The Finger of God

Well, here I am again, feeling guilty because it’s been so long since I’ve regularly posted. I’ve been working on a book project for a while and so that’s taken up much of my blog-writing time. So here’s another Q&A. I’m thinking I may do this (posting theological Q&A’s) semi-regularly to keep material forthcoming.

The following response is in reply to a question of what potentially sounds like a biblical contradiction.

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The question you raised is a good one. Did God write the second set of 10 Commandments after Moses threw down and broke the first pair? We know that the first pair of tablets were written by God’s finger (Ex. 31:18), and in Ex. 34:1 God said he would write the second set of tablets. Yet later in the chapter we read: “The Lord said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. He was there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he [Moses] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (Ex. 34:27-28).

So the question can sincerely be asked whether Moses or God wrote the second set of tablets. Here is an opportunity to think through the text and apply some theological and interpretative principles to this tough question. Exactly what does the finger of God mean? Of course, usually our first instinct is to take the passage literally, but upon second thought we realize that the Bible teaches that God is a spirit and does not have a body like a man (Jn. 4). He does not literally have fingers, arms, legs, etc. This is precisely why the incarnation is such a big deal. In the incarnation the second person of the Trinity assumes a human body (along with arms, legs, eyes, etc.), something the divine nature does not possess.

Elsewhere in the Bible where the term “finger of God” is used (including the passages under discussion) we see that God creates with his finger (Ps 8:3 See also Isa 48:13; Isa 64:8), he writes the law (Ex 31:18, Ex 24:12; Ex 32:16; Ex 34:1), he pronounces judgment (Dan 5:5; 24-28), he sends plagues (Ex 8:19), and in Jesus he exorcised evil spirits (Lk 11:20). So I believe taking all of this biblical data into consideration it is safe to say that “the finger of God” is a figure of speech which gives expression to God’s lordship in his creative power and authority over his creation.

This lordship is often expressed through the use of means. So, for example, though we would most certainly affirm that the parting of the Red Sea was a miracle, we should also recognize that, by God’s design, it was accomplished by natural means (Exodus 14:21, where God dried up a portion of the Red Sea by sending “a strong east wind.”). All that to say it is reasonable to say looking at the one passage that says God wrote the second set of Commandments himself, and the second passage that says Moses wrote it and to conclude that God wrote them through the means or agency or Moses. The “finger of God” (his authority, power, and dominion) was exercised through his divinely appointed agent and spokesman, the prophet Moses. In this sense the answer is extremely close to the biblical doctrine of inspiration.

The tablets were 100% the written words of God, and also 100% the written words of Moses.

I certainly pray you have this helpful.

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Posted on April 6, 2016, in Christian Worldview and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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