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VII. Israel’s Apostasy and God’s Renewal of the Covenant

Chapter 32

The Golden Calf. When the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for that man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.”(A) Aaron replied, “Take off the golden earrings that your wives, your sons, and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He received their offering, and fashioning it with a tool, made a molten calf. Then they cried out, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you[a] up from the land of Egypt.”(B) On seeing this, Aaron built an altar in front of the calf and proclaimed, “Tomorrow is a feast of the Lord.” Early the next day the people sacrificed burnt offerings and brought communion sacrifices. Then they sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.(C)

(D)Then the Lord said to Moses: Go down at once because your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way I commanded them, making for themselves a molten calf and bowing down to it, sacrificing to it and crying out, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (E)I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are, continued the Lord to Moses. 10 Let me alone, then, that my anger may burn against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.

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Footnotes

  1. 32:4–5 Who brought you…a feast of the Lord: it seems that the golden calf was intended as an image, not of another god, but of the Lord, whose strength was symbolized by the strength of a young bull. The Israelites, however, had been forbidden to represent the Lord under any visible form. Cf. 20:4. In the tenth century Jeroboam made golden calves for the shrines at Bethel and Dan, presumably to function as thrones for the Lord as the ark did in Jerusalem (see 1 Kgs 12:27–30).

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