Moses and the Ten Commandments Bible Story Study Guide

Learn God's Holy Standards for Living

Moses and the Ten Commandments
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In the Bible story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, the moral laws of God are solidified into ten great mandates. These commands form the basis of Israel's covenant relationship with God.

The God who had delivered his people from slavery in Egypt now called them to be wholly devoted to him alone. Only through obedience to God’s laws could Israel fulfill its role as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

God gave these laws to Moses and the people on Mount Sinai. They were written by God's own finger on tablets of stone. Still today, for people who love God, the Ten Commandments serve as a guide for living in a way that demonstrates love for God and leads to a deeper experience of God’s love.

Questions for Reflection

While Moses was away with God on the mountain, why did the people beg Aaron for something to worship? The answer is that humans are created to worship. We will either worship God, ourselves, money, fame, pleasure, success, or things. An idol can be anything (or anyone) you worship by giving it more import than God.

Louie Giglio, founder of Passion Conferences and author of The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life, said, "When you follow the trail of your time, energy, and money, you find a throne. And whatever or whoever is on that throne is the object of your worship." Do you have an idol that is keeping the one true God from the center of your throne of worship?

Bible References to Moses and the Ten Commandments

The story of Moses and the Ten Commandments unfolds in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

Story Summary

Shortly after God delivered the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt by crossing the Red Sea, they traveled through the desert to Sinai where they camped in front of Mount Sinai. Also called Mount Horeb, Mount Sinai is a very significant place. It is here that God met and spoke with Moses, telling him why he had rescued Israel from Egypt. God had chosen the people of Israel to be his treasured possession. Israel would be made into a holy nation of priests for God.

One day God called Moses to the top of the mountain. He gave Moses the first part of his new system of laws for the people—the Ten Commandments. These commandments summarized the absolutes of spiritual and moral living that God intended for his people.

God continued to give direction to his people through Moses, including civil and ceremonial laws for managing their lives and their worship. Eventually, God called Moses to the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. This time he gave Moses instructions for building the tabernacle and conducting the offerings.

Tablets of Stone

When God finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him two tablets of stone inscribed by the very finger of God. The tablets contained the Ten Commandments.

Meanwhile, the people of Israel had become impatient while waiting for Moses to return with a message from God. Moses had been gone for so long that the people gave up on him and begged Aaron, Moses' brother, to build them an altar so they could worship.

Aaron collected offerings of gold from all the people and built an idol cast in the shape of a calf. The Israelites held a festival and bowed down to worship the idol. Quickly they had fallen back into the same type of idolatry they were accustomed to in Egypt. They were acting in direct disobedience to God's new commands.

When Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets of stone, his anger burned as he saw the people given over to idolatry. He threw down the two tablets, smashing them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. Then Moses destroyed the golden calf, burning it in the fire.

Moses and God proceeded to discipline the people for their sins. Later God instructed Moses to chisel two new stone tablets, just like the ones God had written with his own finger.

Why the Ten Commandments Are Important to God

The Ten Commandments were spoken to Moses in God's own voice and then later written on two tablets of stone by the very finger of God. They are extremely important to God. After Moses destroyed the tablets inscribed by God, he made Moses write new ones, just like the ones he had written himself.

Moses destroyed the tablets in his anger. His breaking of the tablets was symbolic of the laws of God being broken in the hearts of his people. Moses had righteous anger at the sight of sin. Anger at sin is a sign of spiritual health. It is appropriate to experience righteous anger. However, we should always be careful that it does not lead us to sin.

The Ten Commandments are the first part of God's law system. In essence, they are a summary of the hundreds of laws found in the Old Testament Law. Designed to guide Israel into a life of practical holiness, the Ten Commandments offer basic rules of behavior for spiritual and moral living.

The Hebrew meaning of Ten Commandments is literally "ten words." The Greek translation gives us our word decalogue, referring to the moral law. In general, the first four commandments are directed toward God and our obligations to him. The next six focus on our duties toward other people in the community. Together, the ten serve to create a community devoted to one God that is characterized by social justice.

Today, these laws still instruct us, expose sin, and show us God's standard. According to Romans 2:14-15, the Lord has written his law on the hearts of all men. But, without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are utterly helpless to live up to God's holy standard.

Hebrews 8:10 assures us of a new covenant written in Jesus' blood:

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (NLT).
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Fairchild, Mary. "Moses and the Ten Commandments Bible Story Study Guide." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Fairchild, Mary. (2023, April 5). Moses and the Ten Commandments Bible Story Study Guide. Retrieved from Fairchild, Mary. "Moses and the Ten Commandments Bible Story Study Guide." Learn Religions. (accessed May 29, 2023).