Moses to the divided kingdom
After the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, Moses led them south into the wilderness (desert), where they had no enemies to attack them, until they came to Mount Sinai (see map). There they halted for a time and something very important happened: God and the Israelites made a covenant or alliance together.God promised that he would take care of them and bless them so long as they obeyed him: “Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (NRSV, Exodus 19:5-6).
The Israelites were then given the Law of God which they were to obey and which we call the Ten Commandments. At that time people thought that God did not mind if one led a good life or a bad life, but the Ten Commandments put them right. They taught the Israelites two things: first that they must worship the true God and not idols; and secondly, that they were to be pure and honest and kind in their lives. “So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (NRSV, Exodus 19:7-8).
After this there was a sacrifice of oxen to seal this covenant or alliance with God. The history of the Israelites under this alliance is called the ‘Old Covenant’ or ‘Old Testament’.