dashed the two tables to the ground and broke them into fragments (ver. 19). The people, he felt, were utterly unworthy of the holy laws which he had brought them - they had "altogether gone out of the way" - they had become "abominable" - at the moment he perhaps despaired of obtaining mercy for them, and expected their entire destruction. God had not as yet told him whether he would "turn from his fierce wrath," or not. Verse 15. - The two tables... were in his hand. In Deuteronomy 9:15, using greater particularity, Moses says that they were "in his two hands." One was in each hand probably. Written on both their sides. This is the case generally with Assyrian and Babylonian tablets, but not with Egyptian ones, which are moreover scarcely found at this early date. Here we seem to have again an indication that some of the Israelitic civilisation had come to them from "Ur of the Chaldees."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Moses turned, and went down from the mount,.... He turned himself from God, with whom he had been conversing forty days; his back was to the ascent of the mount, and he turned himself in order to go down; or "he looked" (g), as a man considers what is to be done, as Aben Ezra observes, and he saw that he was obliged to go down in haste:
and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand; or hands, as in Exodus 32:19 for they were, perhaps, as much as he could carry in both hands, being of stone, as in Exodus 31:18 on which was written the law, the "testimony" of the will of God with respect to what was to be done or not done:
the letters were written on both their sides, on the one side and on the other were they written; some think that the engraving of the letters was such, that it went through the stones, and in a miraculous manner the letters and lines were in a regular order, and might be read on the other sides; to which Jarchi seems to incline, saying, the letters might be read, and it was a work of wonders; others think that the letters were written both within and without, like Ezekiel's book of woes; that the same that was within side was written without, that so, when held up, they might be read by those that stood before and those that stood behind; but rather so it was that the whole was written within, some of the commands on the right, and some on the left, and so the tables might be clapped together as a book is folded.
(g) "et aspexit", Pagninus.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
15-18. Moses turned, and went down from the mount—The plain, Er-Raheh, is not visible from the top of Jebel Musa, nor can the mount be descended on the side towards that valley; hence Moses and his companion, who on duty had patiently waited his return in the hollow of the mountain's brow, heard the shouting some time before they actually saw the camp.
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