I can answer this question from the perspective of the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), and the denominations that accept his theology.
This answer is extracted from my article, "How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads." For a fuller explanation of these passages about the Ten Commandments, and of the giving of the Ten Commandments in general as it applies to the specific form that the Bible took, please see that article.
Divine tablets vs. human tablets
Here is the significance of the tablets and the writing on the tablets as distilled from Secrets of Heaven (traditionally known by its Latin title, Arcana Coelestia) #10453, by Emanuel Swedenborg:
- The tablets represent the outward form of the Bible. In other words,
they represent its literal meaning, with all of the history, poetry,
and prophecy it offers.
- The writing on the tablets represents the inward form of the Bible,
which is the divine truth it contains. In other words, it represents
the Bible’s deeper, spiritual meaning.
(For more on these two levels of meaning in the Bible, see the article, "Can We Really Believe the Bible?")
After making these points, Swedenborg goes on to offer a fascinating interpretation of the difference between the first set tablets, which were made by God, and the second set of tablets, which were made by Moses but had the same words written on them by God:
There is a secret that has been unknown up to now in the fact that
Moses broke the tablets that were the work of God when he saw the calf
and the dancing, and in the fact that Moses, as commanded by Jehovah,
carved out another set of tablets, on which the same words were then
inscribed, so that the tablets were no longer made by God but by
Moses, though the writing was still God’s writing. The secret is that
the literal meaning of the Bible would have been different if the
Bible had been written among a different culture, or if the particular
culture in which it was written had been different than it actually
was. The literal meaning of the Bible is all about that culture
because that is the culture in which it was written. This is clear
from the stories and prophecies in the Bible. (Secrets of Heaven
Imagine for a moment what the Bible might have been like if instead of being written in ancient Hebrew culture, it had been written in ancient Chinese culture. How different would it have been?
For one thing, dragons wouldn't have gotten such a bad rap! In Chinese culture, dragons are a symbol of strength, power, and good luck. If the Bible had been written in China, there's no way Eve would have been tempted by a serpent--which is later identified as a dragon, and as the devil or Satan (Revelation 12:9; 20:2).
If the Bible had been written in China, instead of being all about ancient Hebrew culture, its stories, prophecies, and poetry would be all about ancient Chinese culture--which has its own unique character.
And yet, being the Word of God, the deeper meaning within those very different outward stories would still be the same.
This is the symbolism of the tablets being carved out by Moses, but the words being written on them by God.
In his encounters with God, Moses represented the whole Israelite nation. He was a Hebrew, and he was the leader of the Hebrew people. Symbolically, when Moses carved out a new set of tablets, this means that the specific outward form of the Bible would be shaped and determined by the particular, unique character of the Hebrew people.
When we read the Bible, that is precisely what we find: stories, prophecies, and poetry that are indelibly stamped with the history and culture of the Jewish people.
In the New Testament we find stories and prophecies indelibly stamped with both Hebrew and Greek culture, salted with a dash of Rome.
But . . . if the Bible is the story of a particular human culture, how can it be the Word of God?
That's where the words written on the tablets by the finger of God come in.
The treasure chest and its treasures
You see, the literal meaning of the Bible--the stories, the prophecy, the poetry--is not the divine truth itself. It is a container for divine truth. It is like a treasure chest containing diamonds, rubies, and gold.
The chest could have been made in any culture. Each culture would have made it differently. From the outside it might look as if it had nothing in common with what we know as the Bible. And yet, if we opened it up to see the deeper meanings within, we would find the same precious diamonds, rubies, and gold of eternal divine truth hidden inside that very different container.
Another way of thinking of it is that the literal meaning of the Bible is like a matrix, and the spiritual meaning is like a gem in the matrix. The matrix itself is a coarse mixture of low-quality minerals. But within that rough matrix lies a beautiful gem worthy of a royal crown. Though the matrix isn't much to look at, it plays an essential role both in the formation of the gem and in preserving and delivering it intact to its eventual proud owner.
The stories and prophecies in the Bible may be a rough mix depicting a culture that was crude and primitive by today's standards. But that rough exterior serves to contain and deliver divine truth to us in a form that we can understand and appreciate.