by Dr. Gary M. Barker

One of the most familiar parts of the Book of Exodus is chapter 20, which records Moses receiving the ten commandments from the Lord Jehovah. These commandments are a very small part of what is called the “Mosaic Covenant.”

Dr. Gary Baker is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email him at pastor@gracebaptistpaso.org.

This covenant was only given to the nation of Israel and was the basis of God’s blessings for the nation of Israel as they would enter the promised land. It is theologically called a “conditional” covenant. God’s treatment of Israel, whether it be blessing or cursing, was conditioned upon Israel’s obedience to the laws stated in the covenant. The Law was never given as a means of obtaining salvation from sin. The sacrifices in Leviticus provided an atonement for sin.

God’s blessing or cursing would be bestowed based on either obedience or disobedience to God’s laws. The laws of God were a manifestation of His holy character and, when observed, would bring happiness and well-being. The Law contained 613 commandments, and God expected His people to live by those laws in their daily life. The Law of God was divine in that it was a supernatural impartation of truth to man which he could not otherwise know. The Law was a divine revelation of the word of God, which God made known in written words both what He wanted to say and what He wanted Israel to know.

This law is called the “Pentateuch,” which means five books. The Jews called the five books “The Torah,” which means the Law. The Pentateuch covers the historical time from the creation of man to the death of Moses. In Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, Moses, who was the author of the Pentateuch, wrote the 10 Commandments. The ten commandments were also called the “decalogue,” meaning ten sayings. The decalogue was a brief summary of how God expected to be treated and how He expected people to treat other people.

The first four laws stated what a believer’s relationship to God should be. The Lord is the only true God that is to be worshipped, and no idol is to be made and worshipped. The Lord’s name is not to be used in a vain or unholy way, and the seventh day of the week is to be a time of rest (Sabbath) in which the Lord is to be worshipped. Working on the Sabbath was punishable by death. The next six laws stated what a believer’s relationship to other people should be like. These laws involved honoring parents, protecting human life, honoring marriage, not stealing, not slandering, and not coveting. In Romans 7:12, the apostle Paul stated that these laws were holy, just, and good. When God’s laws were obeyed, they caused people to be happy and dwell in peace and harmony with both God and man.

Lessons to be Learned

  1. God has revealed in the Bible how He expects people to behave and live.
  2. Only the Lord-Jehovah is to be worshipped as the one True God.
  3. Treating People according to God’s laws will promote happiness, peace, and harmony.