Miscellaneous

The Story of the Golden Calf

AN EXPOSITION OF EXODUS 32:1-6

Chapter 32 through 34 in the book of Exodus forms a distinct composition. The incidents recorded in these chapters are chronological in time.

     1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

When the return of Moses from Mt. Sinai did not happen as quickly as possible, the Exodus Generation grew restless and demanded that Aaron give them gods.

It was not just one god the people wanted, but a variety of deities as monotheism was soon abandoned and pagan theology returned. The people remembered the many gods of Egypt, and so were willing to return to polytheism.

Because people are incurably religious, they must find a way to express their belief in the supernatural in general, and in a divine entity in particular. Atheism is not natural to the soul despite its Fallen nature and the mind being darkened.

More than one person has quipped that they would be an atheist if they had enough faith. To believe that everything has come from nothing take a tremendous amount of faith. Logic dictates that out of nothing, nothing comes.

It takes a very vivid imagination to believe that one species has transformed into another, to the point that man emerged. Looking at the Tree of Life produced by evolutionists, is like looking at a Rorschach test. People see what they want to see. The test was developed by Swiss psychologist Herman Rorschach in the 1960s.

Because people need instruction in righteousness, in the absence of that, they will gravitate to what they have been taught.

During their long years in captivity, the exiled Hebrew people lost their patriarchal faith, and were but recently reminded by Moses and Aaron of the One true, and personal, unseen eternal God, “Yahweh.”

However, when the LORD proved elusive, the people went to Aaron and made their demands, “Make us gods.”

Being a weak personality, Aaron was willing to comply for not only were the representatives of the people demanding, they were verbally rude.

The people referred to their great leader with unveiled contempt in their voices as, “this Moses.” That is the language of contempt. “This Moses has left us.” The implication being, “That man is no good.”

Then, in case Aaron was not aware of his own brother, the rebel leaders defined Moses as, “the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt.”

When individuals are in an emotional revolt of the soul, they become sloppy in their thinking, and silly in their speech. Thinking themselves to be wise, they become foolish.

Emotionally charged people are like little children that need to be silenced, and then set straight.

The rebel leaders confessed their major concern about Moses. “We wot not what is become of him.” The people meant to say, “We do not know what has happened to Moses.”

Rather than calm the fears of the people, Aaron embraced their concerns. Fear is contagious. But so is courage. Therefore the Christian is commanded to be strong in the Lord. Writing to the Church of Ephesus, Paul exhorted the saints, saying,

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Eph. 6:10)

When Aaron needed to be courageous, he was weak, and in his weakness he participated in the sins of others.

     2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.

“Oh Aaron, how foolish are you being? Your name means, enlightened. You are the first priest of Israel. You are the object of envy of other Levitical families. And now you want the people to do what? You want the people to bring to you their golden earrings? Aaron, where did that idea come from?” The idea came from the flesh, not the Spirit of God.

Now remember this. In every situation, there is a Divine point of view, and there is a human point of view. The Bible says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 14:12)

Aaron met the situation he faced with a human point of view, thereby hurting others, and himself. Nevertheless, his foolish thinking and behavior is recorded in Holy Scripture for our instruction in righteousness.

     3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

As Aaron was foolish in his instruction, the people were equally foolish to obey.

In their obedience the people were fully conscious of what they were doing, and wholly responsible for their own actions.

This is an important point to understand, because when something goes wrong in life, there is a tendency to blame anyone, and everyone, but ourselves.

Though self-destructive, and other destructive behavior is embraced with enthusiasm and great hope, when the end result is not what was anticipated, only self can be blamed.

In a moment of group thinking, the Exodus Generation gathered gold, and brought their valuable resources to Aaron.

By doing this, the people squandered the gifts of God. The people did not protect the resources that God had entrusted to them.

They used the gifts of Divine grace to create a graven image that dishonored the LORD. We are told what Aaron did with the gold he received. To his eternal shame, Aaron made a graven image.

     4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Those some Bible commentators have suggested, with charity, that Aaron was a reluctant participator in this event, the molding of an idol in the form of a golden calf is attributed to him.

It was Aaron who received the gold at the hands of the people. It was Aaron who fashioned the calf with a graving instrument. It was Aaron that was ultimately responsible for this sad state of apostasy.

A principle is established. A spiritual leader can cause a nation to prosper, or to perish. “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.” (Jer. 23:1) God will judge faithless spiritual leaders, but much damage will have been done in the process.

What Aaron did to the people of Israel, what the Exodus Generation did to themselves, is shameful. Years later, in the first century AD, when the Jewish historian Josephus wrote the story of his people, he says nothing whatever of this act of apostasy, though he does record how Moses twice went up the mountain.

However, the truth should not, and cannot be hidden, and so the Bible records the actions, and the words, of those souls willingly led into sin.

Once the golden calf was finished, the people began to bow before it saying,

“These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Nothing is more stupid than the act of idolatry. First individuals make a god of their own imagination, they fashion it with their own hands, and then they bow down before the inanimate object, and transfer to it power it does not have. This is absolutely amazing! No cow has ever done anything for anybody, except provide milk, and protein for consumption. No cow has ever designed a plan of deliverance for people in bondage, nor produced miracles on behalf of a nation. It is absurd to believe otherwise.

Nevertheless, when the minds of men, women, and young people are darkened, they begin to worship the creation more than the Creator. If all that Aaron had done up to this point was not bad enough, he sinned even more. There is a depth to sin which is deeper still.

     5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.

It was bad enough that Aaron did not resist the people. It was outrageous he would take the resources of God, and use them to make an false image. But then Aaron compounded the evil he did by building an altar for formal worship of the golden calf, and calling it the LORD. “To morrow is a feast to the LORD.”

No it’s not.

If Aaron was having second thoughts, and was trying to lead the people back to worshipping the Lord, it was to no avail, for, if anything, the people would be worshipping a visible symbol of Him, which no symbol could represent.

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is a simple as that. If the story of the golden calf ended at this point, it would be bad enough. But the situation grew worse.

     6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

When the text says that the people “rose up to play”, that is a euphemism for sexual activity.

In plain language, the Israelites abandoned themselves to sexual licentiousness in connection with the festival.

The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play the fool by expressing themselves without any sense of public modesty and decency. The behavior followed their beliefs. The people believed they came from an animal, so they would act upon that belief. Belief dictates behavior.

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