Moses is shown descending from Mount Sinai bearing the tablets of stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Angels hover around him holding a white lily, a fasces, a serpent biting its own tail and a cloud. The people of Israel kneel down reverently before God’s law.
Bol’s picture shows the second occasion when Moses descended from Mount Sinai bearing the Ten Commandments. The first time, Moses had smashed the tablets in his fury at the godless behaviour of the people of Israel. This time, the people show their reverence for God and respect for the prophet with his shining face. The angels surrounding Moses carry a variety of symbols. The white lily stands for purity and chastity, the fasces (a bundle of rods from which an axe protrudes) for justice and unity, the circular snake for eternity and the cloud for the Holy Ghost. This painting is meant to exhort the sheriff and magistrates to observe and enforce God’s holy laws.
In the early 19th century, during the reigns of King Louis Napoleon and the earliest sovereigns of the House of Orange, this painting was concealed by a large canopy, in front of which was a dais supporting the thrones of the king and queen.