Feast upon the Word Blog

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“The Commandments Written in Your Hearts”; Literary Allusion in Mosiah 13:11?

Posted by BrianJ on May 20, 2012

When chastening the priests of Noah, Abinadi makes an accusation that he may have intended as a literary allusion to Exodus 31:18

And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts; I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives. (Mosiah 13:11)

How are the commandments written in our hearts? What must I do to write them there? Or perhaps I cannot write them. Consider the history of writing commandments—in fact, the Ten Commandments that Abinadi was right in the middle of reciting:

And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)

Note that Moses did not receive the Commandments by “attentively listening and diligently taking notes” or such. The Commandments were not dictated by God and written by Moses; they were written by God. Thus, Abinadi’s choice of wording is important. He does not explicitly identify the individual as the writer in his own heart; i.e., “I perceive that you have not written them in your hearts.” Rather in his accusation the writer of the commandments is ambiguous. In the context though, it seems he had God in mind, just as God was the writer in Moses’ day.

And whether or not Abinadi intended this allusion, there is some evidence that Alma (who recorded this scene) understood it along these lines, for Alma explicitly compares Abinadi to Moses:

Now it came to pass after Abinadi had spoken these words that the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord. (Mosiah 13:5)


Side note: it is interesting that the phrase is “in your hearts” instead of “upon your hearts,” since the latter is easier to envision. Not sure if it really is significant though.

4 Responses to ““The Commandments Written in Your Hearts”; Literary Allusion in Mosiah 13:11?”

  1. Robert C. said

    Brian, nice thoughts. You might be interested in some related thoughts we posted on the wiki some time ago when studying 2 Cor 3….

  2. joespencer said

    Yes, nice thoughts. I do a lot with the Moses/Abinadi comparison toward the end of my book, but I didn’t look at this detail. This is helpful.

  3. This particular blog, “The Commandments Written in Your Hearts; Literary Allusion in Mosiah 13:11?

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