Moses and the Ten Commandments

(from the
Book of Exodus)

I’m going to tell you the story of a man named Moses. He lived a long, long, long time ago. We aren’t sure when, but it may have been almost 4,000 years ago. He was born to a Jewish woman, in a country called Egypt. When Moses was born, Jewish people were held as slaves by Egyptians. Sadly, around the world, over the thousands and thousands of years, there have been many times and many places where one group of people held another group of people as slaves. And, when Moses was born, Egyptians were holding Jewish people as slaves.

by Edward-Poynte

There was a powerful ruler in Egypt, a king. He was called “Pharaoh.” Pharaoh decided that he wanted all Jewish baby boys to be killed. Moses’ mother wanted to give Moses a chance to live. She put baby Moses inside a basket, and she put the basket into the Nile River and let it float away. She prayed that her baby would be saved.

by Alexey Vasilievich Tyranov

Pharaoh had a daughter, a princess, who was near the river. The princess saw the basket, and reached out her arm, and grabbed the basket from the river. She found baby Moses and saved him. Because of that, Moses grew up in the Pharaoh’s house. Moses grew up with wealth and privilege.

by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

But Moses knew that he was Jewish.

When Moses was a young man, he saw an Egyptian slave master hurt a Jewish slave. Moses did a bad thing: He hit the slave master, and the slave master died. Moses was sentenced to death, but he escaped.

by James Tissot

Moses ran into the countryside where he found shepherds living. He became a shepherd, and he married the daughter of a shepherd. For many years, Moses was a shepherd.
God saw Moses be kind and gentle to the sheep he cared for, and God decided that Moses would be the person to lead the Jewish people out of slavery.

God appeared to Moses in the form of a bush that was burning, but the bush was not burning up even though the bush was on fire. Moses walked toward the bush to learn how a bush could burn but not burn up, and Moses heard God’s voice. God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that the Jewish people be released from slavery.

by Gebhard Fugel

Moses returned to Egypt and told Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” But Pharaoh ignored Moses’ demand. Because of that, God caused some very bad things to happen to the Egyptian people, to try to convince Pharaoh to free the Jewish people from slavery. The bad things happened over the time of about one year. The Bible calls the the bad things that happened “plagues”:
  • First, the river turned to blood.
  • Then frogs appeared and covered all land and entered all houses.
  • Then gnats covered everything and everyone.
  • Next, swarms of flies appeared and covered the earth.
  • Then disease came and killed most of the horses, and donkeys, and camels, and sheep that were owned by the Egyptians.
  • Next, painful boils appeared on the skin of Egyptians.
  • Then there was a hail storm so bad that the hail destroyed fields and trees and animals and plants.
  • Then giant swarms of locusts came and ate all the food crops of the Egyptians.
  • And then darkness came for three days.

by J. M. W. Turner

But, after every plague, Pharaoh still would not free the Jews from slavery. Because Pharaoh still would not free the Jewish people, God sent a 10th plague, a horrible plague:

All 1st-born children in Egypt would die. God told Moses to tell the Jewish people to do something special on the 14th day of that month: They were to mark the doors of their homes with blood from a slaughtered lamb. God told Moses that, on that night, God would strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, but God would passover the houses marked with the blood of a lamb. That way, no harm would come to the Jewish people.

At midnight on the appointed day, God struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, and that included the Pharaoh’s son. 

The Tenth Plague of Egypt, by J. M. W. Turner

After that happened, Pharaoh ordered that all Jewish people had to leave Egypt immediately.

Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt.

First, they had to cross the Red Sea. A miracle happened, and the sea parted. Moses and the people walked between the two sides of the parted water, across to the opposite bank of the Red Sea.

Then, after Moses and the people that he was leading were on the other side, the water of the Red Sea came back together.

by Corbert Gauthier

Moses and the people he was leading walked for a long, long time — many, many days. Eventually, they reached a place called Mount Sinai.

Moses went up the mountain, and, once more, God talked to Moses. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and told Moses to share them with the people he was leading. God wanted the people to follow the Ten Commandments. They are the laws that God has given us. And God wants us to follow the Ten Commandments even today.

Faith Formation (CCD), 2022-2023