Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 14: “Ye Shall Be a Peculiar Treasure Unto Me”

How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 14: “Ye Shall Be a Peculiar Treasure Unto Me”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 11, 2010

The current manuals crowds much of the history of Israel’s early years of wilderness wandering – including the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law given to Moses – into a single lesson. The Sunday School manual of 1965, while still covering theological and historical ground very rapidly, allows two weeks for the same discussion. As at present, the 1965 lessons emphasize becoming a “holy nation” before God by obeying his commandments, sustaining his appointed leaders, and exercising faith.

Moses: Faith Is Confidence and Must Be Developed


People may know that there is a God, and know that He has helped them and can help them, but still lack faith that He will; for faith is confidence, and is superior to knowledge as a motivating force. The lack of faith may leave a formerly knowledgeable people rebelliously inert.

Basic Scriptural Sources

Exodus 14-18. Ten manifestations and more the Israelites had seen in Egypt, but five times yet they doubted, tried, and provoked the Lord as need arose for succor, aid, water, and food; for all that they had seen had not yet built faith in the things not seen.

Supplementary Reading

Maps and pictures of the possible wilderness routes taken by the Israelites are as helpful to this study as road maps and tourist guides are to one who is taking a trip. To know of the arid and rugged terrain over which those refugees and pilgrims traveled helps one to understand their fears and complaints, and to appreciate the grace of God’s miraculous care of them. Atlases and illustrated reference books have previously been named which would be very useful here.

Study Questions

1. After all of the plagues, why did Pharaoh once more rebel against the Israelites and their God and go in force in hot pursuit after them?

2. Naturally the Israelites were fearful, but why were they so sarcastic and pessimistic when they saw Pharaoh and his hosts pursuing them? Had they not had experiences in which they had been spared before, upon which they could have based some hope and expectation of aid in the new crisis? What did Moses seek to teach them in this fearful circumstance?

3. After the dramatic deliverance at the crossing of the sea, for what qualities and capacities did the people’s song praise the Lord? How deeply thankful or superficially joyful do you think they were on that occasion?

4. How many days passed until the people murmured again? Were their remonstrances directed at the Lord or Moses? What was the need that brought about their next distress and despair? What the need was met and the problem solved, what did Moses try to teach them?

5. When the people became hungry were they ready to choose slavery with security in preference to freedom with want? By whom is this choice being made today? Is there any other recourse? Are those two alternatives the only ways one can go?

6. What sources for food existed in the area? What became available each evening? When was the manna available? What were the restrictions about it? How were the people provided an exercise in Sabbath-keeping? Was it a lesson easily learned? What did the Lord and Moses try to teach them with a pot of manna as an object-lesson?

7. How did the Israelites tempt the Lord again at Massah and Meribah? What did Moses demonstrate and try to teach them there?

8. Whose attack upon the Israelites represented their first contact with another people after leaving Egypt? How did they meet that problem? Is there any good evidence of faith developing in them by that time?

9. What was Jethro’s attitude toward the Lord? For what did he show gratitude to God when he met Moses and the Israelites? Did he show more appreciation than the Israelites themselves?

10. Jethro wisely saw that better organization of the people under Moses was needed. What functions would be served by the system he suggested? By whom did the new organization need to be ratified?

11. Was Israel now ready to assume the role and fill the mission as an exemplar who could bring blessings to all nations? What yet was needed?


The Lessons of a Crisis
(Exodus 14; 15)

Once again their minds were changed, their hearts were turned, and the Egyptians said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” It might have been expected that the terror of things they had suffered or amazement over the powers they had encountered in the months past, throughout the period of the plagues, would have been as a restraining hand against further incursions against the Lord or His people. But here is a demonstration again of the fact that miracles do not convert, and fear of suffering does not restrain; people will do what they feel deeply they must do. Apparently the material motivation was the strongest consideration in this case for they ruefully asked only, “Why have we … let Israel go from serving us?” And so in force Pharaoh and his armies pursued after the Israelites to bring them back, all other consequences that might arise notwithstanding.

The evidence is equal, on the other hand, that the Israelites had not been “converted” from non-believers to believers in God by all that they had seen. The crisis in which they saw themselves, with the sea before them and Pharaoh’s rapidly approaching armies behind, shocked them out of all confidence that the Lord could help them here as he had helped them before. Yet in spite of their undeveloped faith, rather than let them perish, the Lord and Moses tried to teach them trust and confidence and saved them from destruction. “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, …” said Moses. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” There are times when man cannot save himself; but the Lord in His wisdom and mercy sometimes extends His grace that His children may have a future and that that future may be bright in spite of the past. Thus the sea was made passable that Israel might live, while many Egyptians perished that the rest of them, and we, might learn finally that man cannot fight against the Lord.

Some of the things the Israelites sang about in their song of praise of God after their salvation at the Red Sea sound as if vengeance of Israel and of the Lord against the Egyptians was the prime end accomplished by the miracle at the Red Sea. Gratitude for their safe deliverance is doubtless the chief motive behind the song, however, for they sang:

Thou in thy mercy
Hast led forth the people
Which thou hast redeemed:
Thou hast guided them in thy strength
Unto thy holy habitation.

(Exodus 15:13.)

Mundane Needs Supplied, Further Lessons Given

(Exodus 15 22-27; 16; 17)

The songs of praise and exultation had scarcely had time to die away when three days later in the desert wilds the Israelites found themselves without potable water and fearful again that they would not survive. But they did not ask the Lord, nor ask Moses to ask the Lord, to help them in their need; they simply murmured against Moses. He turned of course to the Lord, and water was made available. With the blessing of water the Lord gave them also a statute and ordinance of promise that if they would try to do right, and keep His commandments, none of the troubles which they had seen in Egypt would come upon them; He would not let diseases come upon them, but would be unto them “the Lord that healeth.” This should have been reassuring and an impressive lesson for them; but they were still not very strong in faith, as is evident from succeeding episodes.

Several weeks later, in the middle of the second month, out in the desert wastes between the pleasant oasis of Elim and the great granite mountains of Sinai, hunger overtook them. It is no wonder that the procurement of food was a problem in such terrain; it is indeed remarkable that they had been able to provide as well as they had for so long a trek. Natural resources would have been almost nil. What could they do when faced with a problem for which they had no feasible solution? Would they turn with trust and confidence to the Lord this time? They did not. They wished they had been smitten by the Lord with death as they sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the fill before they left Egypt. They even accused Moses and Aaron of bringing them out there to die.

But again, in spite of their bitterness the Lord through mercy extended a boon to them, for the alternatives doubtless were food by a miracle or death. The food provided from heaven was in small white grains like coriander seed. The Israelites said “Man hu,” (“What is it?” – or perhaps it should be translated “A gift it is!”) and so they called its name “manna.” It appeared on the ground every morning, and in the evening they had quail. the lessons the Lord and Moses sought to teach this time were presented in something of a laboratory exercise in order, in obedience, and in Sabbath-keeping.

This is the first Biblical mention of “the holy sabbath” since the account of the creation of the world made mention of the six periods of work by Deity followed by a period of rest. The law concerning it came the month before the great law code from heaven came in which sanctifying of the Sabbath was made the fourth of the ten great commandments. As might be expected, not all Israelites followed the instructions either to refrain from gathering more manna in any one morning than they needed for the day or to gather on the sixth day enough for the day of rest. “How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?” asked the Lord. Sad to say, the answer in action is “a very long time indeed.”

A little farther on, water once more was needed and the action and reaction were the same as every time before. “Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?” Moses asked them. The word tempt here renders a Hebrew word which means test, try, prove, for ever and again the people’s attitude was, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” They knew there was a god and they knew he could help them, but they could not reach that quiet confidence, which is faith, that he would. Moses named the place “Massah and Meribah,” meaning “trial and strife.”

Soon after this a different sort of challenge and problem arose when the predatory, wandering Amalekites attacked. No indication is given of Israel’s immediate response to that threat. Organized defense was set up under Joshua, a great name for the future which is introduced at this time. Apparently in recognition of the spiritual frailty of his people, Moses proposed to mount a hill holding up toward heaven the rod which had come to be the symbol of God’s power in his hands; and sure enough when the rod was held up the people fought valiantly and successfully, but when it was down Amalek prevailed. The battle was finally successful for Israel; and Moses built a memorial altar there calling it Jehovah-nissi – “the Lord is my banner.”

Organization of Israel

(Exodus 18)

Jethro now came out to meet his son-in-law Moses and his great horde of refugees. Moreover, Jethro brought Moses’ wife and family out to be reunited with him; and Moses apparently named his second son at that time, calling him Eliezer – “God of Help” – “for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” (Exodus 18:4.)

The priest of Midian then gave thanks to God for His blessings to Israel; he offered sacrifice to Him, and arranged a ceremonial meal that Moses and all the elders of Israel might come and “eat bread … before God.” The nature of this ceremony of divine fellowship is not made known.

Looking at the administrative and judicial problems and procedures of Moses, who was trying to do all of the instruction and judgment of his people alone, Jethro suggested that both Moses and the people would be worn out by that program. He wisely proposed that Moses should select “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” to be rulers and judges. From the scripture it appears that the people were to be organized in groups of ten under an ascending order of officers which would embrace rulers of tens, of fifties, of hundreds, and of thousands. Thus the ruler of a thousand would have under him ten rulers of hundreds and their subordinate offices; the ruler of each hundred would be over two rulers of fifty and their subordinates; and the ruler of fifty would be over five rulers of ten. In judicial matters, the court of original jurisdiction would be the ruler of ten; any case he could not satisfactorily settle could be taken to the ruler of fifty and so on up the line of officers, with only the difficult matters, the great problems, coming up to the top for Moses’ decision.

With this improved system of instruction, direction and adjudication, surely Israel was brought one more important step towards becoming the “holy nation” they should become. Jethro’s contributions to Moses and the children of Israel in divine authority and organizational direction were of inestimable value. The Israelites were ready for the final stage of their preparation that they might be the missionaries they should be as heirs of Abraham and Israel.

Moses: The Lord’s Voice from Heaven


The Lord proffered the privilege of a theophany to Israel, that the people might hear when He spoke to Moses, believe in God and Moses forever after and live by God’s law, for they were to become to Him a “kingdom of priests, and an holy nation,” “a peculiar treasure.”

Basic Scriptural Sources

Exodus 19. Preparation for one of the greatest mass revelations ever vouchsafed to man up to that time.

Exodus 20. The great basic law-code heard by Israel from the mount, from the midst of fire, that they might know ‘that God doth talk with man, and he liveth” (Deuteronomy 5:24), and that He cares how man behaves.

Supplementary Reading

The dramatic sequels to the announcement of the Lord that he would “come down in the sight of all the people,” and would let the people hear Him speak with Moses, are seen in Exodus 19:17, 21; 20:18, 19. Here it is evident that the people were not quite prepared and did not respond to the great opportunity as they should have done; and in later scripture it is evident that they “hardened their hearts and could not endure His presence.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 84:18-24; cf. Psalm 95;11 and Hebrews 3:11.) For testimony that they did hear God speak the commandments, see Deuteronomy 4:10-12, 33, 36; 5:22-26. The great commission to prepare to be an holy nation, a kingdom of priests, a peculiar treasure, was reiterated upon the heads of other heirs to the call later. (Recall Galatians 3:7-9, 14, 24-29; then see 1 Peter 2:5-9.)

On the far-reaching significance of the standards admonished in the Ten Commandments there are abundant reiterations, elucidations, extensions, and clarifications of many of their ratifications in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, the prophetic books, the New Testament, and latter-day scripture. A sampling follows.

The sin and the folly of idolatry: Isaiah 45:12-20; Jeremiah 2:5-13; Ezekiel 8; Acts 17:28, 29.

Taking His name in vain:

Sabbath Day: Exodus 31:12-18; Leviticus 23; Isaiah 58:13, 14; Mark 2:27; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10; Doctrine and Covenants 59.

Duties of parents and children: Colossians 3:21; Ephesians 6:1-4; Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-29. Recall als0 Abraham’s ideal example – Genesis 18:17-19.

Against murder: Genesis 4:8-15; 9:6; Matthew 5:21-26; Revelation 21:8; 22:15; 1 John 3:15; Doctrine and Covenants 42:18, 19; 132:27.

Against killing other creatures needlessly: Doctrine and Covenants 49:18, 21; 89:12.

Against adultery: Leviticus 18; Matthew 5:27-32; Proverbs 2:16-19; 6:23-35; Doctrine and Covenants 42:24-26; 59:6; 76:103; I Corinthians 6:9, 10. Recall Genesis 39:7-12.

Against stealing: Exodus 22:1-15; Leviticus 19:11; Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9; I Corinthians 6:10; Doctrine and Covenants 42:20.

Against lying: Leviticus 19:11; Hosea 4:1-3; Deuteronomy 19:16-21; Proverbs 19:5, 9; Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:15; Doctrine and Covenants 76:103.

Against coveting – “taking delight” in that which one cannot legally or morally have or use: (1) as related to the seventh Commandment, Leviticus 18; Matthew 5:27, 28; (2) as it relates to the eighth commandment, examples in Moses 5:31-33, 38; Genesis 34:23; Acts 20:33; Mark 7;22; Luke 12;15, etc. See a concordance to any of the scriptures for abundant additional references on this or any of the other commandments.

Study Questions

1. What were the important phases of Israel’s preparation for the great visitation of God? Why was cleanliness a part of this preparation?

2. What was and is the ideal role the Lord desired Israel to fulfill? For whose benefit were they called to such a role? Whose calling and responsibility is it now in the latter days to fulfill it?

3. What was the Lord’s immediate purpose in offering them the great opportunity of seeing Him come down upon the mount, and hearing His voice? Did the experience accomplish its intent?

4. Did the people actually see and hear Him? In what degree did they fall short of their opportunity?

5. With respect to whom are the first four commandments designed to regulate man’s attitudes and actions? the last six? Do the first and second great commandments Jesus later reiterated embrace in principle all of these ten?

6. Why is God zealously concerned about our behavior? Why is idolatry so serious? What modern practices, principles or attitudes are like those of idolaters of old?

7. How are the sinful ways of the parents and their effects sometimes transmitted to the children? Is it so because God wants it so? Is it inevitable in this free-agency type of world? How and when can the children of an evil heritage be saved from continuing in the way of their fathers?

8. Discuss the various ways in which the Lord’s name is used “in vain.” How prevalent is this practice? How serious an offense is it?

9. What were the main purposes or reasons for keeping the Sabbath and sanctifying it? Which of its values of old are pertinent also to our day? Are there any added reasons in our day why we should keep the Sabbath?

10. how or why should the honoring of parents contribute to long preservation of life in the land we inherit and live in? What else should thereby be preserved more perfectly?

11. Wherein is murder an infringement upon God’s prerogatives as well as an interference with man’s destiny? Does the sixth Commandment pertain to any other kinds of killing besides “murder”? How might all keep the spirit of the law as well as the letter of it?

12. Wherein is adultery a violation of God’s specific instructions on the proper procedure for bringing souls to this earth? Wherein may it also be an infringement upon the rights and opportunities of children if they come into the world through an adulterous union? Why have societies throughout the world’s history deteriorated coincidentally with their departure from this proper standard? How much danger is there that our culture might do so?

13. What are some of the ways in which a false witness brings suffering to others? Is gossip one manifestation of this evil? What are usually the motivations of a liar?

14. What kind of society would exist without the preservation of property rights as postulated by the commandment, Thou shalt not steal? How is the thief himself impaired by his practice?

15. What other commandments would be more easily kept also if one kept well the tenth, against coveting? Would keeping any one of the other nine similarly facilitate the keeping of the others?


Awesome Prelude to Divine Law-giving

(Exodus 19)

Upon arriving at Sinai within the third month after being freed from Egypt, the people of Israel learned of God’s great plans for them as to their role and destiny. They could and should already have been aware that God had called them as His “first-born” to bear His authority and to serve Him. (Recall Exodus 4:22, 23; also the calling of Abraham in such statement as found in Abraham 1:18, 19; 2:6-9; Genesis 12:2, 3; 18:19; etc.) In a grand program of preparing them for their mission, the Lord proffered to them a privilege such as has been seldom accorded upon this earth. Their destiny was to be to Him a kingdom of priests, an holy nation. What would be the purpose of a whole kingdom constituted of priests (i.e. all bearers of the priesthood power and authority)? They would not all be needed to minister to each other. Obviously this was a renewal of the charge that they were to bring knowledge of the name and benefits of the powers of God to all nations. thus they would be, like the royal treasury of a king, the “peculiar treasure” whereby God could accomplish the redemption of all peoples. The word rendered “peculiar treasure” (Exodus 19:5) is in Hebrew segullah, which denotes a special or personal possession. the term “holy nation” is also perhaps not quite as meaningfully translated as it could be; in the Hebrew the indication is that the Israelites were to be a “sanctified people.”

In preparation for a great spiritual experience appropriate to this calling, they were told to wash their clothes, cleanse their bodies, and in the spirit prepare for God to “come down in the sight of all” and speak to them. That they were to cleanse themselves outwardly as a symbol of their inner purification seems interestingly appropriate; it suggests a parallel to the nature of the rite of baptism, as an outward washing symbolic of an inner cleansing.

At the established signal, when the trumpet sounded long and loud, they were to go up to the mount and hear the Lord when he spoke with Moses and thereby have their own witness of his revelations, after which the Lord would actually “come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai.”

Accordingly, at the prearranged signs the people gathered at the mount. They had washed and had prepared themselves by abstaining from physical indulgences, so that they were supposedly ready for the grand experience. When the trumpet sounded long and loud they stood and trembled at the foot of the mount, and the Lord came down upon the top of it. But apparently they were not quite ready to go farther, for Moses was sent back to warn them not to break through the bounds and come up to the mount to gaze upon the Lord lest many of them perish in His presence. After they had heard his voice speaking the great code of commandments, they ran away – they “removed and stood afar off.” (Exodus 20:18.) They “could not endure His presence.” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:21-25.) They did not attain to the full extent the great privilege which they had been offered.

But they had heard His voice. Years later Moses reminded them many times of the challenging fact that they had heard the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire and clouds of Sinai, and that no other nation had enjoyed such an opportunity. They ought surely to be obedient, for though they “saw no similitude” yet they had heard the ‘voice of the words” of the Ten commandments from God Himself. (See the Deuteronomy references listed for supplementary reading.)

The Great Code of Commandments

(Exodus 20)

The Israelites heard and knew as personal witnesses that the Lord who had brought them out of bondage in Egypt was God, and that He was a living God who could speak with man. They knew that they should neither make, nor set up, nor worship any other gods or idols before Him. (The Hebrew phrase is literally “Thou shalt have no other gods before my face”; and since all things that exist are before the face of God continually, the meaning is emphatic: have no other gods!)

The opprobrium that attaches to the word “jealous” in English does not necessarily pertain in the Hebrew word kone’ used by the Lord to describe His feeling about His people. Hebrew is always picturesque. In this case the word used means in its verbal form “to become intensely red,” and refers to the color produced in the face due to deep emotion. The adjective therefore can be rendered “ardent,” “zealous,” “sensitive,” “jealous” – according to what best fits the picture. The meaning is clear that God feels deeply concerned about His children and can be saddened and deeply hurt if they who know Him turn from Him and hate Him. So long as evil traditions of doing so are perpetuated from generation to generation, compensation is levied accordingly from generation to generation. But whenever anyone turns to Him, He is ready at any time, in any generation, to show mercy and kindness to the “thousands of them who love Him and keep His commandments.” The complete sentence comprising verses 5 and 6 of Exodus 20 must be read as a unit to get the true and complete picture.

It will later be seen plainly that the children are indeed not punished by God for their fathers’ sins, nor vice versa; but each man is punished for his own sin. this is according to Moses’ teachings in Deuteronomy (24:16), and according to the teachings of the prophets 9e.g. Ezekiel 18).

The insult to God in the vain, useless, light-minded and often malicious use of His name, whether in false premises, in insincere covenants, or in evilly aggravated address, is a serious offense to Him and to those who revere Him. As is evident in the references to it in all dispensations, many people are guilty of swearing by His name falsely. He will not account one clean (= guiltless) who does so; such a one must cleanse himself by repentance. Jesus avers that one should not swear at all to attest one’s sincerity or veracity; one should be known as a man of truth so that all he need assert is “yea” or “nay” and it will suffice without oath or emphasis.

The “swearing” that is done legally in our society is not in fact a swearing by God, leaving to Him the enforcement of what is said; it is actually a supplication of God, asking His help that one do the thing promised.

That the Sabbath was made for man, as Jesus later said, is apparent in its merciful and helpful provisions of physical rest and spiritual refreshment and rededication. It should be the easiest of all God’s commandments to keep, but selfish and private interests, and infidelity to God, leave it much abused both anciently and in the present.

A good practice in Sabbath-keeping is later suggested by Moses in his farewell address (Deuteronomy 5:12-15), in his admonition that Israel be grateful for the freedom they had been given by the Lord in their deliverance from the bondage of slavery. It would be a worthy Sabbath thought for us today – to be grateful for the liberty wherewith we have been made free.

The Sabbath we observe is still one day in seven, although the calendar places it at the head of the week rather than at the end. this is doubtless a commemoration of the fact that the “Lord’s Day” – the day on which the Saviour was resurrected and freed as from the bondage of sin and death – was the first day of the week. (See the supplementary reading on this if you are interested in the history of Sabbath observance.)

The fifth Commandment establishes the home as the base wherein the good life is to be taught and learned. if parents teach children properly and the proper relationship between parents and children is maintained as suggested in the scriptures of every dispensation, it is only natural that the children will so live that they can be blessed and preserved in their heritage, and improving it they will pass it on to the succeeding generations.

The evils of murder were taught and were known to man from the beginning, and these things were re-emphasized by all the prophets. Jesus in His ministry reiterated the law against killing one’s fellowman and added warnings against even approaching him in undisciplined anger or inciting others to wrath. In the last dispensation the seriousness of this sin is again repeated and emphasized, and the fact is specified that one who commits it must be punished in this life and in the life to come; in fact, if one should do it who has received the new and everlasting covenant, putting to death another in innocent blood, it is unpardonable. (Doctrine and Covenants 132:27.)

Though the law is specifically against “murder” as such (the word for it being as specific in Hebrew as it is in English) and does not embrace all forms of killing – defensive warfare, execution of criminals, killing of animals, etc. – it goes without saying that all of these things also must be properly regulated. while there is a great difference between killing maliciously – to get gain, for example – and killing through a genuine accident, it is obvious that we ought not to risk killing carelessly on the highway, in the home, or in the factory, or wherever we can do something to avoid endangering human life.

Common sense as well as Gospel understanding would suggest also that one ought to be aware of the evil of killing oneself, even though it be done slowly by the poison of bad habits. but the specific prohibition of the sixth Commandment is ”Lo tirtsakh” – “Thou shalt not murder.”

The seventh Commandment, like the sixth, pertains to man’s interference with, or abuse of, the lawful, proper processes of life. It is God’s prerogative to specify how His children should be brought to this earth and when and how they are to be removed from it. It is man’s privilege to initiate the process whereby they are brought to this earth, and the act is proper if done in accord with God’s rules for marriage of mates. If that process is prostituted, or in any way is practised as a privilege without proper responsibility attached, it is, as Joseph said in Egypt, a “great wickedness and sin against God.” (Recall Genesis 39:1-20.) That one ought to avoid even the approach to the sin, or “anything like unto it,” is evident from the earthly teachings as well as the revelations of the Lord. That it is the social and religious aberration most likely to corrupt this latter-day civilization is evident from both former prophecy and present statistics. In these days it would be well to take one’s stand in holy, virtuous living, for thus “my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved,” saith the Lord. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:32.)

The prohibition against stealing – whether it be robbery, shoplifting, plagiarism, embezzlement, or any other form of appropriating that which one cannot legally and morally own – in a fundamental law and a minimal essential standard for a stable society. It is no less wrong to steal public property than to steal private property, to cheat the government than to cheat the employer, to steal a purse than to steal away someone’s good name (a thought more classically expressed in Shakespeare’s play “Othello”). “Thou shalt not steal.” What more need be said?

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,” says the ninth Commandment. If he is accused and you are a witness, the testimony you give must be true and not falsified out of enmity, a desire to inflict hurt, a hope to get gain, or from any other cause. Moses and the prophets interpreted this prohibition to cover all forms of lying or falsehood. It is in its realm, like the previous commandment as regards the realm of property rights, an admonition to be honest. Nothing less than honesty will conform to the law. The status of the liar in and after the judgment of God is bad; he is listed with the “abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters” who “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” (See the supplementary reading listed.)

To covet or take delight in another’s property, his status, his position or his wife, is to approach to the breach of other commandments – such as those against theft, lying, adultery or even murder. To keep this commandment, not to covet, is to avoid the very approach to such sin, and to forestall committing it in the heart or in fact. It is a suitable summary of principles and a safeguard against acts covered by many of the other nine commandments, and is hence an appropriate conclusion to this great code of laws.

To have lived the Ten Commandments would have made Israel, as Moses later urged them to show themselves to be “a great and a wise people” in the eyes of all who would see them, and would have been the best form of missionary work. It would have been for them what it is also for us – a way to let our light so shine, as Jesus recommended, that others may see our good works and be likewise led to glorify their Father in heaven by their lives.



  1. You’d think that when the lessons are numbered, I’d be able to post them in the correct order. That would be asking a little too much … This and last week’s lesson somehow changed their places.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 11, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  2. I taught this lesson (14) yesterday. I would have thought it should have been split into two, just as you show it had been in 1965. We didn’t even get to Mount Sinai before time was up.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — April 12, 2010 @ 7:59 am

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