“Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you. I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin: Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness. Yet they are thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power and by thy stretched out arm.” (Deuteronomy 9:25-29)
Just forty days after agreeing to obey God and worship only him, Israel had made the golden calf and begun to worship it. Angered by their perfidy, God offered to kill the whole bunch and start over with Moses’ family. Moses now recounts his intercessory prayer in an effort to drive home the necessity of obeying God.
Moses’ did not ask God to save them because they were good people. They weren’t. They were stubborn, rebellious, and wicked. Moses asked God to overlook that, and consider testimony to the peoples around them. While he would still fulfill his promise by starting over with Moses, the Egyptians and others would believe that God had broken his promise and just took them out to destroy them. It would appear that continuing in sin was better than turning to God. Only by finishing what he started despite their sin would the other nations be encouraged to serve God.
The focus of Moses’ prayer was that God get the glory rather than that the people be spared. It is an excellent example of the truly spiritual prayer, acknowledging that people don’t deserve what we are asking God to do, but that he be glorified in what we ask for. I John 5:14-15 promises, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
“At that time the LORD said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark.” (Deuteronomy 10:1-2)
In response to Moses’ prayer, God agreed to rewrite the two tablets of stone. To protect them, they were to be placed in a box or ark.
“And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me. And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me.” (Deuteronomy 10:3-5)
God had given the ten commandments as the basic principles by which Israel was to be governed, much like our Constitution. The two tables of stone provided a permanent record of those principles. Moses received the new copy, and placed it into the Ark of the Covenant as commanded. They still had that copy available.
“And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth of the children of Jaakan to Mosera: there Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest's office in his stead. From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbath, a land of rivers of waters.” (Deuteronomy 10:6-7)
It is believed that Jotbath is the area known as Kadesh in Hebrew and the there are several streams in the area. Different groups called the same place different names, and the use of a different name indicates a different writer recording the account.
“At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day. Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him.” (Deuteronomy 10:8-9)
As priests, it was necessary that the Levites be readily available to all the population. Consequently, they were never given a country of their own, but towns and cities in each of the other tribes lands. It also fulfilled Jacob’s blessing is making it impossible for Simeon and Levi to again unite for evil.
“And I stayed in the mount, according to the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also, and the LORD would not destroy thee. And the LORD said unto me, Arise, take thy journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give unto them.” (Deuteronomy 10:10-11)
The story differs slightly from the account in Exodus and Numbers, but the basic facts are the same. Such minor discrepancies are to be expected since Moses is recounting from memory what happened forty years before. In fact, the absence of such discrepancies would imply the account was fabricated since human memory is seldom perfect. At least one scholar has speculated that Eleazar may have been the scribe recording Moses’ teaching in Deuteronomy. It is clear that Moses did not write the last chapter and despite Jewish tradition, the statements about Joshua imply it was not Joshua.