Exodus 32:19 New International Version

When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.

The tablets contained words written by the finger of God. In a moment of anger, Moses broke them.

Did Moses show disrespect to God's writing? Why did God not reprimand him? What is the significance here?


Sforno on Exodus 32:19

Moses’ anger was aroused over the fact that people rejoiced over the damage to themselves they had caused. We find something parallel in Jeremiah 11,15 כי רעתכי אז תעלזי, ”for you exult in performing your evil deeds.” At this point Moses despaired of the people doing teshuvah before being punished. They were no longer fit to receive the Tablets.

[ https://www.sefaria.org/Exodus.32.19?with=Sforno&lang=bi&aliyot=0 ]

Chizkuni on Exodus 32:19

וישבר אותם תחת ההר, “he shattered them at the foot of the Mountain.” He did so because the letter ט of the Hebrew alphabet did not appear on them even once. The reward for honouring father and mother, i.e. למען ייטב לך, “in order that you may fare well,” appears only on the second set of Tablets (Deuteronomy 5,16). By smashing the first set of Tablets Moses accomplished that the reward for keeping the commandment of honouring one’s parent was engraved on the second set of the Tablets.


Malbim on Exodus 32:19

Moshe initially thought they only made the calf as a substitute for him—because he failed to return when expected—and he was certain they would repent the moment they saw him. That is why he did not break the Tablets immediately. But then when they continued their revelry despite his arrival, he realized that their intention was to rebel against God.


  • A wider source of references are needed...this answer does not follow a sound reference sourcing practise and therefore makes assumptions that are not Biblical. – Adam Feb 26 at 20:48
  • 1
    @Adam - Must all answers come from orthodox source practitioners? – חִידָה Feb 26 at 21:03

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