And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:1-3, NKJV)
“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them.” (Exodus 21:1)
Exodus 20-21 describes the beginning of God’s covenant with his chosen nation, Israel. It includes the Ten Commandments and the first series of judgments, or ordinances, that God gives Israel. There are a lot of details in these chapters that are often criticized and misconstrued. Three of these issues are addressed below.
One common criticism of Christianity is that when God commanded the Israelites to worship Him alone, He was suggesting that there are other gods that humans can potentially worship. This is true in at least two ways. First, the Bible does speak of other spiritual beings, such as angels (Heb 1:13-14), that people have been known to worship. Second, throughout human history, people have carved and casted images and participated in ceremonies to honor other deities (Exod 32). That these are true is not problematic. It merely speaks to the existence of other spirit beings and the human tendency to worship persons and things other than God.
A second common criticism of Christianity is that when God commanded the Israelites to worship Him alone, he was showing Himself to be insecure and not deserving of worship. This is false. The Bible teaches that God is the creator of all things. As creator, He alone deserves our worship. No other person or thing deserves our worship. Also, as our all-knowing creator, He knows what is in our best interest. God did not give this command from a position of insecurity, but of deserving authority and concern for what is best for us, His creatures whom He loves.
A third common criticism of Christianity is that the Bible supports slavery. This is false. Slavery in the ancient world was universal and cruel. God permitted slavery, but required that male slaves be given the choice of freedom (21:2, 5-6); that slave families be kept together (21:3-4); that women slaves purchased as wives be treated as wives and not property (21:7-11); and any kind of permanently marring violence be accompanied by freedom. These are not laws that support slavery; these are laws that require even the least of society to be treated with dignity and respect (21:12-27).
So, Exodus 20-21 does not depict a God who is insecure and supportive of slavery. Rather, these chapters remind us that God alone is deserving of all our worship. He is a loving God Who hears the cries of the suffering, defends the cause of the outcast, and rescues the hopeless from their captivity. He is a good God who cares about what’s best for all of us, chooses us, saves us from our sins and invites us to receive eternal life with Him (John 3:16).