27 Mar. Exodus 32:1-20

27 Mar. The Israelites worship a golden calf

“The people saw that a long time had passed [nearly 40 days] and Moses had not come down from the mountain. So they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Moses led us out of Egypt, but we don’t know what has happened to him. Make us gods who will lead us.’”

“Aaron said to the people, ‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, sons and daughters are wearing , and bring them to me.’ So all the people took their gold earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from the people and formed it with a tool and made a statue of a calf.”

“Then the people said, ‘Israel, these are your gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw all this, he built an altar before the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a special feast to honour the LORD.’”

“The people got up early the next morning and offered whole burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. They sat down to eat and drink, and then they got up and sinned sexually.”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go down from this mountain [Mount Sinai], because your people, the people you brought out of the land of Egypt, have ruined themselves. They have quickly turned away from the things I commanded them to do. They have made for themselves a calf covered with gold, and they have worshipped it and offered sacrifices to it… I am so angry with them that I am going to destroy them…’”

“But Moses begged the LORD his God and said, ‘LORD, don’t let your anger destroy your people whom you brought out of Egypt with your great power and strength… So stop being angry, and don’t destroy your people.’… So the LORD changed his mind and did not destroy the people as he had said he might.”

“Then Moses went down the mountain, and in his hands he had the two stone tablets with the [Covenant] Agreement on them. The commands were written on both sides of each stone, front and back. God himself had made the tablets, and God himself had written the commands on the tablets.”

“When Joshua [who had accompanied Moses on the mountain for 40 days and nights] heard the sound of the people shouting, he said to Moses, ‘It sounds like war down in the camp.’ Moses answered, ‘It is not a shout of victory; it is not a cry of defeat. It is the sound of singing that I hear.’”

“When Moses came close to the camp, he saw the gold calf and the dancing, and he became very angry. He threw down the stone tablets that he was carrying and broke them at the bottom of the mountain.”

“Then he took the calf that the people had made and melted it in the fire. He ground it into powder. Then he threw the powder into the water and forced the Israelites to drink it.”

          (Exodus 32:1-20)



While Moses was away for forty days on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 24:18), the Israelites rebelled against Moses. They were used to the worship of a large pantheon of gods while in Egypt, and they demanded to worship the ancient gods they had left behind there.

So Aaron used their gold earrings to make a golden image of a young bull and the people offered sacrifices to this idol. Bull worship was widespread in the Middle East in Moses’s day, and in Egypt, the Israelites would have been accustomed to people worshipping the Apis Bull.

The bull was regarded not only as a protective deity but also as a virile fertility god, so the worship of the calf idol included singing and seductive dancing, as well as sexual promiscuity.

Meanwhile, on Mount Sinai, God told Moses what the Israelites had been up to, and he threatened to destroy the people he had brought out of Egypt. But after much pleading from Moses, God relented of his anger and agreed not to completely destroy his ‘chosen people’.

When Moses returned to the camp with the two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, he was furious to be confronted by a drunken orgy. He smashed the tablets and destroyed the golden calf. He ground the remains of the idol into a powder, and forced the Israelites to drink it.

The photo shows a 12th century depiction of the adoration of the golden calf from the Hortus Deliciarum by Herrad of Landsberg.

You can read more about the Israelites’ rebellion against God @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/25-the-israelites-journey-from-egypt-to-mt-sinai/the-israelites-rebel-against-god/

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