Sorrow and wrath seem to compete for Moses’ heart in “Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law” by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669).

Rembrandt depicts Moses at the moment of his descent from the mountain, when he sees his people worshipping a golden calf. To avert God’s threat to destroy this “stiffnecked people,” Moses smashes the tablets, flings himself to the ground, and fasts for 40 days and 40 nights.

Moses’ intercession with God succeeds; “The Lord gave heed to me,” Moses declares in Deuteronomy 9:19. The intercessor is but one of Moses’ roles portrayed in Deuteronomy. He serves also as mediator of God’s word, as teacher, and as the prophet against whom all others would be measured.