About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Chapter 32 to 33:6
Golden Calf (ch. 32:1 – 33:6)
In verse 1 we note the
impatience of Israel. Israel
came to Aaron, or, at least some representatives came to Aaron, and
asked him to build gods for them to serve.
Verse 1 also says,
"as for this fellow Moses…"
You can certainly see they were quite upset with him.
When people say such things as this, what they are doing is
really separating themselves from the person they are speaking of.
For example, a wife may say to her husband, "your son is in
trouble." Well, the son
is the son of both the husband and wife, but the wife is distancing
herself from her own son due to something he did.
, as they have before with Moses, is once again distancing themselves
from Moses. They follow him
in the good times, but as soon as the hint of anything but good appears,
they reject him. But
remember, their rejection of Moses is in fact their rejection of God.
asks Aaron to "make them gods to go before them."
How ridiculous. How
can something that man makes be a god that can go before them and look
after them. It is like you
or I making a little statue and thinking that the little wooden statue
can really direct our paths. There
is no logic in this thinking, but such is the way of humanity.
You must also remember that these people were steeped in the
culture of all civilizations of their day.
This was the mentality back then.
All civilizations invented their own gods, thinking them to be
The next amazing thing,
and maybe even more a amazing than
Note the gold was to come
from gold ear rings Israeli wives, daughters, and sons wore.
Apparently men wore ear rings in Israel
In verses 2 and 3 Israel
does what Aaron says and Aaron makes a gold god that looked like a calf.
Aaron would have gotten the idea from his days living in Egypt
because worshipping a golden calf was an Egyptian practice.
Therefore Israel, even though they were not in the land of Egypt,
wanted to live and worship as an Egyptian, or, at least wanted to be
influenced by Egyptian culture. I'd
suggest that many Christians do the same today when they adopt
non-Christian practices into the church.
The Emergent church of
today, for the sake of unity, has no problem participating in worship of
other religious gods. To me
this is "spiritual adultery".
It is actually practicing "polytheism", something that
this chapter clearly states that God hates.
In verse 4, note the word
Hebrew word is "Elohim", the same Hebrew word that is
translated as God in the Old Testament.
"Elohim" is plural.
Probably this is why "Elohim" is translated
as "gods" here. The
question is, "did Aaron make more than one calf, or did this one
calf represent more than one God? It
does appear that he made only one gold calf.
This is a hard question to answer, because it goes to how
Aaron viewed this gold god. Did
he view it as an Egyptian god, or a representation of the Hebrew God.
Aaron came to
With that in mind, let me
quote from Exodus 20:1 through 6, the first of the Ten Commandments.
"I am the Lord your God who brought you out of
So, some people believe Israel
broke the first command while others believe they broke the second
who believe they broke the first command say Aaron viewed the gold calf
as an Egyptian god, or representative of
Egyptian "gods", that is, "more than one
god".. Those who
believe they broke the second command say Aaron viewed the gold calf as
an image of the real God of Israel.
They believe he broke the second command because they believe in
Aaron's mind this gold calf was to an image of God.
Aaron did not think of it as a gold calf from Egyptian culture.
Part of the reason for this thinking is because in verse 5 he
announced a festival to the Lord where they would worship the Lord, and
the Lord must refer to the God of Israel.
I tend to believe, but
not totally convinced, that
Aaron viewed this gold calf to represent a number of Egyptian gods.
The main reason why I
say this is that when he presented the gold calf to the people he said,
"here are your gods…"
The argument against this is that the word "gods' here is
translated from the Hebrew word "Elohim", the word the Bible
translates as "God". Elohim
is "plural', therefore can be translated as "God' or
translated as "God", theological thinking has gone into the
translation process. That is
to say, we translate "Elohim" as "God", because we
believe "God is one" in His essence.
In verses 5 and 6 Aaron
announced that the next day would be a "festival to the Lord."
Note again that this festival is to the Lord, not to the calf.
That being said, Aaron built an altar directly in front of the
golden calf. What was he
doing? Was he trying to
atone for his sin? If so, he
was doing a pretty poor job. What
he really was doing was mixing pagan worship with worshipping the only
true God. That does not
work. That is not worship in
the eyes of God, but surprisingly, that is what many so-called
Christians are attempting to do today in the post-modern church. At
Note in verse 6 the
people "indulged in revelry".
The Hebrew word translated as "revelry" here is also
used in Genesis 26:8 where Abraham and Sarah were seen in indulging in
sexual play. For this
reason, and so because
Egyptian calf worship involved sexual orgies, most scholars say Israel
was having a sex party after they worshipped the gold calf, which would
have been the case in Egypt since calf worship was associated with sex
In verse 7 God tells
Moses to go down the mountain. Notice
the way God puts it. He
said, "your people, who you led out of
Notice how God Himself
interprets Aaron's actions of building the altar before the calf to
worship the Lord. Whatever
Aaron's thinking was is not relevant.
God interpreted the event as Aaron and
In verses 9 and 10 God
told Moses to leave so He could burn in His anger.
That does not sound like the modern day picture of who God is.
These days people don't think God could possibly burn with anger,
but He has, and does, and He will.
God told Moses that He
was seriously considering destroying these people, then He would make
them a great nation. There
is a lot in these words.
Who was God contemplating
destroying? He was thinking
of killing off the people at the foot of the mountain, that is, Israel. But He was not thinking of
destroying the nation for good. He
specifically states that He would still make Israel
a great nation. This simply
means that God was going to destroy those who were doing the sinning. He
was not giving up on the idea of having a specific people for Himself.
He couldn't give up on that idea, because He covenanted with
Himself before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that eventually
In verse 11, with great
boldness Moses asks God why His anger should burn against "His
people", who "He" brought out of Egypt. This is a not so subtle
way of Moses responding to God when God told him that these people were
Moses' people and that Moses led them out of Egypt. Moses was pleading with
God not to do what He was thinking of doing.
In verse 12 Moses
presents God with his logic, which is very good logic.
He basically tells God if you destroy
In verse 13 Moses
reminded God of what we call the Abrahamic Covenant, where God promised
Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the
sky, that they would inherit a certain land, and that they would be a
Note how Moses put it. He
said, "you swore by your own self."
This is exactly what happened.
God did not make a covenant with Abraham.
He did not enter into any agreement with Abraham.
God promised Himself in the presence of Abraham that He would do
certain things. This is one
of the most important facts in the Bible.
Abraham was not involved in this covenant.
God promised certain things, and no matter what Abraham's
descendents do, God will keep His promise.
This is what Moses was getting at.
Moses was simply
suggesting to God that if He killed off the people of
In response to Moses
petition, verse 14 says that God "relented", that is to say,
He rethought His position. Many
people see this as Moses being able to change God's mind, but I don't
see it that way. I don't
think there is clear evidence that God would destroy these people.
He certainly wasn't going to destroy the nation.
What we do know for sure is that He felt like destroying these
people. Moses may have
helped God make His mind up, but change His mind, I don't think so.
Concerning the word
"lament", the Hebrew word translated as "lament" in
the NIV, or "repented" in the JKV, means groan.
To me this suggests something like this.
After God heard Moses' defense, "He groaned and said, okay,
I won't destroy them'."
There were two aspects to
Moses defense. First was the
idea that God would not look good in the minds of the world.
The second point concerned the Abrahamic Covenant.
I'm not sure if Moses totally understood God's thinking on this
second point. Moses reminded
God of the Abrahamic Covenant so He would not break the covenant, but
God had no intention breaking the covenant.
He said so back in verse 12 when He told Moses that He would
In verse 15 and 16 Moses
and the others with him went down the mountain.
In Moses' hand were the two stone tablets with the Ten
Commandments written on them, the first of which, and possibly the
second, had already been
When Moses and Joshua got
close to the people Joshua thought the noise he heard was the noise of
In verses 19 and 20 we
see that Moses is just as angry as God Himself was.
Now Moses knew why God was so angry.
He was so upset that he threw the stone tablets to the ground and
they broke in pieces. He
then broke the golden calf, burned it, threw the ashes into the water,
and made the people drink the water.
Here we see an example of
"righteous anger", something we do not see much of these days.
When God's people get side tracked, and begin to mix faith in
Jesus with other religious practices, we should be just as angry as God
and Moses was, but when we do, we are the one's who get criticized for
being negative and critical. That
should not be. There is a place for "righteous anger" and the
word of rebuke from the prophet of God.
After doing all this, in
verse 21 Moses turns to Aaron and confronted him.
In the long run, it is the leaders of the people of God that need
to be confronted, and Moses did just that, and so must we today.
Aaron responds in verse
22 to 24. He tells Moses not to be angry when he should have
acknowledged his sin and repented.
He told Moses the story of how it all took place.
He reminded Moses that
Verse 24 is somewhat
comical. Aaron told Moses
that he threw the gold into the fire and "out came the calf."
That's not really the way it happened.
He threw the gold into the fire and with his tools he made the
calf as seen in verse 4. The calf didn't just appear from the fire.
Verses 25 and 26 are
important. Aaron had let the
people get out of control and they became "a laughingstock" to
those around them. That's
what always happens when God's people sin, lose control, and depart from
the truth. They become a
laughingstock to those around them.
I think that is what is happening today in many parts of the
church. We've lost control of ourselves.
We've mixed our faith in Jesus with worldly and other religious
practices. We have lost much
credibility in the eyes of the world.
In verse 26 Moses stands
and says, "whoever is for the Lord, come stand with me."
The Levites did just that.
Verses 27 to 29 will be
disturbing to most people. The
Levites killed about three thousand people who had worshiped the golden
calf. This was done because
of Moses' orders. It is my
thinking that Moses was actually doing God's will, doing what God
Himself wanted to do. God
thought about killing much of
As I said earlier, Moses
was filled with righteous indignation, righteous anger.
He felt the same way God felt, and in the long run, he did what
he told God he should not do. All
was not destroyed. They
would still have a future. They
would still have a great nation as God said in verse 10.
God visited his people in judgment that day, and He used Moses in
So to help clarify the
question I posed earlier, "did Moses change God's mind concerning
not killing Israel?" I don't believe he
did. God got His way in the
This passage of Scripture
will cause many not to be Christian or believe in the God of the Bible,
but this is a very important passage of Scripture.
This chapter shows us how God feels when we mix our Christian
faith with other pagan practices. God
burns with anger when His people do not obey the first commandment.
The other thing that this passage teaches us is how the leaders
of God's people should feel about these things.
They should feel the same way God feels.
They should burn with anger.
The problem these days is very few of us burn with righteous
anger over God's people worshipping idols, which we do, even in the
twenty first century.
We have to understand
something here. We do not go
out and kill every so-called Christian who mixes pagan rituals with
Christianity. We live in New
Testament days. We preach
the gospel to them and require repentance.
If they do not repent, they are in the hands of God for Him to do
as He wishes. It is not up
to us to punish. That is not
our job. God will do that.
In verse 30 Moses did
just as I said in the last paragraph.
He told the people that they had committed a great sin.
This sin was against God Himself.
They broke the first of the Ten Commandments.
They bowed their knees to another god, and worse still, it was a
god that was no god, but a god of their own creation.
In fact they were putting themselves over and above their God.
How horrible of a sin that is. Moses said that he would meet with
God to see if atonement could be made for this sin.
In verses 30 and 31 we
see the prayer of a real leader of the people of God.
Moses asks God to forgive
This sounds very much
like the apostle Paul in Romans 10.
He felt so bad for
In verses 33 and 34 God
answered Moses. He could not
blot Moses' name out of His book. He
would however blot those who sinned out of His book and when the time
came, He would punish them. This
makes personal salvation clear.
People must come to God on their own.
No one can be saved on the behalf of someone else.
This was the case in Old Testament times and it is the case in
New Testament times.
Verse 35 says that the
Lord struck the people with a plague.
You will remember earlier that God told
In chapter 33, verses 1
and 2 God commanded Moses to go to the land He had promised to Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob.
Verse 3 is interesting.
God said that He would not go with
Many people who read this
will conclude that this is a weird fairy tale.
Either it is a fairy tale or else it is real.
If it is real, we see how God feels about false gods, and if He
feels this way, I suggest we feel the same way.
Notice the duty of the
angel. He was sent to do
God's will. Angels just
don't sit around and worship God. They
have work to do on behalf of God.
Another point to be made
here is that this mountain became a sacred place because God visited
Moses there. The Israelis
defiled this place with what they did.
Even worse than that, when God was visiting Moses for the sake of
was worshipping another god.
In verses 4 through 6 we
This is all true in
today's post-modern church. We
allow our churches to be influenced by other religions and philosophies
of the world, then we wonder why God isn't doing miracles among us.
We wonder where God is.
God told Israel to strip themselves of all their ornaments, like rings and bracelets. Since these were the items that produce that pagan calf god, these things were seen as promoting sin. This reminds me of the time Jesus told His followers to cut out their eyes if their eyes offended them. In this case part of the offense came through the ear rings, thus they had to be destroyed. It's not that the ear rings in themselves were evil. It was how they were used. If they had not used the ear rings to sin, I don't think God would have told them to get rid of them.