28 Mar. Exodus 32:21-35

28 Mar. Moses orders the Levites to stop the disarray

“Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did these people do to you? Why did you cause them to do such a terrible sin?’”

“Aaron answered, ‘Don’t be angry, master. You know that these people are always ready to do wrong. The people said to me, “Moses led us out of Egypt, but we don’t know what has happened to him. Make us gods who will lead us.” So I told the people, “Take off your gold jewellery.” When they gave me the gold, I threw it into the fire and out came this calf!’”

“Moses saw that the people were acting wildly. Aaron had let them get out of control and become fools in front of their enemies.”

“So Moses stood at the entrance to the camp and said, ‘Let anyone who wants to follow the LORD come to me. And all the people from the family of Levi gathered around Moses.”

“Then Moses said to them, ‘The LORD, the God of Israel, says this, “Every man must put on his sword and go through the camp from one end to the other. Each man must kill his brother, his friend and his neighbour [who are taking part in this drunken orgy].”’”

“The people from the family of Levi [the Levites] obeyed Moses, and that day about 3,000 of the Israelites died. Then Moses said, ‘Today you have been given for service to the LORD. You were willing to kill your own sons and brothers, and God has blessed you for this.’”

“The next day Moses told the people, ‘You have done a terrible sin. But now I will go up to the LORD. Maybe I can do something so your sins will be removed.’ So Moses went back to the LORD and said, ‘How terribly these people have sinned. They have made for themselves gods from gold. Now, please forgive them this sin. If you will not, then erase my name from the book in which you have written the names of your people.’”

“But the LORD told Moses, ‘I will erase from my book the names of the people who sin against me. So now, go. Lead the people where I have told you, and my angel will lead you. When the time comes to punish, I will punish them for their sin.’ So the LORD caused terrible things to happen to the people because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.”

          (Exodus 32:21-35)



Moses was horrified to find a drunken orgy in full swing when he returned to the Israelites’ camp below Mount Sinai, so he immediately called his brother Aaron (whom he had left in charge) to explain what had happened.

Aaron (who had told the people to give him their gold earrings so he could make them a golden bull to worship) tried to lie his way out of the situation: “When they gave me the gold, I threw it into the fire and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:24)

Moses quickly realised that his brother had let the Israelites get out of control, so he sent armed Levites into the camp to restore order. The Levites went through the crowds who were dancing drunkenly before the idol and performing disgusting sexual acts, and slaughtered them on the spot. About 3,000 Israelites were killed for taking part in these terrible sins.

Then Moses went back to the LORD, taking full responsibility for what had happened, and pleading forgiveness for the wickedness of his people.

God promised to forgive Moses, and urged him to set off again for the ‘promised land’ of Canaan. He also deferred his judgement on the people of Israel, but warned Moses that he would punish the Israelites for their idolatry in due course: “So the LORD caused terrible things to happen to the people because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.” (Exodus 32:35)

The picture shows details from a Florentine Renaissance painting in the Sistine Chapel, Rome by Sandro Botticelli (1481) depicting the punishment of the Levites.

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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