The backstory to the Ten Commandments

I am thankful that you seek for your family a means to connect all of your living to faith!

Last week I’d said that our Rotation on the Ten Commandments was likely to be difficult for your kids to grasp. Why did I say that? Do you suppose it was because…

(A) I spent weeks studying this story. How could I expect a child to grasp it?


(B) It is an Old Testament story, and you know, the Old Testament can be tough…


(C) The Bible is an unfolding narrative and for the Ten Commandments, there is a lot of important backstory. How could we possibly cover all of the story in Sunday’s Cool!

Answer: All of the above, but mostly the last one.

But I can relax! You are here to learn about that backstory and to help extend the learning at home.

So let’s address the backstory!

We’ll answer the questions:

  • How Moses and the Ten Commandments connects back to Abraham and Sarah? And Isaac and Rebekah. And Jacob & Rachel. And Joseph and all of his brothers. (They were all related weren’t they?)
  • How did the Israelites end up in Egypt?

Abraham looking up at the stars

Remember Abraham? He was living somewhere in current day Iraq and God called him. Over time God revealed his purpose to Abraham: “I want you to be a new tribe; a people that blesses others. You’ll show the world I care!” (Genesis 12:1-3; I’m paraphrasing here.)

The take-away point is that this was a radical new thought. Consider how other tribes at that time thought of their gods: distant and uncaring. Ponder the prospect of blessing your neighbors when what you’d been trained to do was to wipe them out!

Seriously different!

a speech bubble
Question to ponder: Did this new way of thinking stick?

the family tree of Abraham and Sarah

So God is starting something big. He makes a Covenant with Abraham which included the promise of lots of descendants. And sure enough, God sticks to his promise! We met some of Abraham’s extended family when we covered the stories of Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandsons Jacob and Esau, and his numerous great-grandchildren (Jacob’s kids), including Joseph (with the multi-colored coat).

It was Joseph who caused the family (known as Hebrews or Israelites) to move to Egypt (Genesis 27:28, 42:3, 46:27). In fact, for a review on that story, let’s watch a video! (One that stars our kids!)

Can’t see the video? View it here on Vimeo.

Very entertaining!

Okay. We’ve still got some ground to cover to bring us to our story of Moses and the Ten C… So all of Jacob and his sons and their families (the stars in the video!) moved to Egypt; there were about 70 of them (of course in those days they only counted the men). Four hundred years later Abraham’s progeny have grown to include 600,000 — you guessed it — men! (Exodus 12:37).

However, life is not rosy for these descendants of Abraham. They are living in slavery in Egypt under a cruel pharaoh. Yet, God has not forgotten his covenant with these people. (Oh, yes – God had added to his promises: an enduring relationship with Abraham’s extended family, and as Genesis 17:7 reminds us: “I will be their God.”)

So God calls Moses (through a burning bush) to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to freedom. Many plagues later, they are on their way “home” to God’s promised land!

Mt. Sinai Before Sunrise
Mt. Sinai

There is much drama in the tales which follow: their escape complete with a dramatic water crossing, journeying through the desert, manna from heaven, water from rocks, and finally, vivid events on Mount Sinai, where the story of the Ten Commandments takes place.

Whew! The backstory is complete!
Now read our current story: Exodus 19:1-11, 16-19; 20:1-17; 24:1-2, 12-18; 31:18-32:24. I’m sure that it will be the backstory to yet another story!

Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Abram counts stars by Stjepan Mokatelo, via Christian Clip Art.
I created the family tree.
The video starred kids in 1st-6th grade at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI. (Many, many thanks to Tom Gardner as photographer and video creator!)
Mt. Sinai by YoHandy, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Are you seeing ads? They are not from me! They are placed by WordPress, who otherwise offers a free platform from which to share lots of good-ness. If you see an inappropriate ad, please report it to Include the URL, the date/time the ad appeared, and a screenshot of the ad.

One thought on “The backstory to the Ten Commandments

Comments are closed.