The Golden Calf
The narrative in Exodus 24:9-18 dealing with Moses and Aaron and Nadab and Abihu and 70 elders of the Israelites on Mount Sinai is interrupted by the long description of the plans for the tabenacle and the priestly vestments and ordination in Exodus
25-31. NOW, with Exodus 32-34, we resume the narrative. SO, Exodus 32:1ff resumes Exodus 24:18.
Exodus 32-34 falls into three chapters.
1. The sin of Aaron and the Israelites concerning the Golden Calf. Exodus 32.
2. Dialogue between Yahweh and Moses. Exodus 33.
3. The Renewal of the Covenant between Yahweh and Israel. Exodus 34.
In this blog, we will make some observations about Exodus 32. This chapter falls into three parts. We will sketch each part, then make comments.
1. Aaron and the Israelites sin by constructing and worship the Golden Calf. Exodus 32:1-6.
a. The Israelites approach Aaron, complaining that Moses had been on Mount Sinai so long that the Israelites do not know what has become of him. v. 1.
b. Aaron tells the Israelites to their golden rings. When they do this, he formed this into a mold, and cast an image of a calf. vv. 2-4a.
c. The Israelites declare that this image [these images?] is [are] your "gods" who brought you out of Egypt. Aaron builds and altar before it, and Aaron declares that this is a "festival" to Yahweh. They offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of well being, and "the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel." vv. 4b-6.
Like the stories of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-6 and Cain in Genesis 4:1-8, this account graphically describes "the nature of sin." Sin is a "heart problem." And sin is "progressive." Obviously, the sequence here is: (1) The people "saw" that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, and urged Aaron to make "gods" to Yahweh.
(2) Aaron instructed the Israelites to gather their gold rings. (3) Aaron formed the gold in a mold, and cast an image of a calf. (4) The Israelites declared that this image was their "gods" who brought them out of Egypt. (5) Aaron built an altar and proclaimed a festival to Yahweh. (6) The Israelites offered sacrifices; they sat down to eat and drink and rose up to revel. One step slowly but surely leads to the next, then to the next, etc. The EXTERNAL ACT of worshipping the golden calf is a SIN, but sin originated long before this when the Israelites and then Aaron made some prior decisions that led up to this religious act.
2. Yahweh tells Moses what Aaron and the Israelites had done, and Moses returns from Mount Sinai to the Israelites. Exodus 32:7-20.
a. As the "TV Channel" now changes to Mount Sinai, Yahweh tells Moses what Aaron and the Israelites had done, and Yahweh announces that he will destroy the Israelites and make Moses and his descendants a great nation. vv. 7-10.
b. But Moses boldly approaches Yahweh in prayer, beseeching him to "change his mind," and allow the Israelites to keep Yahweh's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his descendants. Yahweh "changes his mind." vv. 11-14.
c. Moses and Joshua began walking back down Mount Sinai. When Moses heard the Israelites "reveling," Moses became very angry and hurled "the two tablets of the covenant" to the ground, and they broke in pieces. vv. 15-20.
This is one of several texts throughout scripture teaching THE OPENNESS OF GOD. This text teaches that God is a PERSON who is NOT RIGID in his ways and decisions. Hence, from time to time, God may REVERSE his prior decision or declaration or announcement. Here is one such case. God announced that he would destroy the Israelites who brought about the golden calf, but Moses PERSUADED God to "change his mind." Some try to avoid this clear biblical affirmation, and PROPOSE [WITHOUT ANY BIBLICAL FOUNDATION WHATSOEVER] that God "knew in advance" [God's "foreknowledge"] what the Israelites, Moses, and himself would do. BUT the Bible does not indicate this at all. God "changes his mind."
3. Moses confronts Aaron and the Israelites; Yahweh punishes the sinners. Exodus 32:21-35.
a. First, Moses confronts Aaron. Moses uses psychology. "What did THIS PEOPLE do to you have your have brought so great a sin upon them?" When we sin, we try to find some one to blame anyone or anything other than ourselves. So Aaron immediately took the bait--"You know THE PEOPLE, that they are bent on evil." Then Aaron proceeded to explain that the told the people to bring gold to him, and they gave it to them, and I threw it into the fire--STOP. Up to this point, Aaron gives a correct report. But THEN--suddenly he forgets what really happened. He says: "and out came this calf!" Surprise, Surprise, Surprise. Now, who would take this seriously. AND YET, when you and I do the wrong thing, and then try to excuse ourselves, our excuses are usually laughable--just like Aaron. vv. 21-24.
b. Moses then does something that I cannot comprehend. I will simply report what the text says: The Israelites "were running wild." So Moses told the sons of Levi to come on his side, and then kill "your brother, friend, and neighbor." And they killed approximately 3,000 people on that day. I wish we had more information about what was going on at that time. But this is the story. vv. 25-29.
c. Moses rebukes the Israelites because of their great sin. Then he beseeches God to forgive their sin. God agrees to do this, but declares that he will punish the Israelites for their sin. And Yahweh sends a plague on the people because of the golden calf. vv. 30-35.
There is a great deal of material in this chapter. Much more could be said. What are YOUR thoughts? Share with others. Help me understand this passage better. Let me hear from YOU.