The Gold Calf, and the Broken Tablets

Exodus 32-34 (WEB)

Highlights From this Passage

  • The Israelites impute their deliverance to the calf. God is appeased by Moses’ prayer. Moses breaks the tablets of the Ten Commandments.
  • God promises to send an Angel before his people. They are sad because the Lord denies to go up with them. Moses talks familiarly with God. He prayeth for the people.
  • The tablets are renewed. All fellowship with idolaters is forbidden. Moses spends 40 days on the mount. His face shines, and he covers it with a veil.

†††††††

When the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him.”

Aaron said to them, “Take off the golden rings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them to me.”

All the people took off the golden rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He received what they handed him, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it a molded calf. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation, and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to Yahweh.”

They rose up early on the next day, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Go, get down; for your people, who you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves! They have turned away quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’”

Yahweh said to Moses, “I have seen these people, and behold, they are a stiff-necked people. Now therefore leave me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

Moses begged Yahweh his God, and said, “Yahweh, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, that you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians talk, saying, ‘He brought them out for evil, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the surface of the earth?’ Turn from your fierce wrath, and turn away from this evil against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of the sky, and all this land that I have spoken of I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

So Yahweh turned away from the evil which he said he would do to his people.

Moses turned, and went down from the mountain, with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand; tablets that were written on both their sides. They were written on one side and on the other. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is the noise of war in the camp.”

He said, “It isn’t the voice of those who shout for victory. It is not the voice of those who cry for being overcome; but the noise of those who sing that I hear.” As soon as he came near to the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing. Then Moses’ anger grew hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mountain. He took the calf which they had made, and burned it with fire, ground it to powder, and scattered it on the water, and made the children of Israel drink it.

Moses said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you have brought a great sin on them?”

Aaron said, “Don’t let the anger of my lord grow hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods, which shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him.’ I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them take it off.’ So they gave it to me; and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

When Moses saw that the people were out of control, (for Aaron had let them lose control, causing derision among their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on Yahweh’s side, come to me!”

All the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. He said to them, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘Every man put his sword on his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and every man kill his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” The sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. About three thousand men fell of the people that day. Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to Yahweh, for every man was against his son and against his brother, that he may give you a blessing today.”

On the next day, Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. Now I will go up to Yahweh. Perhaps I shall make atonement for your sin.”

Moses returned to Yahweh, and said, “Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made themselves gods of gold. Yet now, if you will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out of your book which you have written.”

Yahweh said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot him out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” Yahweh struck the people, because of what they did with the calf, which Aaron made.

Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people that you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I will send an angel before you; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Go to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, for you are a stiff-necked people, lest I consume you on the way.”

When the people heard this evil news, they mourned; and no one put on his jewelry.

Yahweh had said to Moses, “Tell the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go up among you for one moment, I would consume you. Therefore now take off your jewelry from you, that I may know what to do to you.’”

The children of Israel stripped themselves of their jewelry from Mount Horeb onward.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far away from the camp, and he called it “The Tent of Meeting.” Everyone who sought Yahweh went out to the Tent of Meeting, which was outside the camp. When Moses went out to the Tent, all the people rose up, and stood, everyone at their tent door, and watched Moses, until he had gone into the Tent. When Moses entered into the Tent, the pillar of cloud descended, stood at the door of the Tent, and Yahweh spoke with Moses. All the people saw the pillar of cloud stand at the door of the Tent, and all the people rose up and worshiped, everyone at their tent door. Yahweh spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. He turned again into the camp, but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, didn’t depart from the Tent.

Moses said to Yahweh, “Behold, you tell me, ‘Bring up this people;’ and you haven’t let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me your way, now, that I may know you, so that I may find favor in your sight; and consider that this nation is your people.”

He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Moses said to him, “If your presence doesn’t go with me, don’t carry us up from here. For how would people know that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Isn’t it that you go with us, so that we are separated, I and your people, from all the people who are on the surface of the earth?”

Yahweh said to Moses, “I will do this thing also that you have spoken; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”

He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim Yahweh’s name before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” He said, “You cannot see my face, for man may not see me and live.” Yahweh also said, “Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand on the rock. It will happen, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

Yahweh said to Moses, “Chisel two stone tablets like the first. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain. Do not let the flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.”

He chiseled two tablets of stone like the first; then Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up to Mount Sinai, as Yahweh had commanded him, and took in his hand two stone tablets. Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed Yahweh’s name. Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, “Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth, keeping loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and disobedience and sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children’s children, on the third and on the fourth generation.”

Moses hurried and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, Lord, please let the Lord go among us, even though this is a stiff-necked people; pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

He said, “Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been worked in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of Yahweh; for it is an awesome thing that I do with you. Observe that which I command you today. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Be careful, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be for a snare among you; but you shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and you shall cut down their Asherah poles; for you shall worship no other god; for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

“Don’t make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, lest they play the prostitute after their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and one call you and you eat of his sacrifice; and you take of their daughters to your sons, and their daughters play the prostitute after their gods, and make your sons play the prostitute after their gods.

“You shall make no cast idols for yourselves.

“You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib; for in the month Abib you came out of Egypt.

“All that opens the womb is mine; and all your livestock that is male, the firstborn of cow and sheep. You shall redeem the firstborn of a donkey with a lamb. If you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. No one shall appear before me empty.

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest: in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.

“You shall observe the feast of weeks with the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of harvest at the year’s end. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord Yahweh, the God of Israel. For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither shall any man desire your land when you go up to appear before Yahweh, your God, three times in the year.

“You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread. The sacrifice of the feast of the Passover shall not be left to the morning.

“You shall bring the first of the first fruits of your ground to the house of Yahweh your God.

“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

Yahweh said to Moses, “Write these words; for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

He was there with Yahweh forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread, nor drank water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mountain, Moses didn’t know that the skin of his face shone by reason of his speaking with him. When Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come near him. Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them all the commandments that Yahweh had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses was done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But when Moses went in before Yahweh to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and he came out, and spoke to the children of Israel that which he was commanded. The children of Israel saw Moses’ face, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; so Moses put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

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