The story of Moses and the Ten Commandments in
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What Came Before:
While the Israelites were journeying through the desert they had great trouble from want of water. Between the wells of Elim and Mount Sinai, they found no streams
nor springs. Their sheep and men suffered from thirst, and the little children were crying for water. The people came to Moses, and said in great anger: "Give
us water, or we shall die. Why have you brought us up from Egypt to kill us here in the desert?"
And Moses called on God, and said: "Lord, what shall I do to this people? They are almost ready to stone me in their anger. How can I give them water?"
Then God told Moses what to do; and this was what Moses did: He brought the people together before a great rock, and with his rod he struck the rock. Then
out of the rock came forth a stream of water, which ran like a little river through the camp, and gave them plenty of water for themselves and for their flocks.
While they were in camp around this rock at Rephidim the wild people who had their homes in the desert, and were called the Amalekites, made sudden war on
the Israelites. They came down upon them from the mountains, while they were weary with marching, and killed some of the Israelites. Then Moses called out
those of the people who were fit for war, and made a young man named Joshua their leader; and they fought a battle with the Amalekites.
While they were fighting, Moses stood on a rock, where all could see him, and prayed the Lord God to help his people. His hands were stretched out toward
heaven; and while Moses' hands were reaching upward the Israelites were strong, and drove back the enemy. But when Moses' arms fell down, then the enemy drove back the men of Israel.
So Aaron, Moses' brother, and Hur (who is thought to have been Moses' brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Miriam), stood beside Moses, and held
up his hands until the Israelites won the victory, and overcame the men of Amalek...
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"And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,
who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry
of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.
Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded.
For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
2 Corinthians 3:4-18
Moses with the Ten Commandments
Philippe de Champaigne 1648
And God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
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In the third month after the Israelites had left the land of Egypt they came to a great mountain which rises straight up from
the plain, so straight that one can walk up to it and touch it with his hand. This was Mount Sinai; and it was one of a group of mountains
called Horeb, where Moses saw the burning bush, and heard God's voice.
The Israelites made their camp in front of Mount Sinai, and stayed there for many days. And God said to Moses: "Let none of the people go up on the mount, or
come near to touch it. If even one of your cattle or sheep shall touch the mountain it must be killed. This is a holy place, where God will show his
And a few days after this, the people heard the voice as of many trumpets sounding on the top of the mountain. They looked, and saw that the mountain was
covered with clouds and smoke, and lighting was flashing from it, while the thunder rolled and crashed. And the mountain shook and trembled, as though an
earthquake were tearing it in pieces.
The people were filled with alarm. They came out of their tents, and ran back
from the foot of the mountain, and stood far off, trembling with fear. Then God spoke in the hearing of all the people, as with a voice of thunder, and said: "I
am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."
And then God spoke to all the people the words of the Ten Commandments, to which
you have listened many times. The words are these:
Moses Receiving the Tables of Law, Tintoretto
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Moses with the Tables of Law
1. Thou shalt have none other gods but me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the
water under the earth. 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; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
3. 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.
4. Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; 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 man-servant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; 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.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his
ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
Moses Given the Tablets
Gebhard Fugel c. 1900
And all the people heard these words spoken by the Lord God; and they saw the mountain smoking, and the lightning flashing, and they were frightened. They
said to Moses: "Let not God speak to us any more; for the sound of his voice will take away our lives. Let God speak to you, Moses, and do you speak to us
"Fear not," said Moses, "for God has come to you, to speak with you, that you may fear him, and do his will."
And Moses drew near to the mountain, where the clouds and darkness and lightnings were. Then God called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses
went up, and with him was his helper, the young man Joshua. Joshua stayed on the side of the mountain, but Moses went up alone to the top, among the clouds.
And there Moses stayed upon the mountain, alone with God, for forty days, talking with God, and listening to the words which God spoke to him, the laws
for the people of Israel to obey. And God gave to Moses two flat tablets of stone, upon which God had written with his own hand the Ten Commandments.
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