The Ten Commandments were given to the redeemed. The Remember that the Ten Commandments were given to Israel after they had been delivered out of Egypt, not before. They were not a code given for Israel to earn there way out of slavery; these commandments were given to them as the redeemed people of God. The Lord reminds them of this in the very preface to the Ten commandments, found in Exodus 20:1 which states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
Many Christians tend to have an uneasy relationship with God’s law. Often, wrong perceptions interfere with a clear understanding about the Ten Commandments. To help, here are ten brief lessons regarding the Decalogue.
Lesson 1: The Ten Commandments were given to the redeemed. The Remember that the Ten Commandments were given to Israel after they had been delivered out of Egypt, not before. They were not a code given for Israel to earn there way out of slavery; these commandments were given to them as the redeemed people of God. The Lord reminds them of this in the very preface to the Ten commandments, found in Exodus 20:1 which states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
Lesson 2: The Lord made a covenant with Israel based on the Ten Commandments. When Moses came down off Mt. Sinai with the stone tables of God’s law as recorded in Exodus 24, he built an altar before the people. He then took the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled half of it on the altar. After reading the “book of the covenant”, i.e. the Ten Commandments and other laws, the people responded they would obey his word. Then Moses took the other half of the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Ex. 24:8). This covenant act showed not only that the people were bound by blood to obey the law or suffer its judgments, but with the blood’s placement on the altar that God himself was willing to suffer to fulfill the covenant.
Lesson 3: Two copies of the Ten Commandments were given to Moses. Everyone knows that Moses had two tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments written on them when he came down from Sinai. Most portrayals of this scene depict the first four or five commandments written on the first tablet and the remainder on the second one. Yet many scholars believe that the two tablets were actually two copies of the Ten Commandments. The reason for this is that we know the tablets “were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written” (Ex. 32:15). Since they were called the “two tablets of the testimony” (Ex. 31:18), most likely the Lord was giving two copies of this covenant agreement as was common in ancient times. (If so, what would you have to assume about the typical picture accompanying this article?) This practice is similar to today when we often have two or more copies of important contracts or legal documents for both parties.
Lesson 4: The Ten Commandments are listed twice in the Bible. So important were the Ten Words of Moses that the Lord had them repeated in the history of Israel and recorded such in the Scriptures. You can find them both in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The Lord gave them to Israel within approximately a year after they came out of Egypt, then repeated them almost 40 years later when Israel was about to go into the Promised Land. Interestingly, the book of Deuteronomy literally means “the second (giving of the) law.” This repetition was necessary as most of the first generation of Israel had perished in the wilderness, and so Moses recounts their history, reviews God’s law, and prepares them for entrance into the land.
Lesson 5: Copies of the Ten Commandments were placed in the ark of the covenant. As God’s Law, the Ten Commandments were written on stone to represent their permanent, binding nature. God’s Law “endures forever” (Ps. 19:9). This truth was further emphasized as the Lord instructed Moses to place the tablets of the law in the ark of the covenant, which was then placed in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:16, 40:20; Heb. 9:4). The ark, with its mercy seat on the top, represented God’s rule as the gracious king over his people. He gave them the law summarized in the Ten Commandments to bless and protect them as the ruler of his people.