Exodus 18–24

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 77–80


After leaving Egypt and traveling in the desert for about three months, the Lord led the children of Israel to Mount Sinai. Modern revelation teaches that Moses sought to sanctify his people and bring them into the presence of God. Unfortunately, the people were unwilling to live the higher law. They hardened their hearts and could not “enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory” (see D&C 84:23–24; see also JST, Exodus 34:1–2; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 159). Instead, the Lord gave them what is known as the law of Moses.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Suggestions for Teaching

Exodus 18. The Church is organized to help Heavenly Father’s children return to Him. The Lord calls Church leaders to teach and assist individuals in their spiritual growth and to administer the ordinances of salvation. (15–20 minutes)

Have students name some of their Church leaders who have a responsibility to care for their spiritual growth, such as bishops, Young Women leaders, teachers, and quorum presidents. Ask:

  • Why are there so many people involved in your spiritual growth?

  • What would happen in a ward or branch if everything had to be done by the bishop or branch president?

Have students fill out the chart at the end of activity A for Exodus 18 in their student study guides (p. 50), and then discuss what they found. (For a modern example of this same organizational principle, see D&C 136; for information on who Jethro was, see the commentary for Exodus 18 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 124.)

Discuss benefits you have received through serving in Church callings. Have students look at the diagrams at the beginning of activity A in their student study guides (pp. 49–50; also shown below). These diagrams illustrate how the leadership of Israel was organized before and after Jethro’s counsel. Discuss the importance of all members doing their part to make the whole Church work well (see D&C 84:109–10) and how magnifying our callings is one way we sustain our leaders.

Before Jethro counseled Moses, a chart of Israel’s organization may have looked like the following:

After Moses reorganized and delegated his responsibilities, a chart like the following could be added:

Exodus 19:3–6. The Lord will help us come unto Him and become like Him. (15–20 minutes)

Draw or show a picture of a treasure chest, and ask students to list two or three of their most precious possessions. Tell them not to show the list to anyone. Have them search Exodus 19:3–6 and find what, of all that He possesses, God wants for a “peculiar treasure.” Explain that in our day the word peculiar means “unusual” or “odd.” However, as Elder Russell M. Nelson said:

“In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term from which peculiar was translated is segullah, which means ‘valued property’ or ‘treasure.’ In the New Testament, the Greek term from which peculiar was translated is peripoiesis, which means ‘possession,’ or ‘an obtaining.’

“Thus, we see that the scriptural term peculiar signifies ‘valued treasure,’ ‘made’ or ‘selected by God.’ For us to be identified … as [the Lord’s] peculiar people is a compliment of the highest order” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 44; or Ensign, May 1995, 34).

Ask: What miracles did God bless the Israelites with to help bring them to Him? (see Exodus 19:4). Ask students to find and mark the words if and then in verse 5 and tell what Israel was to do to become the Lord’s special treasure. Discuss some of the following questions:

  • What does Exodus 19:3–6 teach us about what the Lord values?

  • How does that compare to your list of valued possessions? (see also Moses 1:39).

  • How does Exodus 19:3–6 help you understand why the Lord delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage?

  • What kinds of things are people in bondage to today?

  • What miracles has the Lord provided to deliver us from the sins and temptations that keep us in bondage? (see Alma 7:10–16).

  • What must we do to become the Lord’s special treasure? Why? (see Exodus 19:5–6; Mosiah 18:8–10; Moroni 10:32–33).

Exodus 20 tells about the Lord giving the children of Israel the Ten Commandments. As you study them, invite students to think about what those commandments have to do with our becoming God’s “peculiar treasure.”

Exodus 19:3–25. Entering into the presence of the Lord requires that we prepare by being worthy and faithful. (20–25 minutes)

To introduce Exodus 19:3–25, ask students to tell about some of their favorite places to visit. Have them explain what it costs to go to those places, such as travel expenses and entrance fees.

Have them turn to the photo of Mount Sinai in the back of their Bible (no. 2). Tell students that Moses wanted to take his people there, but they were unwilling to pay what it cost spiritually to go there. Explain that “Moses … sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God” (D&C 84:23), which has always been an objective of God’s prophets.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:

“This is why Adam blessed his posterity [in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman (see D&C 107:53–54)]; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God. They looked for a city, etc., ‘whose builder and maker is God.’ (Hebrews 11:10.) Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 159).

President Ezra Taft Benson, as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:

“How did Adam bring his descendants into the presence of the Lord?

“The answer: Adam and his descendants entered into the priesthood order of God. Today we would say they went to the House of the Lord and received their blessings” (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, 9).

It seems that Mount Sinai was to Moses and the children of Israel what the temple is to us. Have students read Exodus 19:5–13 and find what was required for the people to enter the presence of the Lord. Show a picture of a shofar (a ram’s horn trumpet, such as the one shown below) and ask what the people were to do when the trumpet sounded. Have students read Exodus 20:18–19 and tell what the people did.

Read Exodus 19:16–19 and Doctrine and Covenants 84:23–24 and discuss why the people might have been afraid to go up to meet the Lord when they were called. Ask:

  • Instead of becoming worthy themselves, who did the Israelites want to meet with the Lord for them?

  • Are there people in the world today who do not believe in prophets or who think that a prophet is the only person who can speak with God?

  • What blessings do we lose if we refuse to heed the call to come unto Christ?

Prepare a chart like the following on the board, but leave the answers off:

Are We Prepared to Meet the Lord?

Enoch and his people

Moses and the Israelites

The prophet and us

Did the prophet do his duty?




Did the people prepare?




What makes the difference?

They obeyed and became sanctified.

They did not obey and were not sanctified.


Have students read Moses 7:18–21 and fill in the answers for Enoch and his people. From what they have learned about Moses and the Israelites, ask them to fill in that column. Discuss the difference between Enoch’s people and Moses’ people (see especially Exodus 20:18–19; D&C 84:23–24).

Discuss how those questions apply to us by identifying what the Lord has specifically asked us to do. As a foundation, you could discuss, in general terms, the basic requirements to obtain a temple recommend. If we worthily enter the house of the Lord, we enter His presence (see D&C 97:15–17). Ask students what will determine their preparedness to be in God’s presence.

weekly icon scripture mastery icon Exodus 20:1–17 (Scripture Mastery, Exodus 20:3–17). The Ten Commandments teach us how to love God and our neighbors. Keeping those commandments can help qualify us to enter the presence of the Lord. (75–90 minutes)

Ask students if they are familiar with the Ten Commandments. Have them number 1 to 10 on a piece of paper and try to name them all in order. (If you know a way to help them remember the Ten Commandments, you may want to teach it.)

Jesus summarized all of the Ten Commandments in two commandments. Have students read Matthew 22:36–40 and list on the board those two great commandments. (Love God and love your neighbor.) As you study the Ten Commandments, have students categorize each of them under one of those two headings. (Commandments 1–4 deal with loving God and 5–10 deal with loving our neighbor.)

Review what the Lord wanted to do for the children of Israel and what was required of them to have that privilege (see Exodus 19:5–11; D&C 84:19–23). Help the students discover the following:

  • The people committed to do whatever the Lord commanded (see Exodus 19:8).

  • No one was allowed up to the mountain until the Lord had fully instructed them (see Exodus 19:12, 21–25).

  • The Lord then gave them commandments (see Exodus 20–23).

  • The people entered into a covenant to keep the commandments just explained to them (see Exodus 24:3).

  • Seventy elders of Israel were able to see the Lord as promised (see Exodus 24:9–11).

Help students understand that the Ten Commandments were a foundation for what was required of the Israelites to receive all the blessings the Lord wanted to give them.

Each of the Ten Commandments states or implies actions or attitudes that God requires or forbids. There are positive aspects of each commandment with which we should be anxiously engaged (see D&C 58:26–28). As a class or individually, have students use the following steps while studying each of the Ten Commandments. Refer to the chapter “The Ten Commandments” in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 127–35) for help as needed.

  1. 1.

    Read Exodus 20 and identify one of the commandments.

  2. 2.

    Define what the commandment means and implies.

  3. 3.

    List some actions that would constitute breaking the commandment.

  4. 4.

    List positive or constructive actions we can take to apply the commandment in our lives.

You may want to make a worksheet for each student to fill out while discussing each commandment. See the following partial example:



Ways People Break the Commandment

Positive Applications to My Life

5. “Honour thy father and thy mother.”

Love, respect, obey in righteousness.

Refuse counsel, be disrespectful, bring dishonor to the family.

Counsel with parents; follow their advice.

6. “Thou shalt not kill.”

Do not shed innocent blood.

Abortions, murder of all kinds, anger and hatred that turns to physical harm or even starts wars.

Respect all life.

After studying all of the Ten Commandments, show students a kite or a picture of a kite and write on the board The commandments are like . Ask: What keeps a kite up in the air? (Most students will say it is the wind.) Ask them what the string is for and what happens if the string is cut. Help them discover that even though the string may keep the kite from going wherever the wind blows, without the string the kite would not be able to fly at all. Have students compare the kite’s string to the commandments. Ask: Do the commandments hold us down or help us rise higher? (see 1 Nephi 13:37; Ether 4:19). Help them understand that although the commandments may seem restrictive, they help to make us free from sin.

Have students complete the sentence on the board with other objects that symbolize what the commandments are like, such as a foundation rock, a road map, keys, and a stairway. Share your testimony that the commandments are given to help us be happy now and eternally.

Exodus 21–24. Exodus 21–24 contains examples of the application of the Ten Commandments to specific cases. Restitution, not retaliation, is an important message of the law of Moses. (30–60 minutes)

Choose several of the situations from Exodus 21–23 to share with the class. As you share each situation, let your students be the judges and determine what they think would satisfy justice in each case. Then refer them to the verses that record what the Lord said should be done in each case. For example: If you borrowed a shovel from your neighbor and it broke while you were using it, what should you do? After some discussion, have students read Exodus 22:14–15 and find out what the Lord commanded.

After studying several examples, write the words retaliation and restitution on the board and ask students to explain the difference in the meanings of those two words. To help them, have them compare Exodus 21:24–25 with Exodus 22:1.

Tell students that many people think Exodus 21:24 characterizes the law of Moses. They view it as a law of retaliation—to do to others as they have done to you. Have students review the examples they just studied of how the law was applied and discuss whether the law required retaliation or restitution (see the commentary for Exodus 22:1–17 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, pp. 139–40).

Read Exodus 23:1–9 with your students and ask:

  • How do peer groups sometimes try to influence us to break the commandments?

  • What associations can we make to help us overcome those pressures?

  • What are the blessings of obedience to God’s laws?

  • What impact would it have on our society if people lived these laws?

Have students read Exodus 23:20–33 and list the blessings the Lord promised Israel and the warnings He gave them (see the commentary for Exodus 23:20–31 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 141).

Help students understand that the law of Moses was not a primitive law and that it required godly conduct and faithfulness to covenants. Ask: When do we covenant to keep the commandments? (see D&C 20:77, 79).

Read Exodus 24:1–11 with your students and discuss the experience seventy of the elders of Israel had with the Lord because of their faithfulness. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

“Without ‘the power of godliness,’ meaning without righteousness, ‘no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.’ The unrighteous would be consumed in his presence. ‘Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God.’ To be sanctified is to be clean, pure, spotless, free from sin. In the ultimate and final day, the sanctified will be those of the celestial kingdom, the kingdom where God and Christ dwell. ‘But they [the children of Israel] hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence’—because they would not become pure in heart—‘therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.’ (D&C 84:21–24.) All Israel might have seen the Lord had they taken the counsel of Moses, but only a few did. On one occasion, for instance, Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu who were Aaron’s sons, and ‘seventy of the elders of Israel … saw the God of Israel,’ while the hosts with whom Moses had labored remained in their dark and benighted state (Exodus 24:9–10)” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 494).

Share your testimony that true peace and happiness and eternal blessings come from keeping the commandments.