• Unit 1:The Commandments of God

    Key unit competency:
    By the end of the unit, you will be able to justify the importance of the commandments in daily life.

    1.1 The Sinai event
    Activity 1.1
    Read Exodus 19 and 20.
    Dramatise how the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai.


            Fig. 1.1: Moses and the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai

    The commandments of God were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. At Mount Sinai, God communicated with the Israelites whom He had liberated from the Egyptian bondage. He communicated with them through Moses.
    In the third month of their journey, the Israelites set up a camp at the foot of Mount Sinai. It was during this time that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Before he received the commandments, Moses left the Israelites at the foot of the mountain. Then he went up the mountain to communicate with Yahweh.

    God told him to instruct the Israelites to prepare themselves to meet God. He told them to wash their clothes and avoid sex. This was because God wanted them to be clean and pure as they went before Him. The Israelites were also warned not to follow Moses up to the mountain. God told Moses that He would come in a thick cloud. All the people would hear God speak to Moses and believe him. Moses did as he was told by God.
    On the day that Moses received the Ten Commandments, he went up the mountain with Aaron. The rest of the people remained at the foot of the mountain. The whole mountain was covered with smoke, as God appeared in the form of fire. Then, God spoke in a thunderous voice to communicate His commandments to Moses. Moses was given the Ten Commandments and other laws that were to guide the Israelites.
    Can you find out which other laws were given to the Israelites from Exodus 20 and 25.

    Moses told people to abstain from sex before they went before God. We should avoid sex before marriage. This way we maintain our dignity before God. For the married, sex should be with their lawful partners only as a way of honouring God.

    1.1.1 The Decalogue
    Activity 1.2
    1. Using knowledge from your previous lessons, recite the Ten Commandments.
    2. Discuss the Ten Commandments one by one.
    The Book of Exodus 20 teaches us the Ten Commandments, which are also called the Decalogue. They represent the laws which were passed on from God to the liberated people of Israel.
    Meaning of Decalogue
    Decalogue refers to the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses. They were given to the Israelites to regulate their relationships with God and themselves. God chose them as His nation and so they were expected to live according to His laws.

    1. You shall have no other god except me (Exodus 20:3)
    This commandment required the Israelites to believe in one God (Monotheism).
    It meant that Yahweh was the only true creator. All other gods were false.
    Christians have continued to believe in one God whom they worship as the Creator of the universe. This unites them even if they differ in some religious beliefs and practices. When we trust in one God we shall love him above everything else. We shall obey His commandments and set a good example to others in our society. Christians are united as one in the body of Jesus Christ

    2. You shall not make yourselves images, of anything that is in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth (Exodus 20:4-6)
    This commandment required that the Israelites worship Yahweh alone. They were commanded not to make and worship images of God (idols). The practice of worshipping idols is known as idolatry.
    This commandment applies to our daily lives. We should not worship other gods but God alone. We should not pray through our ancestors or evil spirits.


                                 Fig. 1.2: A man visiting a witchdoctor

    There are also people who worship ‘modern idols’ such as money or wealth, alcohol and other drugs. Alcohol and drugs are dangerous to our bodies. They affect our health negatively. Some people think these are the most important things in life, so they have no time for God. Such beliefs can prevent us from worshipping the one true God. If we devote our lives to idols, we shall be committing idolatry which is a sin.

    It is good to have a budget of your income. This enables you to avoid impulse buying. Whoever budgets for his or her money lives within his or her means. Avoid spending money by giving witchdoctors with the hope of getting more in return.

    Does this mean we should not work hard to get money or wealth? Not at all. What it means is that we should not put all our trust in them to the point of ignoring God and other people’s welfare.

    3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (Exodus 20:7)
    This commandment forbids any form of abuse of God’s name. The Israelites were required to respect and honour God’s name. God’s name is holy and powerful. All promises made in the name God were to be done with honesty and truthfulness.
    Any person who committed the sin of blasphemy went against the third commandment. Blasphemy is the act of claiming to have equal powers with God. Jesus was accused of blasphemy when he forgave sinners because the Jews believed that only God had power to forgive sins. This commandment shows the honour and respect that is supposed to be given to God. It meant that His name should be used with sincerity and good intentions not with falsehood and blasphemy. We should avoid giving false oaths or making false promises invoking the name of God.

    4. Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11)


    This commandment recalls the holiness of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the seventh day of creation. It was reserved by God as a day of rest and worship of God. The Sabbath was also important to the Israelites because it was a memorial of their liberation from Egyptian bondage. It was the sign of an irrevocable covenant between God and His people. No work was to be done on the Sabbath.
    The Old Testament recommends the obedience and solemn respect of the Sabbath. Many Christian denominations pray and worship on Sunday. Sunday is the day of the Resurrection of Jesus, the Saviour of humanity.
    Resurrection is considered to be the new creation. However, some Christian churches observe the Sabbath on Saturday.

    5. Respect your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12)


    The fifth commandment requires children to respect and obey their parents. Children were expected to obey not only their biological parents but also other elders. This would ensure peace and harmony between parents and children, elders and the young generation. In the African traditional society, respect for elders and parents was observed strictly. This reduced conflicts.

    In the New Testament, Jesus himself reinforced this commandment. For example, in the book of Ephesians 6:1-3, it is our Christian duty to obey our parents.

    The commandment shows the right relationship between parents and children. It also requires us to respect elders with honour and gratitude. This rule also applies in the relationship between students and teachers, employees and employers, citizens and a country. As citizens of Rwanda, we should respect the laws of our land and also respect our leaders.

    6. You shall not kill (Exodus 20:13)
    Human life is sacred because it comes from God. It is part of God’s creation. All human beings are God’s creatures.

    We bear the image and likeness of God. Therefore God alone is the source of life from its beginning to its end. Nobody in any circumstance can claim the right to destroy the life of another human being.
    Through this commandment, there is respect for human life and dignity. It also makes us safeguard peace, avoid war and injustices that may lead to death.

    7. You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14)

    Activity 1.3

    The story of Ngabo and Mugabo
    Ngabo and Mugabo were great friends and neighbours. They were both married and had children. Ngabo was working with the government and could sometimes be sent to a different District.
    At one time, Ngabo was away for a month. He had to inform his family and his friend Mugabo before he left, on a Friday. Behind his back, Mugabo had been having a relationship with Ngabo’s wife. He had been looking for an opportunity when Ngabo would be away. That Friday evening Ngabo was escorted to the bus station by Mugabo. Mugabo left him at the bus station and went back home. He was happy that he had got a chance to go back to Ngabo’s house. Unfortunately, the government vehicle that was to collect Ngabo did not turn up. So, after around three hours of waiting, Ngabo had to return home.
    When Ngabo arrived home, he heard a male voice talking in a low tone in his house. Keenly listening, he realised that it was Mugabo talking. When the lights went off, Ngabo believed that his friend was sleeping with his wife. He finally tried to get his way into the house, but he could not because the door was locked. Neighbours heard the noise from Ngabo’s home and came out. They helped him break into the house and Mugabo was caught in a compromising state. He was dragged to the nearest police station. Finally, Mugabo had to serve 15 years in jail and his young family suffered a great loss. All this damages came to his family because of adultery.

    1. What lesson can you learn from the story?
    2. How would you give advice to the family of Mugabo?

    In Genesis 1: 27, we read that God created male and female. A man and a woman should get married and bear children.

    The Israelites were commanded to avoid adultery. Adultery is sexual intercourse involving a married man or woman with another person who is not his or her married partner. God intended sex to be a sacred gift for married couples only.
    A man or woman who commits adultery is unfaithful to his or her partner. This can cause conflicts in families and may break up a marriage. God wants men and women to relate to one another responsibly, both the married and the unmarried.
    Human sexuality affects all aspects of human life. It affects the unity of the body and the soul. The unity of the body consists of the biological, psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of life. A sexual act involves desires, feelings, physical changes and attraction to the opposite sex.
    The successful integration of sexuality within a person is called chastity. This is the inner unity of a human being in his or her bodily and spiritual life. Hence, chastity is sexual purity.
    Chastity involves the dignity and integrity of the person. It also involves his or her moral values and a healthy sexual life. People who are chaste are able to control their sexual desires. They respect their own bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Married people should avoid adultery. Unmarried people should abstain from sex till they get married. We are therefore required to value sex as a sacred gift from God. Sex is intended for procreation and enjoyment between a husband and a wife. It forbids all other forms of misuse of sex such as fornication (pre-marital sex) and prostitution.

    8. You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15)


    Why do some people steal from others? What kind of things do people steal? What would you say to another student to discourage him or her from stealing?
    The commandment against stealing forbade the Israelites from taking other people’s property. They were required by God to show justice towards one another. Justice promotes fairness and peace in society.
    We should also avoid unjust taking or keeping of goods that belong to other people. The commandment calls for justice and honesty in our relationships.
    As human beings, we should respect the right to own private property. We should also respect human labour and therefore employers should pay their employees on time. Employees should also perform their duties faithfully and work for the number of hours expected of them in accordance with their employment contract.

    9. Do not accuse anyone falsely (Exodus 20:16)

    God is against all sorts of false information against our neighbours. Jesus Christ came to bear witness to the truth and he is the truth, the way and the life.
    This commandment required the Israelites to be honest in their relationships. Bearing false witness leads to mistrust, wrong judgment and bad relationships between individuals, families and society at large. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We should therefore seek justice for all.
    Christians should follow the example of Jesus. They should be honest and teach others to practise the same in whatever situation they are in.

    10. You shall not desire another man’s house; you shall not desire his wife, his slaves, cattle, donkeys, or anything else that he owns (Exodus 20:17)

    The 10th commandment forbids all kind of strong human desires (or covetousness). It forbids greed, selfishness such as the desire to acquire more and more wealth without caring for others.
    This commandment also demands chastity and purity of the heart. It is against sexual immorality which starts from people’s thoughts. Uncontrolled natural desires can lead one into sin.


    The commandment encouraged the Israelites to resist temptations to sin. Feelings of jealousy and envy should not be allowed to control our behaviour. The commandment demands that people should be contented with what they have. Earthly property should be used for charitable purposes not for selfish gains only.

    There are many benefits when people follow the law. For instance;
      • There is peace in society.
      • There is order in the way people do things.
      • There is a feeling of equality as all of us are subjected to the same laws.
      • It helps us to reinforce a sense of justice in the society as the same standards are applied to all of us.

    1.1.2 Other laws of Moses
    Other than the Ten Commandments God gave the Israelites additional laws.
    They include the following:
    (i) The Israelites were instructed to make an altar of earth for God where they were to sacrifice their burnt offerings. They were to respect the altar as it represented the presence of God. The altar was a holy object.

    (ii)   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 any thing. If the servant comes alone, he is to go free alone but if he has a wife when he 

           comes she is to go with him.

    (iii)   If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do.
    (iv)  Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
    (v)   Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death whether the victim has been sold or is still in the  

          kidnapper’s possession.
    (vi)   Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death.
    (vii)  If anyone uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or donkey falls into it and dies, the 

           one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.
    (viii) If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one. Then they

            will divide both the money and the dead animal equally. However, if it was known that the bull had the  

            habit of goring yet the owner did not keep it penned up, the owner must pay. The owner will pay 

             animal for animal and take the dead animal in exchange.

    1.2 Categories or types of commandments of God

    Activity 1.4

    1. Read out the Ten Commandments as written in Exodus 20.
    2. Classify each commandment as either one that guides our relationship with God or our relationship with

        ourselves and with one another.

    There are two types of commandments:
      i) Commandments about God’s relationship with human beings
    These are commandments that are about God’s relationship with human beings. The first four commandments show the relationship of God to human beings.

      ii) Commandments about relationship between human beings
    These are commandments that are about our relationship with our fellow human beings. The last six commandments show the relationship between human beings with fellow human beings.
    According to Jesus, the most important and greatest commandment of all is love. Love your God with your whole being and love your neighbour as you love yourself. This law summarises the two categories of commandments. When we love God we shall obey Him and treat our neighbours fairly as commanded.


    Fig. 1.6: Two tablets of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments)

    1.3 Importance of the Decalogue for Israel and to Christians
    1.3.1 Importance of the Decalogue for the Israelites

    The Commandments and other civil laws are necessary for the society. Israelites found the source of morality, values and virtues in the Commandments. The following are elements that made the Commandments necessary and important:

      a. The Commandments were important to the Israelites because they defined human beings’ role in the  

           covenant. God would fulfill His promises to them and to their ancestors if they obeyed His laws.
      b. The Ten Commandments made them understand what God expected of them in relation to their

      c. The Israelites took them very seriously because they were instructions to their ancestors. The 

          commandments guided them in how to live faithfully. If they chose to do things contrary to the 

          Commandments, there were repercussions or consequences.
      d. The Israelites understood the Commandments in the light of their divine election. They indicated that

          they were special people having a special relationship with God.
      e. The Ten Commandments were regarded as special. This is because they formed Israel’s constitution.

          They governed the nation’s political, economic, social and spiritual(religious) life. The success of Israel’s 

          leaders (kings) was judged according to whether or not they obeyed God’s law. King Saul was a failure

          because he broke God’s commandments.


      f. The people of Israel understood the revelation of the law as a gift of life. They also understood it as an

         expression of God’s love for His people.

      g. The law was a manifestation of their bond with God and with one another. Through the law they were to

          relate well to each other and with God. It emphasised on relationships at all levels in the Israelite 


      h. The Commandments had both religious and moral values. These gave them an important place in the

          traditions of the people.
      i. The Commandments reflected the voice of God and His revelation to Israel’s community.
      j. The Commandments signified the expected harmony within the Israelite

      k. The Jews regarded the Ten Commandments as important because they knew

          God revealed Himself through the law. l. The Commandments were the foundation of the covenant that

          God made with the Israelites. Observance of the Sabbath Law was the sign of their covenant with God.

    1.3.2 Importance of the Decalogue for Christians

    Activity 1.5
    Basing on the meaning of each commandment, discuss how the commandments help Christians in their lives.

    The Ten Commandments (Decalogue) are important to Christians. They are important
    in their way of life. The Decalogue shapes the relationship among Christians and God.
      i. Jesus did not come to change the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He called

         all believers to obey him and his Father. According to him this was the greatest law.

      ii. The Mosaic Law often segregated the Jews from the Gentiles, sinners from those
         who claimed to be righteous. To Christians, the Ten Commandments are for all,they put all humans at  

         the same level.
      iii. The Ten Commandments help man to worship and believe in one God. They forbid the worship of idols


         any other god. This encourages Christians to guard against the temptation to trust in earthly riches,

         political power and technology at the expense of God.


    iv. Jesus Christ advised that the law should not enslave man. Man should find freedom from the law. He

         therefore stressed that the Sabbath was made for the good of man but not man for the Sabbath. He also 

         said that fasting should have its own place for Christians.

    v. The Ten Commandments help Christians to live in harmony with fellow human beings. The sixth

        commandment condemns killing or murder of any human being and puts God as the author of life.


     vi. During his earthly life Jesus lived with his parents at Nazareth. He obeyed them which shows that he 

          obeyed the fourth commandment. Christian children must always respect their parents.

     vii. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Mosaic Law. For instance, on the law that allowed retribution, such as an

           eye for an eye. He called for reconciliation instead of revenge. Justice cannot be based on revenge.


     viii. The Ten Commandments condemn immorality and more especially sexual immorality such as adultery.

            Husbands and wives are expected to love one another. They should be faithful to one another. This 

            promotes stability in the family and society as a whole.

    It should be noted that Christ came so that the law can be fulfilled. Jesus Christ is referred to as the new Moses. He improved the Mosaic Law where it had weaknesses. The age of law is substituted with the era of faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus summarises the Ten Commandments into two. That is, love God with the whole of your body and mind and love your neighbour as you love yourself. The new law is ‘written’ in people’s hearts. It is superior to the Ten Commandments which were written on stone tablets and people had to refer to them.


    1.4 Importance of rules and regulations in the society

    Activity 1.6

    The story of Mihigo and Mugwaneza

    Mihigo and Mugwaneza were athletes in their school. They both made their school proud whenever there were competitions. Their school always hired a coach when they won competitions and proceeded beyond the District level. The school used a lot of resources to train them. This was because there were high rewards in such competitions.

    At one event, in their final competition, Mihigo let down all who had hopes in him. This was when they were almost reaching the finishing line. He broke a rule. By trying to hold his colleague’s hand, he was disqualified immediately. The high hopes and cheers from his Province stopped! Mugwaneza followed the rules and won the race. There were cheers for her around the whole field.

    Back in school the following new week, the story of Mihigo and the athletics competitions dominated. As the school Head, Mrs Uwambabazi was delivering a speech at the assembly ground, she empasised the importance of following rules. She began by saying, ‘It is important to follow rules in school, at home, in church……….’ Everybody at the assembly ground was unusually silent.
    At the conclusion, she congratulated Mihigo for giving the school and the society a very important lesson to learn from. The importance of always following rules was the lesson.

    1. Explain the reason why the school had high hopes in Mihigo and Mugwaneza.
    2. The school head was right to congratulate Mihigo. Explain

     • Rules and regulations help us to maintain peace and harmony in society.
     • They are important in keeping the culture of the society.
     • Rules and regulations are necessary for instilling discipline in society. For instance, students in school are

        expected to follow the school rules to avoid bad behaviour.
     • They help promote justice in society as they guide us to know what is right and what is wrong. They guide 

        us to know the acceptable morals in our society.
     •  Rules and regulations help harmonise human relationships.

     • They also protect fundamental human rights and freedoms.
     • Rules limit the misuse of power by leaders such as, the Police, the Army, Politicians and Civil servants.

    Every single human being is entitled to enjoy his or her human rights. There should be no discrimination against race, religion, sex, language, colour, nation or political opinion.

     • Rules promote responsible parenthood. It is the responsibility of parents by law to provide basic needs for

       their children and for children to respect their parents.
     • They help control immoral practices in society such as defilement, alcoholism, robbery, rape and adultery.
     • Rules help us promote religious practices in society.

    Commandments like laws are very important in society. The Ten Commandments guided Israelites and helped them to live in peace and harmony. They were not changed by Jesus but he emphasised that love is the most important commandment.

                                      Unit summary

     • The Sinai event shows how God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
     • These commandments were a guide to human beings.
     • The Decalogue is also called the Ten Commandments. There are those commandments that showed the

        relationship between human beings and fellow human beings. There are also those that showed the

       relationship between God and human beings.
     • The Decalogue was very important to Israelites. For instance, the commandments governed Israel’s

        political, economic, social and spiritual life.

     • Apart from the Decalogue, God gave Moses other laws. They helped them in shaping relationships.
     • The Decalogue is also important to Christians. For instance, they helped in treating each other equally and

        promoting freedom to do good.
     • Rules and regulations are important in society. They bring peace and harmony in society. They also

        protect fundamental human rights and freedom.

                               Unit Assessment
     1. State three commandments given to the Israelites that promoted the relationship between human beings.
     2. a. Did you know that the Ten Commandments made the Israelites succeed in life?
         b. Explain your answer in 2 a above.
     3. How did the Sinai event promote the relationship between God and human beings?
     4. Explain the importance of the Decalogue to Christians today.

Unit 2:The Christian life and values