Background Reading: Exodus 17:8-16; 18; 19; 20; Deuteronomy 5

Exodus 19:1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.

2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.

3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;

4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.

5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.

8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

9 And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD.

10 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,

11 And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.

12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:

13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.

14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.

15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.

16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.

18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.

19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.

Exodus 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying,

2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

MEMORY VERSE: The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. —Deuteronomy 33:2

CENTRAL THOUGHT: After a safe deliverance from the attack of the Amalekites in Rephidim and a visit from Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, and Moses’ wife and two sons, God led the children of Israel to Mount Sinai, where, after definite instructions for preparation, He gave the Ten Commandments to them.


Exodus 19:1 “In the third month”: about fifty days after the exodus from Egypt God gave the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 19:4 “I bare you on eagles’ wings”: an expression of the strength, care and tenderness of God’s deliverance from Egypt. “And brought you unto myself”: the journey from Egypt to Sinai, the place where God revealed Himself to them; or possibly, the whole journey from the idolatry of Egypt to the true worship of Jehovah.

Exodus 19:5 “Peculiar treasure”: from a Hebrew root meaning to acquire. Of Israel it is said that God “redeemed” them or “purchased” them and therefore has the right to claim them for His own.

Exodus 19:13 “There shall not an hand touch it”: rather, There shall not an hand touch him, meaning, that if a person or animal broke through the boundary, another person would not be allowed to go beyond the bounds and apprehend him; instead, he would be stoned or shot with an arrow.

Exodus 19:13 and 19: “Trumpet”: a long, curved wind instrument shaped like a horn; a ram’s horn.

Exodus 20:5 “A jealous God”: demanding exclusive service; one who will not see His glory given to another nor allow a rival. “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children”: “God again manifestly does by the laws which obtain in his moral universe, entail on children many consequences of their parents’ ill-doing—as the diseases which arise from profligacy or intemperance, the poverty which is the result of idleness or extravagance, the ignorance and evil habits which are the fruit of a neglected education. It is this sort of visitation which is intended here. The children and grandchildren of idolaters would start in life under disadvantages. The vicious lives of their parents would have sown in them the seeds both of physical and moral evil. They would commonly be brought up in wrong courses, have their moral sense early perverted, and so suffer for their parents’ faults. It would be difficult for them to rise out of their unhappy condition. Still, ‘each would bear his own iniquity.’ Each would ‘be judged by that he had, not by that he had not.’ An all-wise God would, in the final award, make allowance for the disadvantages of birth and inherited disposition, and would assign to each that position to which his own conduct—his struggles, efforts, endeavours after right—entitled him. The visitation intended consists in temporal disadvantages, not in the final award of happiness or misery” (Pulpit Commentary).


As the huge company of men, women and children marched onward toward Sinai, those who were weak and sick, the elderly, and the very young, who most likely occupied the back part of the caravan were suddenly attacked by the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). In the battle that ensued, Moses stood at the top of the hill and held up his rod over the defending Israelite army led by Joshua. When he grew weary, Aaron and Hur seated him on a stone and each held up his arms steadily until sundown and the army of Amalek was defeated. A memorial book was written for the occasion and an altar was erected which was named Jehovah-nissi, “The Lord our Banner/Victory.”

The tale of Israel’s trials and triumphs spread to where Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, lived and he decided to take Moses’ wife, Zipporah and their two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, back to join Moses (Exodus 18). They built an altar of worship together, offering sacrifices and enjoying a fellowship feast. Jethro noticed that Moses was exhausted from dealing with the legal matters, quarrels and problems from such a large company of people. Before he left he helped establish a representative type of judicial system, which greatly relieved Moses’ burdens.

Now they were in the desert of Sinai, camped before the mountain. God called Moses up to the mountain and gave him instructions; Moses then instructed the elders, who carried the message to the people. The people gave consent to God’s words, “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.” In Deuteronomy 5, Moses reminded the congregation of what God had said and what they had answered, and how God had responded with this heartfelt cry: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” All of God’s desire for His people, His commandments and His decisions centered on their wellbeing!

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck


  1. Summarize the events since the Israelites left Egypt.
  2. About how many days were between Egypt and Sinai?
  3. How did God describe His dealings with His people?
  4. List the ten commandments.
  5. From Deuteronomy 5:29, state God’s longing which revealed His intention behind the laws He gave them.


“The promulgation of the Ten Commandments stands out as the most notable event in all the wilderness sojourn of Israel. There was no greater day in history before the coming of the Son of God into the world.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

The Jewish feast of Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Passover, commemorated the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai. A comparison may be made between the giving of the law at Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Sinai was the establishment of the law covenant between Jehovah and His chosen people, called by Stephen the “church in the wilderness.” Pentecost was the establishment of the new covenant of grace between Christ and the New Testament church. In each there was tempestuous wind and fire.

The memory verse picks up on the idea of fire. “From his right hand went a fiery law for them.” Months before, when Moses had been at this very place in the desert, God had called to him out of a fiery bush. In Hebrews 12:29 God is said to be a “consuming fire.” In the vision Daniel had of the throne of God, it was “like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him” (Daniel 7:9-10). Fire has a fearful, consuming quality, yes; however, fire also has beneficial qualities such as warmth, energy and light. When I consider the intent of this fiery law that went forth from Him—the wellbeing of mankind—I begin to see the fire as the fire of Divine love. D. S. Warner, in his song, “Fire in the Soul” (ELS #222), writes, “Yes, ‘tis love, ‘tis burning love divine, Filling all my soul’s desire, Oh, how sweet its glories ever shine! Now I feel the glowing fire.” Indeed, Jesus and the New Testament writers apply the fulfillment of all of the Mosaic law to the law of love—love to God and love to man (Matthew 22:40; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14).

There are many other lessons and applications in this story which we do not have time to discuss. Each of the commandments has great spiritual meaning and much could be said of the way Jesus applied them to the heart.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck


Laws, though restrictive in nature, are the true essence of freedom. Man has never existed without them. Adam was given one law, that had he obeyed, would have ensured his liberty and that of his offspring. The world would be a different place today had he adhered to the one restriction God commanded of him.

The breaking of that one law created the necessity for all subsequent laws. Self-governance was the initial objective. It remains the objective. The commandments that God gave on Mt Sinai were pointed and personal: thou shalt…. Though He speaks to all Israel collectively, it is a message to each one of them individually and to us as well.

The message is simple: thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and… thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. That love is manifested by self-restraint and self-regulation. It constrains us to stop where our liberty encroaches on the rights and freedoms of our fellowman. It penetrates our private thoughts and uncovers any seed of dishonesty, covetousness or anything else that may negatively impact our brother. It forces us to examine our reverence for God and our relationship with Him. Do we have the proper respect for God? Is the dominant place in our heart reserved for Him alone or is there a rival? Our actions reveal our answers.

The law gives us a glimpse into the character of the Lawgiver and the expectations He has of us. For any nation to function effectively there must be laws that govern them. These commands were not just given to, and for the nation of Israel, they are for the benefit of every nation. They continue to be just as vitally important today as when they were given to Moses on Mt Sinai.

Laws are inherent to liberty; without them there can be no freedom.

—Bro. Darrell Johnson