Lesson 48: Exodus 17:8–19:25

“Lesson 48: Exodus 17:8–19:25,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 48,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 48

Exodus 17:8–19:25


The Israelites miraculously prevailed in battle against the Amalekites. While Moses camped near Mount Sinai, Jethro counseled him to delegate some of his responsibilities to others. The Lord promised to make Israel a holy nation, and Moses prepared the people to make a covenant with God.

Suggestions for Teaching

Exodus 17:8–16

Aaron and Hur uphold Moses’s hands so Israel can prevail against its enemies

Invite a student to come to the front of the class. Place a Bible in each of the student’s hands. Ask the student to extend each arm out to the side with the elbows locked, the palms of the hands turned upward, and the Bibles at eye level. Tell the student that if he or she can hold the Bibles in that position for as long as possible, it will be helpful to the rest of the class.

Ask students to think about this activity as they read about an experience Moses had while the children of Israel were in the wilderness. After Israel made camp in Rephidim and the Lord caused water to come out of a rock, a man named Amalek brought his people to war against Israel.

Invite a student to read Exodus 17:8–11 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Moses had to do to ensure the Israelites would win the battle.

  • What happened when Moses held up his hands? What happened when Moses let down his hands?

  • How might this scenario present a challenge to Moses?

Invite a student to read Exodus 17:12–13 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Aaron and Hur did to make sure Moses’s hands stayed up. Invite them to report what they find.

Ask the student holding the Bibles if he or she would like help holding them up. Invite two other students to hold up the first student’s arms. Ask the first student:

  • How long would you be able to hold the Bibles up if someone else supported your arms?

Ask the class:

  • Because Aaron and Hur supported the arms of the prophet, what was the outcome of the battle?

Explain that this account can represent what the Lord requires us to do in order to prevail in, or win, our conflict against Satan.

  • Based on the actions of Aaron and Hur, what must we do to prevail in our conflict against Satan? (After students have responded, write the following principle on the board: As we sustain the Lord’s prophet and follow his words, we will eventually prevail in our conflict against Satan.)

  • What are some ways we can sustain the prophet? (Answers may include praying for him, reading his messages, and following his direction.)

  • How has sustaining the prophet helped you prevail in the conflict against Satan?

Invite the three students to return to their seats. Summarize Exodus 17:15–16 by explaining that Moses built an altar in the place where Israel defeated the Amalekites as a memorial for what God had done for them.

Exodus 18:1–27

Jethro counsels Moses to delegate some responsibilities to others

Summarize Exodus 18:1–12 by explaining that after the Israelites established a camp near Mount Sinai, Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, brought Moses’s wife and two sons to him. Remind students that Moses had received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Jethro, who was a righteous priesthood leader and a noble prince and priest of Midian (see Bible Dictionary, “Jethro”).

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Exodus 18:13–18. Ask the class to follow along and look for what concerned Jethro.

  • What concerned Jethro?

  • Why was it a problem for Moses to attempt to judge every matter the people brought before him?

Invite a student to read Exodus 18:19–22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Jethro’s solution to Moses’s problem.

  • What was Jethro’s solution? How would it help ease Moses’s burdens?

  • How does refusing to delegate hurt a leader? How does it hurt the people he or she is called to lead?

Ask students what we could do to better support our Church leaders and reduce their burdens. Encourage them to incorporate one of these suggestions into their lives.

Summarize Exodus 18:23–27 by explaining that Moses followed Jethro’s inspired counsel and called able men to help him.

Exodus 19

The Lord prepares the Israelites to make a covenant with Him

Moses’s and Israel’s Experiences with Jehovah at Mount Sinai

Provide each student with a copy of the handout shown at the end of this lesson: “Moses’s and Israel’s Experiences with Jehovah at Mount Sinai.” (A completed version of the handout is located in the appendix of this manual.) Explain that students will add details to their diagrams during several lessons as they study Exodus 19–34. To give some context for this lesson, refer to line 1 on the handout and remind students that Moses had previously been on Mount Sinai when the Lord appeared to Him at the burning bush and called him to deliver Israel.

Summarize Exodus 19:1–2 by explaining that Moses brought the children of Israel to Mount Sinai, as the Lord had instructed when He first called Moses (see Exodus 3:7–12). For Moses and the children of Israel, Mount Sinai was like a temple. Today we go to temples to make covenants that help us become more like our Heavenly Father and prepare us to return to His presence. The Lord brought the children of Israel to Mount Sinai for this same purpose (see D&C 84:19–23). To prepare the people to enter into a covenant with the Lord, Moses went up Mount Sinai multiple times. There the Lord revealed to him the terms of the covenant—including commandments, laws, and ordinances.

On the board, write the words if and then (leave space between the words so you can write a principle later). Explain that in the covenant God presented to Israel, the word if signifies Israel’s responsibility and the word then signifies what God promised in return. Invite a student to read Exodus 19:3–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Israel’s responsibility in the covenant and God’s promise in return.

  • What was Israel’s responsibility in the covenant? (You may want to explain that keeping God’s covenant means living according to all the covenants we make with God.)

On line 2 on the handout, invite students to write God invites Israel to be His covenant people.

  • What did God promise if the Israelites would obey His voice and and keep His covenant?

  • What do you think it means for the children of Israel to be the Lord’s “peculiar treasure” (verse 5)? (You may want to explain that the Hebrew word for peculiar is segullah, which means “special possession or property” [see 1 Peter 2:9, footnote f].)

  • Using the words if and then, how would you summarize the covenant in verses 5–6 as a principle that applies to us? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we obey the Lord’s voice and keep our covenants with Him, then we are His treasured possession and His holy people.)

  • Why do you think obeying the Lord’s voice and keeping our covenants with Him make us a treasured possession to the Lord?

  • When have you felt that the Lord treasured you because you obeyed His voice and chose to live according to the covenants you have made with Him?

Testify that the Lord treasures those who are willing to be different from the world by obeying His voice and keeping their covenants with Him.

Invite students to read Exodus 19:7–8 silently, looking for how the people responded when Moses told them how they could become the Lord’s peculiar treasure. Ask students to report what they find.

On line 3 on the handout, invite students to write Moses reports Israel’s desire to enter God’s covenant.

Point out in verse 8 that Moses again ascended Mount Sinai.

Invite a student to read Exodus 19:9–11 aloud. Ask the class to look for what the Lord said He would do after the people expressed their willingness to enter a covenant with Him.

  • After the people expressed their willingness to enter a covenant with Him, what did the Lord say He would do?

Help students understand that these verses do not indicate that the people would see the Lord on the third day, but they would see a thick cloud symbolizing His presence and would hear His voice speaking from the cloud.

  • According to verse 10, what did the people need to do to prepare for this experience?

  • What could washing their clothes symbolize? (This could represent repentance or spiritual cleansing.)

Summarize Exodus 19:12–15 by explaining that Moses obeyed the Lord’s commands and worked to sanctify the people. According to the Lord’s directions, Moses also set a boundary around the mountain so the people would not ascend it.

Invite a student to read Exodus 19:16–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what happened on Mount Sinai on the third day and how the people responded.

  • What happened on Mount Sinai on the third day?

  • How did the people respond to these events? How do you think you might have felt if you had been at the base of Mount Sinai when this occurred?

Invite students to draw a cloud and lightning at the top of Mount Sinai on their handouts.

Ask a student to read Exodus 19:20–21, 25 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for what the Lord commanded Moses to do.

  • What did the Lord command Moses to do? (Ascend the mountain to speak to the Lord. Then return to the people and ensure that none of them cross the barrier to ascend the mountain.)

On line 4 on the handout, invite students to write God warns that the people are not yet prepared to enter His presence.

  • What do you think may have prevented the people from being ready to ascend the mountain and enter God’s presence at that time?

Explain that to be prepared to return to God’s presence, we must enter into His covenant and obey His commandments. Invite students to watch for the illustration of this principle as they continue to learn about Israel’s experiences at Mount Sinai in coming lessons. To conclude, you may want to testify of the truths you have discussed today.

scripture mastery icon
Scripture Mastery—Exodus 19:5–6

Invite students to carry a copy of Exodus 19:5–6 with them throughout the day. Ask them to review it several times and then decide what they will do to show the Lord that they are His peculiar treasure. Invite them to act on their decision.

Commentary and Background Information

Exodus 19:10. “Sanctify them”

The Guide to the Scriptures explains that sanctification is “the process of becoming free from sin, pure, clean, and holy through the atonement of Jesus Christ” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Sanctification”;

Becoming sanctified involves becoming more virtuous. Sister Elaine Dalton, former Young Women general president, taught that personal virtue prepares us to enter into the Lord’s presence:

“Your personal virtue will not only enable you to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, but it will also enable you to make the decisions that will help you be worthy to enter the temple and there make and keep sacred covenants and receive the blessings of exaltation. Prepare yourselves spiritually, and qualify to enter into our Heavenly Father’s presence. Prepare now for the temple, the mountain of the Lord. Never allow the goal of the temple to be out of your sight. Walk into His presence in purity and virtue, and receive His blessings—even ‘all that he hath’ (Luke 12:44)” (“Come Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 122; italics added).

Exodus 19:12. “Set bounds” around Mount Sinai

Just as the Lord set bounds around Mount Sinai, He has also set bounds around His temples. Only those who live worthy of a temple recommend are qualified to pass those bounds and enjoy the blessings that can be received only in temples. President Howard W. Hunter explained what we must do to qualify for a temple recommend:

“You must believe in God the Eternal Father, in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. …

“You must sustain the General Authorities and local authorities of the Church. …

“You must be morally clean to enter into the holy temple. …

“You must ensure that there is nothing in your relationship with family members that is out of harmony with the teachings of the Church. …

“To enter the temple you must be honest in all of your dealings with others. …

“To qualify for a temple recommend, you should strive to do your duty in the Church, attending your sacrament, priesthood, and other meetings. …

“To enter the temple you must be a full-tithe payer and live the Word of Wisdom” (“Your Temple Recommend,” New Era, Apr. 1995, 7–8).