The Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:1-8; 20:1-17)

Three months after fleeing from Egypt, the Israelites came to the Sinai desert. They had just left the land of Rephidim, and camped in front of the mountain. God told Moses to address the house of Jacob and tell the people of Israel that they had seen what he had done to Egypt, and how he had carried the Israelites to himself "on eagles' wings". God said the Israelites would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation if they obeyed him fully and kept his covenant. Moses passed these words on to the elders of the people, and they all agreed that they would do everything the Lord had said.

Moses then received the following commandments from God, and passed them on to the Israelites:

Rules about man's responsibilities towards God:

1. Have no other gods apart from the one true God
Do not make images to worship
Do not take the Lord's name in vain
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy

Rules about people's responsibilities towards each other:

5. Honour your father and mother
Do not kill
Do not commit adultery
Do not steal
Do not bear false witness
Do not covet your neighbour's possessions


  • Four rules about responsibility towards God, six rules about responsibility towards each other.
  • Authority - God starts by reminding the people exactly what he has done for them so far, and how he has rescued them from slavery.
  • Covenant - God is making a new covenant with his people, giving them laws which will enable them to grow closer to him by observing them.
  • Law - God is giving the people a set of rules which they must obey in order to keep their side of the covenant. Many (all?) are relevant today, and dictate how people still live their lives in relationship with each other - both Christians and non Christians.
  • Rules are necessary in order to maintain order and fairness for all.

Contemporary Issues

  • Most/least important commandments.
  • Extra commandments for today's world.
  • Morals in today's world.
  • Are people more selfish and less selfless in the twenty-first century?
  • Are the Ten Commandments still relevant today?



God made a "covenant" with Moses. What is a covenant? Are there any other covenants in the Bible?

Why do you think that God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel, and at this point in their journey?

Which three commandments do you think are the most important today, and why? Give reasons to support your answer.