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Moses and the Law

Doesn't the Pharaoh Know When to Give Up?

If you look at a map of the Middle East you will see that the children of Israel could have gone by the seashore straight to Canaan. But God knew that that would be too soon for them to begin fighting. The Philistines would be the first people on the route and they would not like all those people going through their land. The children of Israel would have to fight before they got to Canaan no matter which way they went. But to begin fighting right away would have caused them to become afraid and go back to Egypt and slavery. So God led them to the shore of the Red Sea. (Exodus 13)

As the children of Israel went, God went before them in a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire in the night. By a pillar we must know that it came down to the ground and up toward the sky. Maybe it looked like a tornado. It would be something that everyone could see at any time. At night the pillar of fire gave them light.

The children of Israel were camped by the sea. Pharaoh and his servants decided that they had made a mistake in letting them go. So at least six hundred chariots, probably many more, and all the horsemen and the army were assembled to go get the children of Israel and bring them back. They were probably laughing at those stupid people who camped right by the sea and had no where to go.

But God had planned this.

As the Egyptian army approached, the children of Israel did something that they would do a great deal in the next forty years. They started whining and complaining at Moses. They said to Moses, "Did you bring us out here because there aren't enough graves in Egypt? Did you just bring us out here to die? Why couldn't you leave us alone? Serving in Egypt is better than dying out here."

And Moses answered, "Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. After today you will never see the Egyptians again. God will fight for you. Now be quiet."

God told Moses to hold his rod over the water. A wind began to blow and made a dry path. Water was piled up on both sides. Then the pillar, which always went in front of the people, went to the back of them, between them and the Egyptian army. The side facing the Egyptians was dark. The side facing the children of Israel was light, because it was night and the children of Israel needed to see where they were going. All that night the children of Israel went through the path through the sea. Remember, there were a great many of them. The Egyptians could not go past the pillar of God. Finally as daylight was coming the Egyptians began to chase the children of Israel through the same path. But the wheels of the chariots sunk down and would not go and they finally became afraid, too late though.

Then God told Moses to hold out his rod over the sea again. The water rushed back where it was supposed to be. Any Egyptian who had gone into the sea drowned. Not a single one survived. It is possible that not all of the children of Israel had arrived at the other side yet. But where they were, the water stayed piled up for them to go through. The bodies of the Egyptians were washed up on the shore and the children of Israel saw them. They finally understood what God had done for them. They feared God and believed in Him and believed Moses. (Exodus 14)

After they had been freed from the Egyptians the children of Israel worshipped God and celebrated. (Exodus 15)

In the New Testament, in I Corinthians we are told that the children of Israel were baptized in the Red Sea and in the cloud. What this means is that they received baptism of water and of the Holy Ghost, for the cloud was the pillar which God had go before them. We are told to come to Jesus Christ by way of baptism by water and the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Ghost. So now we can see already that the children of Israel were being taught the covenant of Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 10)

The Children of Israel at Mount Sinai

It took the children of Israel three months to get to Mount Sinai, which is on the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. When they got there the pillar of cloud stopped and they pitched their tents.

Moses went up onto the mountain to talk with God. God told Moses what to say to the children of Israel. God told Moses to remind them of how He had delivered them from Egypt. He told them that they should obey His voice. And that they would be a treasure to God, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.

Moses went back to the people and told them what God had said. Then the people said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do."

Then Moses went to God and told them what the people said. Moses was being the in-between person between God and the people.

But God wanted the people to hear for themselves when He spoke with Moses. He gave them instructions, wash your clothes, do not step on the mountain, and be ready to hear God speak on the third day.

Remember that I told you that the mountain was holy ground? When Moses first met God on Mount Horeb he was told to take off his shoes. Was this Mount Horeb, or was it Mount Sinai? Was it the same mountain that Moses had been on before he had gone back to Egypt? Yes, it was. Either Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai, or Mount Horeb was God's special place. The children of Israel were instructed that they were not to step on the mountain or let any of their cattle step onto the mountain. If they did, they would die.

On the morning of the third day there was thunder, and lightening and smoke and quaking on the mountain. The mountain was smoking like a furnace because God was there.

In the Bible it says, "And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." (Exodus 19)

The Ten Commandments

The children of Israel were gathered together to hear God with their very own ears. He spoke from heaven and said to them, "I am the Lord your God. I brought you out of Egypt, out of bondage.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourselves any graven image.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you.

You shall not kill.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor's."

The people actually heard God's voice speaking to them. But they were afraid of the thunder, lightening, noise of trumpets, and smoke. They said to Moses, "You talk with God and then tell us what He says. We are afraid."

So Moses went to talk with God and God told him to tell the people, "You have heard My voice from heaven." But after that the people would not listen to God's voice directly, Moses must talk with Him because they were too afraid. (Chapter 20)

Now is a good time to go over the Ten Commandments and discuss what they mean.

"You shall have no other gods before me." In Egypt, from where they had just come, and in Canaan, where the children of Israel were going, the people in those lands worshipped many gods. These gods were not real, they were just statues or stories. They didn't make the world, or do anything for it.

"You shall not make for yourselves any graven image." The people should not make any statues and think they can worship them.

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." God's name is important and holy. To tell a lie using God's name would be taking His name in vain. Another way of taking the Lord's name in vain is to use it as a swear word. If you hit your thumb with the hammer and missed the nail, then you say, "God damned it", that is using the Lord's name in vain. You wouldn't like it if everybody said your name whenever they got angry.

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Some people think that Sunday is the Sabbath. Some people think Saturday is the Sabbath. The important thing is that one day out of seven is supposed to be a day to relax and think about God. When God created the world he divided the job into seven days. Maybe a day was really thousands or millions of years. It doesn't matter, because God is so huge we cannot understand. But on the seventh, He finished up and then rested. We are supposed to do the same.

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you." I heard a little folk tale one time, here is how it went; the grandfather was old and feeble and drooled when he ate his dinner, so his son and daughter-in-law let him eat on the floor behind the stove. That way they wouldn't have to be embarrassed to see him that way. One day the father asked his little son what he would do when he grew up. The little son said that he would let his father and mother eat behind the stove, sitting on the floor. After that the grandfather was allowed to sit at the table with the family and they treated him with love and respect. How we treat each other is how our children learn to treat us. If we honor our parents, our children will probably grow up to honor us and our days will be long upon the land.

"You shall not kill." God put each of us on the earth to learn something. What He really wants is for us to come to Him of our own free will. Satan does not want that. So he tries to control us by using evil people. The best way to control people is to tell them that if they will not do what you want, then you will kill them. It is rightly God's decision when each of us will die, because He made us. It is not right for us to make God's decisions.

"You shall not commit adultery." This means to love your wife or husband and try to never hurt them.

"You shall not steal." Stealing is when you take something that belongs to someone else. Maybe they had to work very hard for it, maybe it is even food, or money to stay alive. God wants us to have the things we need to stay alive and that cannot happen if everyone is stealing from each other.

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." "False witness" means a lie. Do not tell lies about anyone. Lying about people can hurt them very badly, as there will be other people who will believe the lie and treat them badly because of it.

"You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor's." "Covet" means that you wish it were yours. Coveting is the first step to stealing. The bad things that we do start in our minds. If we covet something that belongs to someone else we might try to figure out how to get it, probably by stealing it.

These ten laws cover just about everything that human beings do to each other that cause problems.

God told Moses to bring the main leaders with him as he talked with God. Moses would talk with God and the others would be a distance away. Moses and the leaders went back to the people and Moses told the people what God had said to them. What Moses had to say to the people was that God was making a covenant with them. The people listened and said, "All that God has said will we do, and be obedient." Then Moses took blood from the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the people. This blood was to remind them of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Exodus 24)

The Everlasting Covenant

The Everlasting Covenant or the Covenant of Jesus Christ was given to us at the beginning of time. God taught it to Adam and Eve. We believe that this is the covenant that Moses had just told the people about, they had agreed to enter the covenant and obey it. A covenant is a very special kind of agreement. If we will do certain things for God He promises that He will do certain things for us. The most important thing that happens from this agreement is that if we keep our part we will be able to live in the Kingdom of God. (Sec 49:2d) (Genesis 6:57-66)

Here is the Everlasting Covenant.

Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ is the Perfect Lamb who shed his blood in order that we could come back to God.

Repent and be baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ.

If we do these things then God will give us the gift of the Holy Ghost. The elders of the church do this by the laying on of hands. The elders put their hands on your head and say a special prayer, which asks God to give you the gift of the Holy Ghost. We call it a "confirmation" or "baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost". We also call the Holy Ghost "the comforter". Having the Holy Ghost in our lives helps us understand things that God wants us to know.

The Golden Calf

God now called Moses up onto the mountain to talk with Him and receive the law containing the covenant. Moses was up on the mountain with God for forty days. The children of Israel thought that he was not coming back down.

Now we will see why God made Moses the leader and not Aaron. Aaron was Moses' older brother, but it was Moses who God talked with. It was Aaron's job to tell the people what Moses told him.

The people were afraid and not exercising faith in God. They didn't know what had happened to Moses. They went to Aaron and demanded that he make them an idol. Aaron told them to break their gold earrings out of their ears and bring the gold to him. Then he melted the gold and made it into the statue of a calf. The people said that this was the god that had brought them out of Egypt.

Then they built an altar and decided to make sacrifices to the golden calf and have a celebration. They began to eat, drink, and to play. Now I do not think that this was the kind of playing that children do, running, playing sports, playing games. I think that the people were doing all kinds of things that basically were breaking the Ten Commandments that they had just been given. They were even naked and dancing. We would call that X-rated entertainment, which is not good entertainment.

God told Moses that he had better get back. God knew what the children of Israel were doing. They were in big trouble.

God was so angry that He told Moses that He would destroy these people. He promised that Moses's children would go into Canaan and become a great nation. Moses pleaded with God, "Don't destroy these people, they will repent, and if you kill them the Egyptians will say that you brought them into the desert to destroy them."

And God said to Moses, "If they will repent of the evil they have done this day, I will turn away My fierce anger and spare them. But those who will not repent this day will be punished. You must do this, otherwise I will destroy all of them."

Joshua must have been waiting for Moses. He didn't know what was going on. He heard shouting and noise. It sounded like a war. But Moses told Joshua that the people were not at war.

When Moses came down from the mountain he had the first set of stone tables. They were written on the front and the back with the covenant which God had just given the people. Moses must not have understood just how bad things were with the people. When he saw what was going on he was so angry that he threw down the tables of stone and smashed them. Then he took the golden calf and threw it in the fire. He ground it to powder and threw the powder in the water and made the children of Israel drink it.

Moses was very angry with Aaron. Aaron said something that was absolutely ridiculous. He said, "I said to them, whoever has gold give it to me. So they gave it to me. I threw it into the fire and this golden calf came out of the fire."

Something like that cannot happen all by itself. We have already been told that Aaron did make the idol. Psychologists call this "projection". A psychologist is a person who studies how people behave. Someone might say, "The cup just flew out of my hand!" No it didn't. The person holding it dropped it and is now trying to blame the cup. That is what Aaron was doing, he was trying to blame the gold that he threw into the fire instead of admitting what he had done.

Now it was time for the people to decide if they would repent. Moses said, "Who is on the Lord's side? Come to me."

The sons of Levi went and stood with Moses. Moses said to them, "Take your swords and go among the people." It says that three thousand men were killed that day, and probably women too.

Moses said to the people, You have sinned a great sin; and now I will go up to see the Lord. Perhaps I can make things right with God."

Moses felt that he was to blame and should take responsibility. But God said to Moses, "Whoever sins against Me will take the blame. I will remember their sins."

God was letting Moses know that if we obey God we are not responsible for someone else's sin. (Chapter 32)

After the children of Israel had rebelled, and Moses had smashed the first set of stone tables, God told Moses to make a new set of stone tables. God told Moses that He would write on them. What He would write would be almost like what was written on the first set of stone tables. But there would be some important differences. (Chapter 34:1-2)

The Mosaic Law

God wrote something a little different on the second set of stone tables. This became known as the Mosaic law, named after Moses. There are still people in the world that follow this law, and many other people make laws which are very similar.

First, the Melchisedek priesthood would be taken away from the people. This was because they were not ready for the covenant with Jesus Christ.

Second, the law would be very similar to the law on the first set of stone tables, but this time it would be written in a way that rebellious people could understand. What does that mean? The first law was Jesus' law. When Jesus lived on the earth he said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like the first; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:36-39)

The law on the second set of stone tables was for people who were not behaving well. It was, "you shall not do this", "you shall not do that", "this is wrong", "this is right". If the people had been willing to live by Jesus' law, they would always think about what they were doing before they did it. They would think, "Would God want me to do this?" "Would this hurt my neighbor if I did it?" (John 1)

The Levites

While the children of Israel were camped at Mount Sinai, God taught them many things. He taught them the Mosaic law that they were to live by from now on. These laws were meant to make them a good people. If they followed these laws they would be happy and healthy and God would help them when they had troubles. (Leviticus)

When the plague went through the Egyptian houses it killed all the first-born. The plague passed over the houses and cattle of the children of Israel. God said to Moses, "Sanctify unto me all the first-born among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast; it is mine." And what this means is that all the first-born among Israel belonged to God, because He saved their lives. (Exodus 13)

When the children of Israel left Egypt, God told Moses to count all the males age twenty and above of all the children of Israel by their tribes. Here are the tribes that were counted: Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, (which was Ephraim and Manasseh), Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Gad, and Naphtali. Why wasn't the tribe of Levi counted? God told Moses, "And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the first-born among the children of Israel; therefore the Levites shall be mine."

Instead of taking the first-born of each family of every tribe of Israel, God took the entire tribe of Levi. (Numbers 1-4)

What did God want the Levites to do?

The Tribe of Levi, or Levites, were put in charge of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a movable temple. The Bible tells exactly how it was made and what was in it. It was basically a beautiful tent, with all the things that made it a temple to God. The Levites made it, took care of it, and camped around it wherever the children of Israel camped. When the children of Israel finally built a permanent temple of stone, the Levites were in charge of that too. They were also in charge of the Ark of the Covenant, which was a beautiful chest that held the tables of stone which Moses brought down from the mountain. (Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers) (Deuteronomy 31:9)

The Levites were the priests of the children of Israel. They would live scattered among all the lands of the children of Israel and perform the sacrifices and teach them the law.

The Melchisedek priesthood are men who have been given the job of teaching the people about the Kingdom of God. Adam was the first one of this priesthood and there were men clear down to Moses who had this priesthood. The name "Melchisedek" was a real man who had this priesthood. He was a very good man and so it is named after him. (Section 83)

When the children of Israel rebelled against God by worshipping the golden calf they were rejecting the covenant that Moses was receiving on the mountain. That covenant was to teach them about the Kingdom of God so that they could come into it. Other people had already done that. Once there had been a city of people so good that God had taken them to heaven, or the Kingdom of God, to be with Him. (Genesis 7)

When Moses received the second set of stone tables the law was very much like the first one, but it was a little different. The people were not ready to know about the kingdom of God. Moses was one of the Melchisedek priesthood. When Moses was done leading the people to Canaan he would not be with them anymore. And there would be no more Melchisedek priesthood with them until Jesus Christ would be born. (Hebrews 7) (Galatians 3) (I Nephi 7:43-48) (II Nephi 8:7-9) (Mosiah 1:110-113) (Mosiah 8:3-11, 90-91)

But the Levite priesthood would be with the people. We also call this priesthood the Aaronic priesthood named after Aaron. It was their job to teach the people God's law. They were to teach the people to repent, to be baptized, and how to live good lives. (Section 83)

So, God left the Aaronic priesthood, which was the tribe of Levi, to teach the people.

The twelve tribes supported the tribe of Levi, because the Levites' job was to attend to the tabernacle in the service of God. (Deuteronomy 18)

God told Moses to bring all the people to the door of the tabernacle and witness that Aaron and his sons were ordained to be in charge of the tabernacle. When the priests did all the things which God had told them to do God showed His power to the children of Israel. The priests performed sacrifices, which meant killing a certain kind of cattle and burning parts of it. Then God showed His presence. He sent His own fire to burn the sacrifice. When the people saw this, they shouted and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 8-9)

God taught the Levites exactly how they should do things in the tabernacle. Two priests decided to do something their own way. Nadab and Abihu did something that they were commanded to not do. Because they disobeyed fire from the Lord came out and killed them. These were two of Aaron's sons. He must have been very upset, but he knew that his sons had been warned and had disobeyed God. (Leviticus 10)

The children of Israel were also taught many traditional celebrations. One of the traditions that the children of Israel were to do each year was called the "scape goat". Two goats were to be brought to the tabernacle. By lots, what we would call throwing the dice or drawing straws, one goat was picked to be a sacrifice to the Lord. Aaron was to lay his hands on the head of the other goat and confess all the sins of the children of Israel. All their sins would be now on the goat. The goat was then to be let go in the wilderness. This is the same thing that Jesus Christ would do. Jesus Christ took upon Himself all the sins of the world. He not only took the sins of the people who lived in Palestine with Him, but all the sins of all people from the beginning of the world until the end of the world. (Leviticus 16)

God promised the children of Israel that if they would obey His laws He would walk among them. He would be their God and they would be His people.

But if they despised God's laws then God would set His face against them. Their enemies would kill them, their land would not grow food, wild beasts would kill their children and cattle. Diseases would come to them. God would destroy the high places where they worshipped idols. Then the children of Israel would be dragged away to the lands of other people where they would always be afraid or their enemies. And the land would rest. (Leviticus 26)

Soon it would be time for the children of Israel to take down their tents and continue the journey to the land that God was giving them.

to be continued . . . .

Adapted by Lois M. Anderson from the Inspired Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants

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Copyright 2002 Lois M. Anderson: All Rights Reserved
Last revised: August 18, 2002