The Israelites reached Mount Sinai after three long months of travelling in the desert.
They pitched their tents near the mountain and decided to stay there for a while.
It was at Mount Sinai that God gave instructions to the people of Israel through Moses. At the foot of this mountain, Moses built an altar with twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he lit a fire and prayed to God.
God called Moses to the top of the mountain. As Moses went up the mountain, a thick cloud covered it. The ground trembled and there was a dazzling light. To the Israelites it looked like a fire burning on top of the mountain.
God called out, “I, the Lord, am God who is full of compassion and pity, who is not easily angered and who shows great love and faithfulness. I keep my promise for thousands of generations. Obey the laws that I will give you today and I will protect you and your people forever.”
Moses had been with God for forty days and nights. When God finished speaking, he gave Moses two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them. God had inscribed the Commandments on the stone tablets with His own finger.
The first tablet was about the duties of the people towards God. The second tablet had duties of the people towards one another. God made a covenant (an agreement) with Israelites, that till the time they obeyed faithfully the Ten Commandments, He too would be there for them, protecting them from all harm.
Moses thanked God for His trust in him. Then holding the two tablets of God’s Commandments, he descended from the mountain. People saw that his face had become bright and serene for having spoken with God. Moses called them and gave them God’s commandments.
Through the stone tablets, God said, “I am the Lord, your God, who set you free from slavery in Egypt; you will have no other gods before me.” God then commanded to use His name with respect and to invoke it only if necessary. “You shall never take my name in vain,” God uttered.
God created the earth, the sky, the sea and everything in them, in six days, resting on the seventh day. He blessed and declared this day as the Sabbath (a day of religious observance). “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.” It was God’s next commandment.
“Respect your father and your mother so that you may live for a long time in the land that I am giving you.” This was God’s next commandment expressing the importance of honouring one’s parents through one’s words and actions.
In life, it is possible to make serious mistakes; that is why the next commandment stated, “Do not commit murder.” God advised people to be good to everyone, even those who hurt them. God himself would punish their enemies.
The next commandment was for those who were married. God told them to remain faithful in marriage. He wanted people to love their wives or husbands and treat them with respect.
The next commandment declared, “Do not steal.” God told the people that they should not take anything that did not belong to them. However strong the need might be and however small the thing might be to fulfil it, stealing would always be wrong.
The next commandment stated, “Do not accuse anyone falsely.” According to God, it is always better to speak the truth. False testimony, false rumours and gossip can ruin reputation. People should not use deception for revenge or selfish gain.
The last Commandment declared, “Do not desire another man’s house or anything else that he owns.” People should not wish to have things that others have. They must learn to appreciate whatever they have, without comparing their belongings with those of others.
The Israelites promised Moses, “We will do everything that the Lord has said.” The Ten Commandments are the most important teachings of the Bible. God wanted His people to follow them to lead a better and prosperous life.