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Exodus 19-21: 10 Commandments

Exodus 19-21: 10 Commandments

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In Exodus 19-21 we see the 10 Commandments for the first time. These are detrimental to the people of Israel, and although we receive updates to the commandments later from Jesus, there is much to be learned from the original commandments. In order to understand the commands Jesus gives us we must also learn the history that led up to that point. That is where Exodus 19-21 comes in.


The book of Exodus is filled with important information about the history of God's people and the world. It is not only important, but so many of the lessons we can learn are relevant to each one of us as children of God. Dive in as we explore Exodus chapter by chapter.

Exodus 19

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Exodus 19:4‭-‬6

The first thing that comes to my mind is…this sounds like what God seems to remind me of every day; “You have seen over and over again what I can do. Obey my commands and you will be blessed.”

God wants our obedience. He wants us, no matter where we are, where we have come from, what He has pulled us out of, no matter what, to obey Him so He can bless us and call us His own. He proves to us time and again what He is capable of and what He will do for us when we listen and obey, but our human nature is inherently sinful and this proves much harder for us than He intended it to be when He created us before sin was brought into the world. This is why it is called faith. Have faith that it is worth it to obey Him. Have faith that our God is good and He will provide and care for us.

God knows that it is hard for them to do what God commands and to trust Moses as well, so He again tests them telling them they cannot step even one foot onto the mountain in which He will show Himself or they will die. He wants His people to show Him that they will do what He tells them.


Exodus 20

The Ten Commandments

Exodus 20 provides for us the original 10 commandments given by God to the Israelites.

  • You shall have no other gods before me.
  • Show respect to God and refuse to prioritize anything or anyone else above Him.
  • You shall not make for yourself a carved image.
  • Life your life in whole-hearted devotion to God.
  • You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  • Guard your speech to speak respectfully of God. Never use His name for your own agenda.
  • Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.
  • Allow time for meditation with proper rest and relaxation.
  • Honor your father and mother.
  • Treat your parents with respect.
  • You shall not murder.
  • Recognize God’s control over life and death.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • Honor the vow of faithfulness to both God and spouse.
  • You shall not steal.
  • Guard against taking what is not yours.
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  • Respond to others with integrity and respect.
  • You shall not covet.
  • Be satisfied with your own possessions and resources.

Do all of these laws apply to Christians?

Many of the original commandments were updated by Jesus while He dwelt on the earth, but these commandments are all still relevant to Christians today. Exodus gives us the historical backdrop for the commands God gives us to live by. We should not brush off the 10 commandments and think they are outdated or unimportant. History still holds value, and this is no exception.

So while the commands were updated later by Jesus, and they are not the societal law or even the norm, learning these commandments and their history allows us to learn more about God and grow closer in relationship with Him. We get to learn more about what it means to be set apart for Him and how He calls us to live.


How can I apply this in my life?

Put God before all things and make time for God every day. Show respect to others and to God while you play. Don’t curse God or threaten others. Be satisfied with what you have, work hard to gain what you do not have, and do not be selfish or expect anything from others. Also, remember to keep time for rest, relaxation, and godly meditation. Take time to be and grow with God, and to let yourself rest.

‘And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’’

Exodus 20:26

Cultural fun fact: In that time, pagan religions had steps leading up to their altars. By God banning the use of steps, the Israelites would be less likely and less tempted to include pagan rituals in their worship. As far as the private parts being exposed, this may be in relation to the shrine prostitutes that would be at the pagan altars. This could be a kind of mocking of the pagan rituals, kind of like saying “if you want to act pagan, I will shame you like a pagan.”


Exodus 21

Law Concerning Servants

‘“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. ‘

Exodus 21:2

In this time, servants were poverty-stricken people who would sell themselves into service to pay off debts, and to secure food and shelter for themselves and their families. It was not slavery. This was a way that the wealthy would help the poor. This was much like an employee-employer relationship.

‘“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. ‘

Exodus 21:7

The selling of women was with the intention of the daughter marrying into the family. If the father of the household married the daughter to his son, he was called to care for and protect her as his daughter.


Law Concerning Violence

‘“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. ‘

Exodus 21:22-25

This particular verse is often used by many who are opposed to abortion. I will make it clear that I will not be discussing abortion here, but I thought it was a great note to point out that this statement is actually describing unintentional harm to the pregnant woman and her child.

God’s laws about violence are to hold yourselves and each other accountable. They are to discourage violence against one another, and to be held accountable for your herds and animals if they should grow violent.

Something that is important to understand is that later on Jesus’ law of love exceeds the expectations of these basic rules for when Christians are mistreated. Jesus exceeded the expectation of “eye for an eye”. He died in our place. He died so that we may live and be made holy and forgiven in the sight of God.

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