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High above the thin line of the distant horizon, there appeared a small cloud of dust. The Babylonian peasant, working his poor farm on the outskirts of the fertile lands, noticed it.

"Another tribe is trying to break into our land," he said to himself. "They will not get far. The King's soldiers will drive them away."

He was right. The frontier guards welcomed the new arrivals with drawn swords and bade them try their luck elsewhere.

They moved westward following the borders of the land of Babylon, and they wandered until they reached the shores of the Mediterranean.

There they settled down and tended their flocks and lived the simple lives of their earliest ancestors who had dwelt in the land of Ur.

Then, there came a time when the rain ceased to fall. There was not enough to eat for man or beast, and it became necessary to look for new pastures or perish on the spot.

Once more, the shepherds (who were called the Hebrews) moved their families into a new home which they found along the banks of the Red Sea near the land of Egypt.

But hunger and want had followed them upon their voyage, and they were forced to go to the Egyptian officials and beg for food that they might not starve.

The Egyptians had long expected a famine. They had built large storehouses and these were all filled with the surplus wheat of the last seven years. This wheat was now being distributed among the people, and a food-dictator had been appointed to deal it out equally to the rich and to the poor. His name was Joseph, and he belonged to the tribe of the Hebrews.

As a mere boy, he had run away from his own family. It was said that he had escaped to save himself from the anger of his brethren who envied him because he was the favorite of their Father.

Whatever the truth, Joseph had gone to Egypt, and he had found favor in the eyes of the Hyksos Kings who had just conquered the country and who used this bright young man to assist them in administering their new possessions.

As soon as the hungry Hebrews appeared before Joseph with their request for help, Joseph recognized his relatives.

But he was a generous man, and all meanness of spirit was foreign to his soul.

He did not revenge himself upon those who had wronged him, but he gave them wheat and allowed them to settle in the land of Egypt--they and their children and their flocks--and be happy.

For many years, the Hebrews (who are more commonly known as the Jews) lived in the eastern part of their adopted country, and all was well with them.

Then, a great change took place.

A sudden revolution deprived the Hyksos Kings of their power and forced them to leave the country. Once more the Egyptians were masters within their own house. They had never liked foreigners any too well. Three hundred years of oppression by a band of Arab shepherds had greatly increased this feeling of loathing for everything that was alien.

The Jews, on the other hand, had been on friendly terms with the Hyksos who were related to them by blood and by race. This was enough to make them traitors in the eyes of the Egyptians.

Joseph no longer lived to protect his people.

After a short struggle, they were taken away from their old homes, they were driven into the heart of the country, and they were treated like slaves.

For many years, they performed the dreary tasks of common laborers, carrying stones for the building of pyramids, making bricks for public buildings, constructing roads, and digging canals to carry the water of the Nile to the distant Egyptian farms.

Their suffering was great but they never lost courage and help was near.

There lived a certain young man whose name was Moses. He was very intelligent, and he had received a good education because the Egyptians had decided that he should enter the service of Pharaoh.

If nothing had happened to arouse his anger, Moses would have ended his days peacefully as the governor of a small province or the collector of taxes of an outlying district.

But the Egyptians, as I have told you before, despised those who did not look like themselves, nor dress in true Egyptian fashion, and they were apt to insult such people because they were "different."

And because the foreigners were in the minority, they could not well defend themselves. Nor did it serve any good purpose to carry their complaints before a tribunal, for the Judge did not smile upon the grievances of a man who refused to worship the Egyptian gods and who pleaded his case with a strong foreign accent.

Now it occurred one day, that Moses was taking a walk with a few of his Egyptian friends and one of these said something particularly disagreeable about the Jews and even threatened to lay hands on them.

Moses, who was a hot-headed youth, hit him.

The blow was a bit too severe, and the Egyptian fell down dead.

To kill a native was a terrible thing, and the Egyptian laws were not as wise as those of Hammurapi, the good Babylonian King, who recognized the difference between a premeditated murder and the killing of a man whose insults had brought his opponent to a point of unreasoning rage.

Moses fled.

He escaped into the land of his ancestors, into the Midian desert, along the eastern bank of the Red Sea, where his tribe had tended their sheep several hundred years before.

A kind priest by the name of Jethro received him in his house and gave him one of his seven daughters, Zipporah, as his wife.

Moses lived there for a long time, and there he pondered upon many deep subjects. He had left the luxury and the comfort of the palace of Pharaoh to share the rough and simple life of a desert priest.

In the olden days, before the Jewish people had moved into Egypt, they too had been wanderers among the endless plains of Arabia. They had lived in tents and eaten plain food, but they had been honest men and faithful women, contented with few possessions but proud of the righteousness of their mind.

All this had been changed after they had become exposed to the civilization of Egypt. They had taken to the ways of the comfort-loving Egyptians. They had allowed another race to rule them, and they had not cared to fight for their independence.

Instead of the old gods of the wind-swept desert, they had begun to worship strange divinities who lived in the glimmering splendors of the dark Egyptian temples.

Moses felt that it was his duty to go forth and save his people from their fate and bring them back to the simple Truth of the olden days.

And so, he sent messengers to his relatives and suggested that they leave the land of slavery and join him in the desert.

But, the Egyptians heard of this and guarded the Jews more carefully than ever before.

It seemed that the plans of Moses were doomed to failure, when suddenly an epidemic broke out among the people of the Nile Valley.

The Jews, who had always obeyed certain very strict laws of health, (which they had learned in the hardy days of their desert life) escaped the disease while the weaker Egyptians died by the hundreds of thousands.

Amidst the confusion and the panic which followed this Silent Death, the Jews packed their belongings and hastily fled from the land which had promised them so much and which had given them so little.

As soon as the flight became known, the Egyptians tried to follow them with their armies, but their soldiers met with disaster, and the Jews escaped.

They were safe and they were free and they moved eastward into the waste spaces which are situated at the foot of Mount Sinai, the peak which has been called after Sin, the Babylonian God of the Moon.

There, Moses took command of his fellow-tribesmen and commenced upon his great task of reform.

In those days, the Jews, like all other people, worshipped many gods. During their stay in Egypt, they had even learned to do homage to those animals which the Egyptians held in such high honor that they built holy shrines for their special benefit. Moses on the other hand, during his long and lonely life amidst the sandy hills of the peninsula, had learned to revere the strength and the power of the great God of the Storm and the Thunder, who ruled the high heavens and upon whose goodwill the wanderer in the desert depended for life and light and breath.

This God was called Jehovah, and he was a mighty Being who was held in trembling respect by all the Semitic people of western Asia.

Through the teaching of Moses, Jehovah was to become the sole Master of the Jewish race.

One day Moses, disappeared from the camp of the Hebrews. He took with him two tablets of rough-hewn stone. It was whispered that he had gone to seek the solitude of Mount Sinai's highest peak.

That afternoon, the top of the mountain was lost to sight.

The darkness of a terrible storm hid it from the eye of man.

When Moses returned, he told the others the words which Jehovah himself had spoken amidst the crash of his thunder and the blinding flashes of his lightning were engraved upon the tablets.

From that moment on, no Jew dared to question the authority of Moses.

When Moses told his people that Jehovah commanded them to continue their wanderings, they obeyed with eagerness.

For many years, they lived amidst the trackless hills of the desert.

They suffered great hardships and almost perished from lack of food and water.

But Moses kept high their hopes of a Promised Land, which would offer a lasting home to the true followers of Jehovah.

At last, they reached a more fertile region.

They crossed the river Jordan and, carrying the Holy Tablets of Law, they made ready to occupy the pastures which stretched from Dan to Beersheba.

As for Moses, he was no longer their leader.

He had grown old, and he was very tired.

He had been allowed to see the distant ridges of the Palestine Mountains among which the Jews were to find a Fatherland.

Then, he had closed his wise eyes for all time.

He had accomplished the task which he had set himself in his youth.

He had led his people out of foreign slavery into the new freedom of an independent life.

He had united them, and he had made them the first of all nations to worship a single God.


Study the lesson for two weeks.

Over the two weeks:

  • Read the story multiple times.
  • Read the synopsis.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


The twelfth chapter tells the ancient story of the Jewish people and their leader Moses. Plagued by drought and hunger, the Jewish people migrated to Egypt, where the Egyptians had great storehouses of food to survive droughts. The Hyksos Kings of Egypt fed the Jewish people and treated them well, but when the Hyksos Kings were overthrown, the Egyptians enslaved the Jewish people. Moses led the Jewish people out of slavery. Moses and the Jewish people began to worship Jehovah, the great God of the Storm and the Thunder. Moses took two stone tablets up Mount Sinai. When he returned, he told his people that the blinding flashes of Jehovah's lightning were engraved as words upon the tablets. Moses told his people that Jehovah commanded them to wander in the desert to find their Promised Land. After suffering many hardships, the Jews settled in the pastures which stretched from Dan to Beersheba. Moses had led his people out of slavery into freedom, to a new promised land.


Drought: A prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall.
Storehouse: A building used for storing goods.
Hyksos: A people of mixed Semitic and Asian descent who invaded Egypt and settled in the Nile delta c. 1640 BC. They ruled a large part of the country until driven out c. 1532 BC.
Slave: A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
Pasture: Land covered with grass and other low plants suitable for grazing animals, especially cattle or sheep.
Freedom: The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • After you listen to the chapter, narrate the chapter aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Map the Lesson

Find locations related to the chapter.

  • Egypt
  • Red Sea
  • City of Beersheba
  • Sinai Peninsula
  • Mediterranean Sea

Activity 3: Can You Find It?

Find the following items in 'Moses on Mount Sinai,' a 16th century engraving by Italian artist Daniele da Volterra.

  • Mount Sinai
  • The Path Up Mount Sinai
  • Moses Receiving the Commandments from Jehovah
  • Lightning Inscribing the Tablets
  • Moses Showing Fellow Jews the Ten Commandments
  • The Jewish People Cowering
  • A Golden Calf on a Pillar

Activity 4: Read the Law of Moses

Read the Law of Moses, commonly known as the Ten Commandments.

People of Jewish, Samaritan, Christian, and Islamic faiths commonly believe in following the Ten Commandments. As you read the Ten Commandments, discuss each law, as desired.

  • No other gods before me
  • No graven (engraved) images or likenesses
  • Not take the Lord's name in vain
  • Remember the sabbath day
  • Honor thy father and thy mother
  • Thou shalt not kill
  • Thou shalt not commit adultery
  • Thou shalt not steal
  • Thou shalt not bear false witness
  • Thou shalt not covet

Activity 5: Complete Coloring Pages, Copywork, and Writing   

  • Click the crayon above. Complete pages 38-39 of 'Second Grade World History Coloring Pages, Copywork, and Writing.'

Activity 6: Read Lyrics and Listen to a Song About Moses

Read the select lyrics to 'Go Down Moses,' which gives the Biblical account of the story of the Jewish people escaping from Egypt. Then, listen to the performance of 'Go Down Moses,' by Les Petits Chanteurs de Montigny.

When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go;

Oppressed so hard they could not stand, let my people go;

Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,

Tell old Pharaoh: let my people go.

Thus saith the Lord, bold Moses said, let my people go;

If not, I'll smite your first-born dead, let my people go;

Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,

Tell old Pharaoh: let my people go.

The Lord told Moses what to do, let my people go;

To lead the children of Israel through, let my people go.

Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,

Tell old Pharaoh: let my people go.


Question 1

In the chapter, who enslaved the Jewish people?
1 / 5

Answer 1

The ancient Egyptians enslaved the Jewish people in the chapter.
1 / 5

Question 2

Who led the Jewish people out of slavery?
2 / 5

Answer 2

Moses led the Jewish people out of slavery.
2 / 5

Question 3

Which one god did Moses and the Jewish people ultimately worship?
3 / 5

Answer 3

Moses and the Jewish people worshiped Jehovah.
3 / 5

Question 4

In the chapter, what was the name of the God of thunder and lightning?
4 / 5

Answer 4

Jehovah was the name of the God of thunder and lightning.
4 / 5

Question 5

What did Moses say was inscribed on his stone tablets?
5 / 5

Answer 5

Moses said Jehovah inscribed the Ten Commandments on his stone tablets.
5 / 5

  1. In the chapter, who enslaved the Jewish people? The ancient Egyptians enslaved the Jewish people in the chapter.
  2. Who led the Jewish people out of slavery? Moses led the Jewish people out of slavery.
  3. Which one god did Moses and the Jewish people ultimately worship? Moses and the Jewish people worshiped Jehovah.
  4. In the chapter, what was the name of the God of thunder and lightning? Jehovah was the name of the God of thunder and lightning.
  5. What did Moses say was inscribed on his stone tablets? Moses said Jehovah inscribed the Ten Commandments on his stone tablets.


  1. 'Ten Commandments.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  2. 'Go Down Moses.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  3. 'Go Down Moses performance by Les Petits Chanteurs de Montigny.' Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:01_-_Go_down_Moses_(Negro_Spiritual).ogg. n.p.