Changing minds, Unchanging promises
October 11, 2020
The Golden Calf
32 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
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- The golden calf (32:1–33:6). The people want to get on with their trek to Canaan and grow impatient. They ask Aaron to make “gods” to lead them on their way since they do not know what has become of Moses (v. 1). Aaron makes a single image of gold, usually translated as “calf.” Even though a single image is made, Aaron’s cry is “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt!” (v. 4). Is Aaron introducing a new god or new gods? It is most likely that Aaron and the people envisioned this image as a physical representation of God.
God informs Moses of what is taking place at the foot of the mountain. In referring to the Israelites as “stiff-necked” (v. 9), he means that they are obstinate and stubborn. Justifiably, God is angry and ready to wipe out his people and make a nation of Moses’ descendants.
Moses immediately begins to intercede as he has done several times before. Moses is concerned that God’s reputation might be lessened in the eyes of the Egyptians if word comes of Israel’s demise in the desert (v. 12). He also appeals to the patriarchal promise to give Israel the land (v. 13). How can this be fulfilled if Israel is obliterated? So God relents.
Notes from Point 1
Notes from Point 2
Notes from Point 3
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 James K. Hoffmeier, “Exodus,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 60.