The Sinai Covenant: Moses

The call of Moses

Exodus 3:1-22

The call of Moses took place as follows;

  • Moses had gone to look after his father-in-law’s flocks near Mt. Horeb/ Mt. Sinai which means mountain of God.
  • An angel appeared to him as a burning bush which was not being consumed.
  • Moses moved near to see what was happening and God called him by his name in the middle of the Burning bush.
  • He was instructed not to move any closer and to remove his shoes because the place where he was standing was Holy ground.
  • God assured Moses that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  • Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.
  • God told him he had seen the suffering of his people (Israelites) and was ready to liberate them from Egypt.
  • God commanded Moses to go to Egypt to free the Israelites.
  • Moses protested that he was not worthy but God gave him the assurance that;
  1. God would protect him and be with him.
  2. They would worship God at Sinai after leaving Egypt.
  • Moses asked God what his name was and God replied, “I am who I am,” meaning:
  1. God was what He was in the past and will always be the same i.e. God is eternal.
  2. God does not change with time or situations.
  3. There is no human description of God.
  • God then assured Moses that the Israelites would respond positively while Pharaoh would be stubborn until several miracles were done.
  • Moses was given two signs as a proof that he was God’s messenger.
  1. His rod/ walking stick/ staff turned into a snake;
  2. His hand was affected by leprosy.
  • Moses being a stammerer was given Aaron as his spokesperson.
  • Moses later left for Egypt with his family.

Reasons why Moses was reluctant to accept God’s call

  1. He was a murderer.
  2. He was a fugitive / a run away.
  3. He was a stammerer.
  4. He was not sure of God/ God’ name.
  5. The people would doubt him.
  6. He knew Pharaoh would refuse to let the people go.
  7. He felt he was worth the task.

Attributes of God learnt during the call of Moses

  1. God isHoly/pure.  He told Moses to remove his shoes for he was standing on a Holy place.
  2. God ears the cries of his people/answers prayers Vs.7.
  3. Just/God punishes the wrong doers.
  4. Vs.8.
  5. God of History, vs. 15 and Vs. 6
  6. Caring/loving/ merciful/ compassionate.Vs.7.
  7. Faithful/ fulfills promises e.g. fulfilled the promise made to Abraham.
  8. Demands faith and obedience from those he calls/sends.
  9. Transcendent/mysterious/beyond human understanding e.g. burning bush.
  10. Personal/knows us by name e.g. called Moses by his name.vs.4.
  11. Uses human beings to accomplish a task e.g. Moses/God commissions people to perform certain tasks/ works through people He chooses.
  12. Empowers those He sends/doesn’t give people impossible tasks e.g. enabled Moses to perform miracles e.g. changing stick into snake.
  13. Awesome/demands respect vs.5/ worthy of respect.
  14. Knows our suffering vs.7. He had seen the affliction of His people in Egypt.
  15. Has power over nature/all powerful vs.2 e.g. bush burning though not getting consumed/ almighty/ omnipotent.
  16. vs. 14 I AM WHO I AM.
  17. All-knowing i.e. knows us by name, our sufferings e.t.c.
  18. Protects his people vs. 12 e.g. promised to protect Moses.
  19. God is omnipresent.
  20. Uses events to reveal Himself to people e.g. burning bush.
  21. God is miracle working God.

What Moses learnt from this incident/call about God

  1. God is a God of History i.e. He is a God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  2. God is loving and caring and is concerned with the welfare of his people.
  3. God is transcendent i.e. He is beyond human understanding and description.
  4. God chooses whoever he wills to carry out his plans e.g. He chose Moses, a murderer, fugitive stammerer.
  5. God expects total faith and obedience from the people he chooses to serve him.
  6. God fulfills his promises i.e. he was ready to deliver the Israelites from bondage/ slavery he had promised Abraham.

Christian values learnt from the call of Moses

  1. Humility.
  2. Courage.
  3. Faith.
  4. Love/ mercy/ care.
  5. Honesty.
  6. Obedience.
  7. Reverence/ respect/ honour/ God-fearing.
  8. Service.
  9. Holiness.
  10. Inquisitiveness/ knowledge/ curosity.
  11. Patience/ persistence.
  12. Justice.


Exodus 7:14-11:1-10


  • When Moses reached Egypt, he gathered all the Israelite elders then told them what God had sent him to do.
  • He performed all the miracles God had shown him and the Israelite elders believed in his mission.
  • When Pharaoh was approached to let the Israelites go, he became stubborn and increased the workload for the Israelites
  • Moses had to perform plagues on Egypt.  (A plague may be a disease or an unfortunate occurrence in one’s life) (Exodus 7:4 – 5)
  • The signs and the wonders of the plagues were to make the Israelite and Egyptians know that only Yahweh was worthy of the title God.
  1. The plague of blood (Exodus 7:14 – 25)
  • Moses was commanded by God to tell Aaron to strike the waters of the Nile.
  • He did this in the presence of Pharaoh and the waters of the Nile turned into blood.
  • All the fish died and there was no water to drink.  This lasted seven days.
  • He did not release the Israelites.
  1. Plague of frogs (Exodus 8:1 – 15)
  • The Lord commanded Moses to tell Aaron to stretch his hand over the streams, canals and ponds.
  • Aaron did as was commanded and there were frogs all over the land of Egypt.
  • On seeing this, Pharaoh pleaded with Moses and Aaron to pray to the Lord to get rid of the frogs and he would release them.
  • They prayed and all the frogs died when Pharaoh saw that the frogs were dead, he changed his mind.
  1. Plague of gnats (Exodus 8:16 – 19)
  • Gnats are small two-winged biting flies.
  • The Lord instructed Moses to tell Aaron to strike the ground.
  • Aaron did and all the dust in Egypt turned into gnats.
  • The gnats covered the entire land.
  • Even the magicians accepted it as God’s work, but Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelites go.
  1. Plague of flies (Exodus 8:20 – 32)
  • The Lord warned Pharaoh through Moses that he would send swarms of flies to the Egyptian houses.  But the Israelites houses would be spared.
  • When this happened, Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron and promised to let them to go and worship so that the flies would go away.
  • Moses prayed and the flies went away.  However, Pharaoh changed his mind and again refused to let the Israelites go.
  1. Death of livestock (Exodus 9:1 – 7)
  • God sent a plague that killed all the Egyptian animals. Their cows, donkeys, camels, sheep, goats and horses were all killed.
  • The Israelites were not affected.  Still Pharaoh refused to release them.
  1. Plague of boils (Exodus 9:8 – 12)
  • Moses threw ashes into air as God had instructed.
  • This produced boils which became open sores on the skin of the Egyptians.
  •  Unmoved by the suffering of his people, Pharaoh would still not let the Israelites go.
  1. Plague of hail (Exodus 9:13 – 35)
  • Moses raised his stick and there was a hailstorm with lightning and thunder.  The people, animals and plants that were struck were killed and destroyed.
  • Pharaoh promised to let the Israelites go but as soon as Moses had prayed and all the hail and thunder stopped.  Pharaoh changed his mind yet again.  He did not let the Israelites go.
  1. Plague of Locusts (Exodus 10:1 – 20)
  • Locusts covered the whole land and ate all the crops in the fields.
  • The locusts ate all that had not been destroyed by the hail.
  • Pharaoh once more pleaded for the plague to be lifted.
  • As soon as locusts were out of Egypt, Pharaoh changed his mind.  He still would not let the Israelites out of Egypt.
  1. Plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21 – 29)
  • God instructed Moses to stretch out his hand to heaven.
  • There was total darkness in Egypt for 3 days.  The Israelites had light where they were living.
  • Pharaoh remained unmoved and would still not let the Israelites go out of Egypt.
  1. Death of first-born sons (Exodus 12:1 – 31)
  • The last plague is the death of the Egyptians male first born.
  • The Lord would kill all the first born sons and first male animals of the Egyptians at midnight.
  • The Israelite males would be spared.

Attributes of God learnt from the ten plagues

  1. God empowers the people he sends to perform miracles and do his work. He gave Moses the rod with which to work and cause the plagues.
  2. God is almighty/all powerful/ omnipotent and no other forces or power can challenge him. The magicians could not match his powers and accepted that God’s powers are great (Exodus 8:18 – 19).
  3. God is determined to fulfill his plans/to save his people no matter how hard the task may appear to the human eye. He does not give up on his people.  Exodus 8:22, 9:6, 10:23.
  4. God gives everyone a chance to repent. He forgives the repentant.  Each time Pharaoh promised to release the Israelites, God relieved the Egyptians from the plagues.
  5. God is God of justice/ he punishes the wrong doer and protects the oppressed. He afflicted the Egyptians who had enslaved his people.  He spared the Israelites.
  6. God fulfill his promises/ He is faithful. The Israelites finally left Egypt as God had promised Exodus 3:7 – 10, Genesis 15:13 – 14, 26:3 – 4.
  7. God expects total obedience and faith from the people he sends.
  8. God is a loving/ caring God. He sees the plight and suffering of his people and works to release them from their suffering.
  9. More powerful that the Egyptian gods.
  10. God was aware of the problems of the Israelites.
  11. Determined to save his people.
  12. God was working through Moses. This strengthened faith of the Israelites on Moses their liberator


Exodus 12:1 – 31

 Passover is derived from Hebrew word Pasach meaning “to pass” with the aim of sparing or protecting.

Preparations for the Passover

God instructed Moses to prepare the Israelites for the tenth plague.

Moses called all the elders of Israel and gave them the following instructions.

  1. On the tenth day of that month each man had to choose either a lamb or a young goat for his household. If his family was too small to eat a whole animal, then he and his next-door neighbor were to share the animal.
  • The animal chosen was to be a male, one year old and without blemish.
  • Using a young animal signified the innocence of the sacrifice while an animal without blemish signified purity of the sacrifice.
  1. The animal chosen was to be killed on the eve of the 14th day of that month/eve of the night of the Exodus.
  2. The blood of the animal was to be smeared on the door posts and lintel of Israelites’ houses.
  • The blood was to act as a sign of distinguishing the Israelites houses from those of the Egyptians so that the angel of death would spare them when he killed the first-born sons of the Egyptians.
  1. The lamb/animal for sacrifice was to be roasted whole i.e. with its head, legs and inner parts.
  • Roasting was the quickest method of cooking since the Israelites were in a hurry.
  1. The meat was to be eaten that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
  • The bitter herbs signified the bitter experience of slavery in Egypt.
  1. Everything was to be eaten and whatever remained was to be burnt.
  2. They were to eat the sacrificial meat after they had dressed up and packed their luggage (Vs 9 – 11)
  3. The Israelite women were to ask for Jewellery, Silver and clothing from the Egyptian women on the eve of their departure.
  • These items were to act as compensation for the free labour the Israelites had given Egypt.
  1. Everyone was to remain indoors until morning in order to be protected from the angel of death.
  2. The Passover was to be to be commemorated annually and its significance taught to the coming generation.


  • On that night the Angel of death “passed over” the houses of the Israelites and killed the entire male first born of the Egyptians, including Pharaoh’s son.
  • There was great wailing in Egypt.
  • Pharaoh summoned Moses and released the Israelites.
  • The Israelites left Egypt for the Promised Land through the wilderness/Exodus.

Attributes of God shown in the Jewish Passover

  1. God is caring i.e. preserved the life of the Israelites.
  2. God loves.
  3. God is powerful i.e. took care of nature.
  4. God is provider of life i.e. killed the Egyptians.
  5. God is the creator and controller of human life.
  6. God is universal e.g. controlled lives of the Egyptians and Israelites.
  7. God is omnipresent i.e. everywhere including to the Israelite and the Egyptians.
  8. God is faithful to his promises.
  9. He punishes the disobedient.



  • An Exodus is a mass movement of people from one place to another
  • The Israelites hurriedly left Egypt.
  • They carried with them unleavened bread.
  • The women took away the jewellery and clothing they had borrowed from the Egyptians as compensation for years of slavery, (had been slaves for 430 years)
  • The journey of the Israelites through the harsh wilderness, fighting hostile local people, was a difficult one.
  • Whenever they forgot the mighty deeds God had done for them God gave them a solution to their problems and restored their faith in him.
  • Moses served as mediator between them and God.
  • They were directed by God in the wilderness by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night. (Exodus 13:20 – 22, 14:19 – 20).

a). Crossing the red sea.  (Exodus 14:5 – 31)

  • Immediately the Israelites left Egypt Pharaoh and his people regretted letting them go.
  • He pursued them with intension to bring them back.
  • The Israelites had camped by the sea.
  • God instructed Moses to lift his rod above the waters of the Red Sea to divide them.
  • The waters separated into walls.
  • The Israelites crossed the sea on the dry ground between the two walls.
  • When the Israelites had crossed over the other side, Moses stretched out his hand over the water and brought the walls back.
  • The Egyptians who were still in the middle drowned and the Israelites sailed.
  • The Israelites saw God’s mighty work in saving them.

b). Provision of water (Exodus 15:22 – 27, 17:1 – 6)

  • After the Israelites had travelled in the desert for 3 days without water, they were thirsty.
  • The water they found was bitter and could not drink.
  • Called the place “Marah” meaning “bitter”.
  • The Israelites started murmuring in complain.
  • God instructed Moses to throw a splinter of wood into the water and it became sweet.
  • At Elim there were 12 springs of water.
  • God provided more water when they had almost reached Mt. Sinai.
  • He instructed Moses to strike a rock and water came out of it for people to drink (Ex. 17:1 – 7).

c). Provision of manna and quails (Exodus 16:1 – 35)

  • As the Israelites were travelling through the desert, they ran out of food.
  • They were hungry and again complained to Moses.
  • Their complaints displeased the Lord, though he had saved them many times they still did not trust him to provide for them.
  • He nevertheless promised to provide for them with food whether they obeyed him or not.
  • The next morning God provided them with manna which they collected and ate.
  • In the evening, he provided them with quails.
  • The provision of manna and quails lasted for 40 years.
  • On the sixth day of each week, he gave them two portions; one for the sixth day and the other for the seventh or Sabbath day.
  • They were supposed to stay indoors on the Sabbath day to worship and remember God.

d). Defeat of the Amalekites (exodus 17:8 – 16)

  • Amalekites were desert nomads who attacked the Israelites in the wilderness.
  • When the Amalekite army came against Israel, Moses ordered Joshua to gather men among them to go and fight them.
  • During the battle, Moses held up his rod.
  • Each time he raised his hands, the Amalekites were defeated.  When he brought down, the Israelites would be defeated.
  • Aaron and Hur saw this; they decided to support his hands until the Amalekites were defeated.  God promised to destroy the Amalekites forever.

Summary of the ways in which God took care of the Israelites during the Exodus

  • He guided the Israelites by a pillar of cloud during the day.
  • He provided a pillar of fire to guide them during the night.
  • God sent an angel who engulfed the Egyptian soldiers in darkness to delay their attack on the Israelites.
  • He gave them priests to be intermediaries between them and God.
  • God split the waters of the Red Sea to create a dry path for the Israelites to pass.
  • He punished the Egyptian soldiers who were pursuing the Israelites by drowning them in the Red Sea.
  • God changed bitter water into sweet waters for the Israelites to drink at Marah.
  • God provided Manna and quails as food for the Israelites when they were hungry.Healing   those who were bitten by snakes.
  • God assisted the Israelites to defeat the Amalekites
  • He provided them with strong leaders like Moses.
  • God gave them the 10 commandments to guide them on their relationship with him and one another.

Problems Moses faced as he led the Israelites during the Exodus

  • Lack of water for the Israelites/ bitter water.
  • Lack of food for the Israelites.
  • Complaining/ grumbling by the Israelites/ refusing to heed to instructions/ stubborn/ stiff necked.
  • Warring tribes in the desert/ Amalekites.
  • Settling disputes among the people.
  • Travelling in hostile/ harsh climatic condition.
  • Lack of faith from the people/ worship of the golden calf/ breaking God’s commandments.
  • Rebellion/opposition from his family.
  • Threat from the Egyptian army.
  • Bites from snakes.

Problems encountered by Christians in their commitment to Christ today

  1. Temptations from the devil/ worldly pleasures.
  2. Weakening of faith in God in times of hardships.
  3. Opposition/ persecution/ oppression because of what they stand for.
  4. False teaching/ heresy/ false prophets who contradict true Christian message.
  5. Division/ quarrels/ disagreements within the church.
  6. Materialism/ greed for wealth/ struggle for power in the church/ in the society.
  7. Challenges from science/ technology which seems to replace the power/ authority of God.
  8. Natural calamities; epidemics, diseases, drought, feminine, floods, earthquakes which make some Christians question the existence of God.
  9. Problems of the destiny of a person after death /Where do people go after death?
  10. The wicked seem to prosper /why do the wicked prosper?
  11. Bad examples set by the church leaders who are supposed to be the shepherds of the people/ mislead people e.g. through misinterpretation of scriptures.
  12. Challenges from other religious/ denominations and the secular society/ traditional culture.
  13. Hypocrisy in the church.
  14. Financial constraints/ lack of resources in meeting their obligations.
  15. Marginalization in the church membership/ activities.

Why the Exodus is important to the Israelites

  1. It marked the end of their suffering/ oppression in Egypt.
  2. It signified they were a special nation chosen by God.
  • It was a fulfillment of the promises God had made to Abraham.
  1. It proved that God was more powerful than other gods/ supreme.
  2. It showed/ proved to them that Moses was a chosen leader of Israel as a nation.
  3. It made them understand the nature of God.
  • It taught them that God needed obedience from human beings.
  • They received the Ten Commandments which guided them in their relationship.


(a) .Preparation

  • God made a covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai in the wilderness.  He brought them here so that he could enter into a personal relationship with the whole community of Abraham’s descendants.
  • God called Moses to the mountain to ask him if the Israelites were willing to obey. If they would obey Him, God made the following promises to them;
  1. He would make them His people.
  2. He would make them a kingdom of priests.
  • He would make them a holy nation.

In readiness for the making of the Sinai Covenant, Abraham made the following preparations:

  1. They had to purify themselves i.e. washed the clothes and themselves.
  2. Moses marked a boundary at the foot of the mountain/ a holy boundary to prevent any person or animal going up the mountain.
  3. To be ready on the third day for the Lord come down on the mountain.
  4. Men were advised not to touch a woman/ no sexual relationship.
  5. They were to report to the mountain on hearing the sound of the trumpet.
  6. On the 3rd day Moses took the Israelites to meet their God.
  7. God manifested his presence in the form of:
  1. Thunder.
  • Lightning.
  1. Earthquake.
  2. Thick cloud that covered the whole mountain.
  3. Fire.
  • Smoke.
  • A loud trumpet blast that made the people tremble.
  1. Moses went up the mountain and was given the Ten Commandments
  2. Moses came back from the Mt. and told the people about the laws and ordinances which were to guide them as a covenant people.  All the people answered in one voice and said “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do,” (Exodus 24:3 – 4)

Steps in the formation/ sealing of the covenant

 (Exodus 24:1 – 8)

  • Moses told the people the 10 commandments. They all agreed to obey.
  • Moses wrote down God’s laws and commands.
  • The next day/morning Moses built an altar and put twelve stores/pillars around it; the 12 stones symbolizes the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Young men sacrificed bulls/ oxen to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings.
  • Moses collected the blood into two basins.
  • He poured half of the blood into the altar. This was a sign that God was involved in the covenant formation.
  • He read the Ten Commandments book of the covenant to the people to make sure that they understood. The people agreed to obey.
  • He sprinkled/threw the remaining blood upon the people. This showed people’s involvement in the covenant formula.
  • The use of the blood showed the seriousness of the covenant. Whoever broke this covenant meant loss of his life.
  • The use of live animals showed that God is the life giver.


  • The main laws which God gave to Moses are known as the Ten Commandments/ Decalogue.
  • It is an absolute law i.e. unconditional whereby everything had to be followed without question.
  • The Ten Commandments were divided into two major parts.
  1. Duties towards God (Ex 20:3 -11) – the 1st 4 commandments about the relationship between God and man.
  2. Duties towards man (Ex 20:12 – 17) – the last 6 commandments about the relationship between man and fellow man.

Duties to God

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me”.


  • It means that God is only one.
  • There was need to remind the Israelites that he was the God who brought them out of Egypt and cared for them in the wilderness.
  • The Israelites were to worship him alone.
  • Any attempts to consider anything else God is wrong.
  • We have one God who is the creator and sustainer of all things
  • Anything we cherish more than God has become a god.
  • It prohibits against Polytheism i.e. “The Lord is one” Deuteronomy 6:4
  1. “You shall not make yourself a graven image”


  • This is prohibition against idolatry because God is invisible. (Ex 19:19, Deut 4:12 – 16)
  • Any representation of God is wrong because it might tempt us to worship it which is disrespect to God.
  • Yahweh was not like the Egyptians or Canaanite gods which were depicted in images.
  1. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in Vain”


  • It prohibits against taking the name of the Lord in vain/ swearing.
  • This commandment forbids the use of God’s name in a careless manner without regard to his holiness.
  • One should not swear in God’s name.
  • In Mathew 5:33 – 37 Jesus stresses that Christians should be honest, sincere and always speak the truth.
  • We need then to respect God’s name and the greatness of his name.
  1. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”


The Sabbath Day was instituted by God at creation God rested on this day after creation thus we should not work or involve ourselves in any work.

  • It is time to rest/ relax and reflect on what God has done.
  • People are expected to honour it by worshipping God.
  • Reminder of God’s sacrifice.

Significance of the Sabbath to the Jews

  1. They remembered the day God rested after his creation.
  2. Day for worship/ thanksgiving/ prayer.
  • It is in obedience to one of the commandments.
  1. Day for rest/ leisure.
  2. Holy day dedicated to God.
  3. Shows that man has his origin in God and is therefore responsible to God.

Duties towards man

  1. “Honour your father and mother that your days may be long”


God’s gift of life is passed on through our parents as they take care and bring up children.  God takes care of us through our parents.

  • Dishonor to parents leads to disgrace.
  • The family is the foundation of the society.
  • Good respect to our parents leads to right conduct.
  • Obedience to parents leads to long life and prosperity in the land.
  • Parents deserve honour; respect and children should help their parents.
  1. “You shall not kill”


It is God alone who gives life and it should be Him alone to take it.  The life of a person is sacred.  Christians are called upon to preserve, respect and protect life.

  1. “You shall not commit adultery”.
  • It is wrong to have sexual intercourse with somebody else’s wife or husband.  Such an act sows discord in the community.
  • This command safeguards marriage and family.
  • Purity is demanded of Christians both in their outward life, thoughts and desires.
  1. “You shall not steal”


  • Affirms that God is the one who provides us with all that is required to maintain life.
  • Stealing indicates lack of trust in God’ providence.
  • This command prohibits theft.
  • It is protection against property.
  1. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”


  • False accusations destroy respect and love among God’s people.
  • Christians should show love, honesty, faithfulness and truthfulness.
  • The need for justice in courts.
  1. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s property”.


  • Prohibition against covetousness.  Desire for that which belongs to another Num 11:11.
  • This commandment condemns greed of any nature.
  • Greed is motivated by selfishness and hence leads to sin.


  (EX 32:1 – 35

  • Moses went up the mountain to God so as to be instructed on how to lead the Israelites on their last part of the journey to the Promised Land.
  • Moses overstayed up the mountain until some Israelites became impatient and restless.
  • -The multitude started murmuring against the God of Moses/ Yahweh and desired to go back to Egypt.
  • They asked Aaron to make for them a physical god to worship.
  • Aaron made an idol god in form of a calf. He used the ornaments they had brought from Egypt.
  • The idol represented power and strength.
  • Their worship was accompanied by singing, dancing, drinking, eating and indulged in revelry/sex around the calf.
  • This was blasphemy before God/idolatry.
  • Meanwhile God told Moses to go down for the people had sinned and rejected him.
  • – Moses was annoyed and dropped the tablets on which the laws were written they broke into pieces.
  • He ground the bull-calf and mixed with water and forced the people to drink.
  • Moses called the faithful followers of Yahweh. Only the Levites came forward.
  • Moses ordered the faithful people to kill the sinners.
  • Moses returned to God and asked for forgiveness on behalf of the people.
  • God promised to rub the names of the sinners from the book of heaven.
  • God told Moses to continue leading the people.

Why did the Israelites demand for an Idol/possible reasons for breaking the Covenant?

  • Moses overstayed up the mountain.
  • -They needed another leader because they did not know what had happened to Moses.
  • They lacked self-control/ were impatient.
  • They lacked faith in God/ unfaithful.
  • They did not understand the nature of their God e.g. powerful God.
  • It is possible that they were misled by foreigners who joined them on their way to Canaan.
  • Aaron was a weak leader and accepted to make the golden bull-calf.
  • They had been exposed to idolatry in Egypt.
  • The availability of raw materials e.g. Jewellery they had brought from Egypt.

Effects of worshipping the Idol/Bull

  1. God was annoyed with the Israelites and wanted to destroy/consume them and start raising a new generation through Moses.
  2. Moses pleaded with God to forgive them and God withdrew his wrath/ God forgave them.
  3. Moses was annoyed when he found the Israelites worshipping the idol and he threw down the stone tablets breaking them.
  4. Moses burnt the Golden Bull-calf into ashes mixed with water and ordered the Israelites to drink.
  5. God forgave those who repented after worshipping the Golden calf.
  6.  Moses separated those who repented; the Levites included, and ordered the unrepentant group to be killed.
  7. The Lord sent a plague upon the people because they had worshipped the idol.


 EX 34:1 -35

  • God forgave the people and Moses.
  • The Ten Commandments were re-written on two stone tablets that God had asked Moses to cut.
  • Moses went up the mountain with the two stone tablets alone and no man or animal was allowed to be seen around the mountain.
  • God declared that he could make a covenant with the Israelites.
  • He gave Moses the Ten Commandments the second time.
  • God revealed his nature to Moses as:
  • Merciful/compassionate God.
  • Gracious God.
  • Slow anger
  • Abounding in love
  • Faithful to his promise
  • Forgiving wickedness, Rebellion and sin.
  • Just and jealous/punishes sin
  • He promised to take the Israelites to the Promised Land and protect them against the Canaanites.
  • The Israelites were given conditions to fulfill after the renewal these are:
    1. Obey what God commands them
    2. Not to worship any other gods.
    3. Not to make any cast idols.
    4. To keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
    5. To rest on the seventh day.
    6. To dedicate all their first born children and that of the flock to God.
    7. To offer to God the first fruit of their harvest.
    8. Not to enter into any covenant relationship with the inhabitant of Canaan e.g. not to intermarry with foreigners.
    9. To destroy the worshipping place of idols.
    10. Not to make molten gods to worship.
    11. Three times in a year the male folk were to appear before God.
    12. Not to offer the blood of His sacrifice with leaven.
    13. Not to boil a kid in his mother’s milk.

Giving of more promises by God

God then gave them the following promises if they obeyed Him;

  • God would bless them and make them more prosperous.
  • God would preserve them as a chosen nation.
  • God would do great and awesome things among his people.
  • God would help them settle the Promised Land by driving out the inhabitants/their enemies e.g. Canaanite, perizites etc.


(EX 20:22 – 26, 23:14 – 20)

  • Worship refers to reverence paid to God/ respect given to God in recognition of Him as the creator and controller of the universe and the strong feeling of love for God.
  • The Israelites must have known God well e.g. they knew him as provider, protector, God of justice, the mighty and all powerful God.
  • All these qualities of God must have made them respect him and love him deeply.
  • During their period in the wilderness, the Israelites worshipped God as individual and as a community. This occurred at specific places.
  • All worship involved:

A. Sacrifices and offerings

  • Animals were used in sacrifices.
  • In an offering agricultural produce was used.

Sacrifices included:

  1. burnt offerings/holocaust
  • The sacrificial animal was completely burnt i.e. entirely removed from human possession and given to God.
  • It could be given by an individual or by the community.
  1. Atonement/ sin offering
  • Offered when one had sinned either against God or against his fellow man and wanted his sins to be forgiven.
  • The one who had sinned brought an animal before God and it was offered as a sacrifice.
  • The animal died on behalf of the person who sinned.
  1. Peace offering/ communion sacrifice/ fellowship offering
  • Part of the meat of the sacrificial animal was eaten by the people and other parts which consisted of fat and blood was burnt on the altar for God.
  1. Gift offering
  • The best animal or grain that God had blessed the concerned party was chosen and offered to God as a thanksgiving.
  1. Meal offering/ drink offering
  • It involved both vegetable and animal offerings.
  • Meat offering could be offered together with fresh agricultural produce.
  1. Incense offering
  • Incense is a substance composed of sweet smelling herbs.
  • It was burnt before God and it was a sign of God’s holiness and his acceptance of the sacrifices.

7. Festivals

A festival is a celebration commemorating a past event.

There were a number of festivals in the Israelite community. These included:

  1. The Passover/Feast of unleavened bread.
  • This feast was held annually at the beginning of each year/ once a year.
  • Unleavened bread would be eaten for 7 days of the first month in every New Year.
  • The feast was a commemoration of the Israelite liberation from Egypt.


  1. The feast of weeks/ Pentecost.
  • This feast originally marked the end of the wheat harvest.
  • Later it was conducted 50 days from the Sabbath following the Passover hence name Pentecost.
  1. The Feast of Tabernacles.

This feast marked the end of agricultural year.

  • It took place in autumn when the fruits had been safely gathered/ harvested.

C. Altars

Altars marked an earthly meeting place between God and the people.

  • The Israelites built an altar in places where they received a Theophany/ God revelation.
  • g. Abraham built two altars, one at Shechem and another one at Bethel when God revealed to him that he would give him the land of Canaan
  • The practice of building altars continued to the time the Israelites settled in Canaan Ex 20:24 – 25.

NB: Altars were also places of sacrifice.

D. Prayer and Songs

People communicated to God through prayer and song.  This was mostly used by priests and their leaders e.g. Moses and Joshua.

E. Holy day of worship

The Israelites set a day of worship.  Every week they worked for six days and on the seventh day they rested and worshipped the Lord/ Sabbath rest.

F. The Tent of Meeting (EX 26)

  • It was a portable structure in which the Israelites worshipped God.
  • The outer court contained the altar for incense, the golden stick and the bread of the presence table.
  • The inner court was known as the most Holy place because it contained the Ark of the Covenant.
  • – The Ark of the Covenant was covered with pure gold and the inside contained the two stone tablets in which the Ten Commandments were written.
  • It was taken care of by the Levites and the priest from the time of Moses.
  • The Terbanacle symbolized the presence of God among his people.
  • Priests would go inside the Terbanacle to offer prayers and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people.

Elements of the Jewish worship found in the Christian worship today

There are a number of elements of Israelite worship which have been carried over from the time of the Exodus to Judaism the early church and to the present time.  These elements include:

  1. 1. The Passover feast which found its origin from the Passover which marked the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt.  This is referred to as the Lord’s Supper in the N. T and        Christian worship.
  2. Use of prayer and songs in worship.
  3. Observing the Lord’s Day / Sabbath by modern Christians.
  4. Offerings are also given in form of money, goods and services tithes.
  5. Altars.  Most Christian churches have altars also called sanctuary.

NB: The worship of God by the Israelites was more similar to that one of the Traditional African worship.

  1. Observing the Ten Commandments.
  2. Burning of incense e.g. catholic church.
  3. Spiritual leaders e.g. pastors, priests.
  4. Dedication of children to God.

Summary of the ways Israelites worshipped God in the wilderness

  1. Through offerings, incense, grain gift.
  1. Through sacrifices/ Holocaust, atonement.
  2. Through festivals/ feasts e.g. Passover, feast of weeks, Terbanacle.
  3. Had the Tabernacle/ the tent of meeting.
  4. Use of prayers; for thanksgiving and asking for God’s protection.
  5. Use of songs and dances.
  6. Built altars to signify the presence of Yahweh/ approached the altars with respect/ earthly meeting place where they had Theophany.
  7. Male folk presented themselves to God three times a year.
  8. Observed the Ten Commandments/ had laws.
  9. Assembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai where they received the Ten Commandments.
  10. Burnt incense to the Lord/ Yahweh.
  11. Observed the Sabbath as a day of worship by keeping it Holy and dedicating to God.
  12. Paid tithes for the upkeep of the Tabernacle.
  13. Consecrated the Tent of meeting.
  14. Levite priests led the Israelites in worship/ Religious leaders e.g. Aaron, Moses, Levitical Priests.
  15. Made the Ark of the Covenant and carried it whenever they went which symbolized God’s presence.
  16. The dedication of the first born male children to God in memory of the Passover in Egypt.

How Christians show respect to God

  1. They set aside a day of worship.
  2. Set aside holy places of worship.
  • They do not mention God’s name in vain.
  1. They pray to him asking for forgiveness/ confessing to Him.
  2. Live exemplary lives/ role models.
  3. Giving offering/ tithes.
  • Praise Him for His wonders.
  • Taking care of the environment.
  1. Looking after the needy.
  2. Preaching/ spreading His word.


Through the teachings of Moses and their personal experience, the Israelites learnt the following about the nature of God:

  1. He is the God of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  2. God is more powerful than the other god’s e.g. he led them across the Red sea.
  3. He fulfils his promises as evidenced by their release from Egypt.
  4. God is holy as seen from the restriction from contact with the Holy Mountain.
  5. God uses his chosen people to carry out his mission e.g. Israel.
  6. God is the provider as seen in his provision of food and water in the wilderness.
  7. He is a moral God as he gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites to guide their behavior/ God is a jealous God.
  8. God is a personal God who initiates a covenant relationship with individuals for e.g. the Sinai covenant.
  9. He is the only God/Yahweh was the true God.
  10. God is just as he punished idol worshippers.
  11. God is transcendent and beyond human understanding as seen in the revelation at Mt.
  12. God demands total obedience from his people as expressed in his instruction during the making and the renewal of covenant.
  13. God is awesome as shown in people’s fear of him as seen on Mt. Sinai.
  14. God is omnipresent. He moved with them and was present in the pillar of cloud and fire.
  15. God is a jealous God as expressed in the Ten Commandments.
  16. God forgives sinners.
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