The Ten Commandments and God's Law to Moses

Pharaoh Oppresses the Descendants of Jacob (Israel)

Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, said to his people, "Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous." The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, “If it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” (Exodus 1)

The Birth of Moses

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She hid him for three months. Then she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then the baby's sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, “drawn out of the water.” (Exodus 2:1-10).

Moses in a Dilemma

One day, after Moses had grown up, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, so killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. When the girls returned to their father, They said “An Egyptian rescued us." “And where is he?” he asked his daughters. “Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom. During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Exodus 2)

Q : Why do you think Moses (before God's call to him) killed the Egyptian who was fighting with Moses' Israelite brother?

He must have wanted to defend his Israelite brother against his Egyptian master.

God's Call to Moses

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When God saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” God said, “I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, so now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” And God said, “You and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to God.’" Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?" Then God said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. God said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then God said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. Then God said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. “Now put it back into your cloak,” God said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. "If they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. It will become blood.”

Moses said to God, “I am slow of speech and tongue.” God said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Is it not I, God? Now go! What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do." So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt and performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that God was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped. (Exodus 3&4)

Q : What do we learn from God supporting Moses with miracles in front of Pharaoh, even when he knew that Pharaoh would not change his mind?

We learn that God is generous in how he deals with people, whether they appreciate Him or not.

Pharaoh Refuses to Let the Israelites Go

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what God says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is God, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know God and I will not let Israel go. Why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work! You are stopping them from working. Perform a miracle!" So Moses and Aaron did just as God commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as God had said. (Exodus 5&6, 7:6-13)

The Ten Plagues

1- Water turns to blood:

Then God said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars.'” Moses and Aaron did just as God had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as God had said. Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river. (Exodus 7:14-24)

2- Frogs even in beds:

Then God said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to God to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to God.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like God." And God did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen, just as God had said. (Exodus 8:1-15)

3- The Tormenting Gnats:

Then God said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” They did this, so gnats came upon men and animals of Egypt. But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen. (Exodus 8:16-19)

4- The Disgusting Flies:

Then God said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the water and say to him, ‘This is what God says: "Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, God, am in this land.'" And God did this.

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to God here in the land.” But Moses said, “That would not be right. If we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? We must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to God, as he commands us.” Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to God in the desert, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.” Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to God, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only be sure that Pharaoh does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to God.” Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to God, and God did what Moses asked: The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go. (Exodus 8:20-32)

5- The Deadening Plague:

Then God said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what God, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of God will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats.'" God set a time and said, “Tomorrow God will do this in the land.” And the next day God did it: Yet Pharaoh's heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go. (Exodus 9:1-7)

6- The Affliction of Boils:

Then God said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land.” So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as God had said to Moses. (Exodus 9:8-12)

7- The Hailstorm:

Then God said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what God says: You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. Everything you have in the field, they will die.’” Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of God hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. Then God said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall." When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, God sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So God rained hail. Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “God is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to God, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.” Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to God. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is God’s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear God.” Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward God; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh didn't let the Israelites go. (Exodus 9:13-35)

8- The devouring locusts:

Then God said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh". So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what God says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. They will fill your houses and those of all your officials.'" Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship God their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” Then Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. “Go, worship God,” he said. “But just who will be going?” Moses answered, “We will go with our young and old, with our sons and daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to God.” Pharaoh said, “No! Have only the men go; and worship God, since that’s what you have been asking for.” Then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence. And God said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts will swarm over the land." So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and God made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against God and against you. Now forgive my sin once more and pray to God to take this deadly plague away from me.” Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to God. And God changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. But God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go. (Exodus 10:1-20)

9- The pitch darkness:

Then God said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over." So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place. Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship God. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” But Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to God. Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship God.” Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” “Just as you say,” Moses replied, “I will never appear before you again.” (Exodus 10:21-29)

But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he refused to let the Israelites go until the tenth terrible plague.

10- The Death of all the first-born:

Now God had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here.” (God made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.) So Moses said, “This is what God says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. When God goes through the land, he will see the blood, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

At midnight God struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials got up during the night, and there was loud wailing, for there was not a house without someone dead. During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship God as you have requested." (Exodus 11, 12:1-33)

Pharaoh & his Army Chase the Israelites

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The Israelites looked up, and they were terrified and cried out to God. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”. Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance God will bring you today. God will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:1-14)

Q : Why was Pharaoh persistent in keeping hold of the Israelites in spite of all the plagues that God brought on him and his people?

Because he wanted to preserve his honour by not submitting to the request of his inferior slaves.

God Rescues the People

Then God said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground." Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night God drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, so the water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. So the people feared God and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. (Exodus 14:15-31)

Q : How did Moses liberate his people from Pharaoh?

By listening to God's instructions to cross the sea through a dry path, in the very place where Pharaoh and his chariots later sank, when they mistakenly thought that they could follow the same way.

God's Glory Seen on Mount Sinai

After the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. Then Moses went up to God, and God called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.'" The people all responded together, “We will do everything God has said.” God said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you. Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes, because on that day God will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.'"

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because God descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Exodus 19, 20:1-20)

Q : Why did Moses deserve to be "God's converser"?

Because he listened to God's Word and responded to His will.

The Law

When God finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)

A- The Ten Commandments

(The Moral Law)

1- You shall have no other gods before me.

2- You shall not make for yourself an idol. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.

3- You shall not misuse the name of God, for God will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4- Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to God. On it you shall not do any work. For in six days God made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.

5- Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land God is giving you.

6- You shall not murder.

7- You shall not commit adultery.

8- You shall not steal.

9- You shall not give false testimony.

10- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:1-17)

Q : Do you think that there is anyone who has followed God's law and instructions fully?

Surely not. The Scripture tells us that no-one is righteous by nature except God.

B- Violations of the Law & Punishment

(The Civil Law)

If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death. However, if he does not do it intentionally, he is to flee to a place I will designate. Anyone who attacks his father or his mother must be put to death. Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death. Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death. If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished. If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death. If a man uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit must pay for the loss; he must pay its owner, and the dead animal will be his. If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword. If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people. Do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs. Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness. If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see. Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt. (Exodus 21-23:9)

Q : What do you know about God's law to Moses?

It was an integrated law, containing clear instructions for : 1-the moral law (Ten Commandments) 2- the civil law 3- the ceremonial law.

C- Ceremonial Festivals & Rest Times

For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.

Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods. Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me:

1- Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

2- Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.

3- Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.

Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign God. Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast. The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning. Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of God. Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 23:10-19)

Q : Summarise the instructions of the law that you follow and its sources.

(To be answered by the reader)

Instructions for Building the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle for Worship

God said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. Have them make a chest of acacia wood. Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen. Make upright frames of acacia wood for the tabernacle. Build an altar of acacia wood. Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons. Consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests. Make an altar so that Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning. Once a year Aaron shall make atonement. It must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering. And make sacred anointing oil, to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, ..(Exodus 25-30)

Q : What do we learn from God instructing Moses to sacrifice animals?

We learn that without sacrifice there is no forgiveness for people anywhere and through all ages. That's like the sacrifice of the lamb that ransomed the son of Abraham. GREAT is the God our Saviour.

The Worship of the Golden Calf

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf. Then God said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. My anger may burn against them and I may destroy them." But Moses sought the favor of God his God. Then he turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. And that day about three thousand of the people died. The next day Moses went back to God. God said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book." And God struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf. (Exodus 32)

God Renews his Covenant to Moses

Then God said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’" As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while God spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then God said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke." So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as God had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. (33, 34:1-4)

God's Promise to those who Believe in Him

God said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan." So at God’s command Moses sent them out. At the end of forty days they returned and gave Moses this account: “It does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large." Then Caleb said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are. And we saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “Why is God bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh said to the entire Israelite assembly, “Only do not rebel against God. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but God is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. (Numbers 13, 14:1-10)

Punishment for Not Trusting God

God said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. In this desert your bodies will fall. Not one of you will enter the land, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert." (Numbers 14:10-45)

Q : What was the reason for the Israelites' rebellion after Moses had liberated them from Pharaoh?

They sinned by holding firm to what they used to know, not trusting God's provision which gives better life.

God Provides for them in the Desert

1- Fed with Manna & Quail for 40 years:

The whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by God’s hand in Egypt! You have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then God said to Moses, “At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am God.” That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning when the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. Moses said to them, “It is the bread God has given you to eat." The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. (Exodus 16)

2- Provided with water from the rock:

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “Why did you bring God’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” God said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from God’s presence, just as he commanded him. Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But God said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20:1-13)

3- Delivered from the deadly serpents:

They spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “We detest this miserable food!” Then God sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against God and against you. Pray that God will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. God said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)

Q : How can we escape God's anger and take refuge in His mercy when He is the one and only just God?

We escape God's wrath by accepting His rescue of us, even if His way of rescue conflicts with our human logic.

4- Victory over their enemies:

Israel sent messengers to say to Sihon king of the Amorites: “Let us pass through your country. We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the king’s highway until we have passed through your territory.” But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the desert against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel. Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified. Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding settlements. (Numbers 21:21-25)

Moses' Prophecy

God said to me: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, must be put to death. Do not be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:15-22)

Moses Addresses the New Generation

1- Urging them to obey God's Commandments:

"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For God is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Deuteronomy 30:11-20)

Q : Were the Israelites destined to sin? What about us?

The Israelites had the free choice whether to sin against God or not, exactly like everyone through all ages. This is why God punishes all who do not accept His grace, for He graciously provided for everyone to be liberated from sin and from slavery to evil.
Christ said that He came so that we would have better and eternal life.

2- Encouraging them to trust God:

Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. God has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as God said. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that God swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. God himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:1-8)

3- Pronouncing God's blessing:

This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death. He said: “God came from Sinai, and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones, from the south, from his mountain slopes. Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?" (Deuteronomy 33:1,2,29)

Moses' Death

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo across from Jericho. And Moses the servant of God died there, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. (Deuteronomy 34:1-8)

Moses' Successor

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what God had commanded Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:9)

(And you can read in the book of Joshua about the arrival of the nation to the place where the Almighty God led them.)
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