The Ten Commandments – Background

It is important that your pupils have the Ten Commandments put in context for
them — the who, what, where, when, and how they came to be. You can do this by
reading through a Bible storybook, or telling the story of Moses in your own words.
Since there are already many good children’s books which include the life of Moses, I
have not written any background material in this book.

If you do not already have some good Bible storybooks, I highly recommend the
one published by the Dorling Kindersley company in 1994: “The Children’s Illustrated
Bible” by Selina Hastings. It has a lot of historical detail, the stories are broken up into
easy segments, and the illustrations are very good. In fact, a good morning “Home Sunday
School” session might include reading one of the Bible stories with your child, and
then going over one of the lessons on the Ten Commandments from this book. As they
get to know more about the commandments, ask your child if the Bible characters broke
(or obeyed) any of the commandments, and what was the result of their actions.
For those who enjoy movies, there are two that tell the story of Moses. They each
have their pluses and minuses. “The Prince of Egypt” is an animated movie musical
which will hold the interest of most children, but the story basically ends after the parting
of the Red Sea. It does have a brief epilogue showing Moses stepping down from the
mountain carrying the stone tablets. The classic epic, “The Ten Commandments,” is a bit
long for children, but has some great scenes and is more reverent than the animated
version. In either case, you will need to explain to your child that the filmmakers have
added a great deal more to the story than we know to be true. But, at least, they will get a
flavor of the times and locale.

Although I have included some of the facts I found by researching Bible commentaries,
you may wish to read some yourself, to get an insight on the background of the
commandments, and what they might have originally meant. For instance, in the Commentary
for the Ten Commandments in the Interpreter’s Bible, we find: “As we have
them, the Ten Commandments are edited by the priests of later generations, yet even as
originally formulated, they were not anything new, but were a deft and inspired selection
edited from the great mass of moral and religious precepts which had gained currency
among the people. They have been divided: first through fourth, religious duties; fifth
through tenth, moral duties. Sometimes the fifth has been included in the religious
section, as respect for parents was a matter of religion with ancient peoples. The moral
duties have been divided: the sixth through the eighth commandment directed against
mean deeds, the ninth against mean words, the tenth against mean thoughts.”

The Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 are printed out in their entirety on the
next page. This is followed by a second page with shorter versions of some of the commandments.
These are the ones used in the lessons, but feel free to encourage your older
children to memorize the full commandments. A young child might enjoy hanging a copy
of the Ten Commandments on the wall, or putting it in a three-ring binder. This would
make a great start to a book of favorite Bible verses.

(Excerpted from “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments”



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