Exodus 32

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 30, 2008


Let’s take a quick trip from Fullerton to Mount Sinai …

Before Moses went up to Mount Sinai, both he and the people heard the voice of God giving the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) and saying things like

Don’t have other gods”

Don’t make images”

Don’t abuse My name”

(Exo 20:1-7 NKJV)  And God spoke all these words, saying: {2} "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. {3} "You shall have no other gods before Me. {4} "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; {5} you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, {6} but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. {7} "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

#1 No other gods / #2 No images of God / #3 Don’t abuse God’s name

For the last forty days Moses has been up on the mountain receiving details of the commandments from God and instructions on the building of the Tabernacle and the worship of God.  And while he’s been gone, things have been happening back at the Israelite camp.

:1-6 Impatience and the calf

:1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

The people have become concerned that Moses hasn’t come back.  He doesn’t return his phone calls.  He hasn’t sent any new text messages.

They come to Moses’ brother Aaron, whom Moses has left in charge. (by the way, have you noticed a resemblance between Moses and that Ben Hur fellow from last week??)

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

I find it interesting that Aaron doesn’t even trying to argue with the people. 

earringsnexem – ring, nose ring, earring

When Jacob told his family to put away the foreign “gods” they had been serving, it affected their earrings.

(Gen 35:4 NKJV)  So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears…

We’ve also seen the use of earrings as a symbol of a servant (Ex. 21:6) – a “bondservant” was a willing servant, identified by the earring.

Perhaps Aaron is asking them to stop serving other gods?  Isn’t that a good thing?

:3 "So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.

:4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!"

This is your god – or “these are your gods” (it is plural).  It’s important to realize that they asked for “gods” (plural) and that’s what Aaron has given them.

molded calf  - Some have suggested that this idea might have come from Egypt – who worshipped the god Apis.

Apis – A sacred bull that was connected with one of the main gods of Memphis, Ptah (the creator of men and god of the craftsmen). There was at any one time only one sacred Apis bull. As soon as it died another was chosen to take its place … The sacred bull was supposed to have been identified by twenty-eight distinctive marks that identified him as deity and indicated that he was the object of worship.   Holy Cow!

The psalmist records:

(Psa 106:19-20 NKJV)  They made a calf in Horeb, And worshiped the molded image. {20} Thus they changed their glory Into the image of an ox that eats grass.
“their glory” refers to God Himself.  They exchanged God for a cow.

Keep in mind, I’m not sure these people think they’re worshipping Apis, they just think that Yahweh looks like Apis.

I think men get into trouble when they take things from other religions and try to incorporate them into Christianity.

engraving toolcheret – an engraving tool, stylus, chisel, graving tool

Some of the commentators have difficulty with this word.  If the calf was a “molten” calf, made out of hot liquid metal poured into a mold, why was an “engraving” tool needed?

The Sinai altar video – the altar found in Saudi Arabia has cows engraved on it.  Egyptian altars had engravings of deities around the altar with the chief deity placed on top of the altar.

Perhaps this is why Aaron presents “gods” (plural), but only one calf was made.

Where did it go?  Jeroboam?

:5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD."

the LORDYahweh.  It seems to me that Aaron thinks that they are going to be worshipping Yahweh with this golden calf.

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

to playtsachaq – (Piel) to jest; to sport, play, toy with

The word can have a sexual connotation to it (Gen. 26:8)

 as when Isaac was caught “playing” with his wife and Abimelech knew that Rebekah wasn’t Isaac’s sister!

Ge 26:8 Now it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife.
(Gen 26:8 NLT)  But some time later, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out a window and saw Isaac fondling Rebekah.

Apparently these were the kinds of things done at the worship of Apis.

There was more going on here than just a golden idol.  The people are sitting down to feast, but rising up to “party”.


The danger of impatience

The famous Professor Huxley was attending a convention of scientists in Ireland, and was late for the meeting one morning. He hailed a carriage and said to the driver, “Drive fast, for I am in a great hurry.” The driver started off at a mad pace and after a few minutes the professor began to be shaken up. “Do you know where I want to go?” he asked the driver.
“No yer ‘onor,” answered the driver. “You didn’t tell me where to go, but anyway, I am driving fast.”
Donald Grey Barnhouse, Bible Truth Illustrated, Keats Publishing , Inc., 1979, p. 5.
There is a huge difference between being smart and being wise.
Exhibit A is the story of Steffi Krause, age 17. She and her 19-year-old friend were in a German juvenile detention center for stealing. The 19-year-old was about to be released but Steffi had more time to serve. Steffi, of course, did not want to wait any longer behind bars, so the two friends concocted a clever plan for springing Steffi: Steffi would hide in her friend's suitcase and be carried to freedom when her friend walked out of prison (apparently this suitcase had wheels).
Their great escape was a great success. The prison guards noticed that the suitcase was extremely heavy, but no one thought to open it and see why.
Steffi had outwitted the guards, but she was too smart for her own good. Though she is now on the loose, she is not free—she was a fugitive from the law. When she is caught, she will have more to answer for than stealing, and more prison time to serve. Had she stayed put, things would have been so much better, because the time left on her jail sentence was a measly two weeks.
Craig Brian Larson, editor of PreachingToday.com; source: "Teenager escapes prison in suitcase," Reuters (10-30-07)
The people grew impatient waiting for Moses.

And he was already on his way down the mountain.

Moses on the other hand was in God’s presence and receiving wonderful things from God.
Sometimes my day gets a bit hectic and I skip time on the mountain God because there’s too much to do and I don’t have any time to be wasting.
Moses didn’t leave the mountain until it was time to.
He’ll even go back and spend another 40 days on the mountain.  If it were me, I’d be wary of spending too much time away from these people.

:7-14 Moses intercedes

:7 And the LORD said to Moses, "Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.

Note that God calls them “your people”.  God doesn’t seem to want any part of them.

:8 "They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'"

turned aside quickly – it’s been forty days.  Some people would say that’s been a long time.

The people who say, “I’ve tried Christianity”

God is looking for long-term followers

:9 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!

stiff-necked – the phrase is only found seven times in the Bible, all in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, all about Israel.

:10 "Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation."

God is threatening to wipe out the nation and start over again with just Moses.  Is God serious?  Could be.

I think that God is testing Moses.

What kind of shepherd is Moses going to be?

Is Moses going to want to dump the people at the first sign of trouble?

Will Moses respond with grace and patience?

What kind of a leader will you be?

How do you respond to people who do stupid stuff??

:11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: "LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

Moses reminds God that they are “Your” people.  They are God’s people.

The people that God has put in your life – who do they belong to?

I wonder if some of the trouble we get into as leaders is because we get to thinking they are “my” people instead of “God’s” people.

:12 "Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.

Moses says that God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt and His victory over the Egyptian gods would have been for nothing.

:13 "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'"

Moses reminds God of His promise to the patriarchs.

:14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

relentednacham – (Niphal) to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion

Perhaps God never intended to wipe out the Israelites.  But it sounds to me as if Moses’ prayer moved God.

:15-29 Moses takes action

:15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written.

:16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.

Could you imagine how much those stone tablets might be worth today?  On EBay…

You can get an A-Rod signed bat for $162

You can get a Peyton Manning signed football for $495

You can get a Michael Jordan signed basketball for $670

How about Yahweh signed stone tablets?  Priceless

:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a noise of war in the camp."

:18 But he said: "It is not the noise of the shout of victory, Nor the noise of the cry of defeat, But the sound of singing I hear."

They weren’t fighting, they were partying.

:19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses' anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.


Acknowledge what has been broken.

Something priceless has been broken.  But not the tablets…
The people have broken their covenant with God.
Moses isn’t going to pretend that nothing has happened.  He has to break the tablets.
It’s kind of like acknowledging our sin.
We might want to pretend that nothing has changed, but it has.
We might want to give the illusion that all is well.  But it’s not.

:20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it.

on the water – he sprinkled it on the mountain brook

(Deu 9:21 NKJV)  "Then I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that descended from the mountain.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You’ve made your bed, now sleep in it” ???

They were going to have to bear the consequences of their actions.

:21 And Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?"

:22 So Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.

Moses isn’t the only one upset.  God wasn’t happy with Aaron:

(Deu 9:20 NKJV)  "And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

:23 "For they said to me, 'Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'

It almost sounds as if Aaron is trying to pass some of the blame on to Moses.  “Moses, you took too long on the mountain!”

:24 "And I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.' So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out."

This has got to be one of the world’s lamest excuses.  He threw in the gold and out popped the calf???



Some people think that if they come up with the right excuse, they can get out of anything …
A police officer pulls a guy over for speeding and has the following exchange:
Officer: May I see your driver’s license?
Driver: I don’t have one. I had it suspended when I got my 5th DUI.
Officer: May I see the owner’s card for this vehicle?
Driver: It’s not my car. I stole it.
Officer: The car is stolen?
Driver: That’s right. But come to think of it, I think I saw the owner’s card in the glove box when I was putting my gun in there.
Officer: There’s a gun in the glove box?
Driver: Yes sir. That’s where I put it after I shot and killed the woman who owns this car and stuffed her in the trunk.
Officer: There’s a BODY in the TRUNK?!?!?
Driver: Yes, sir.
Hearing this, the officer immediately called his captain.  The car was quickly surrounded by police, and the captain approached the driver to handle the tense situation:
Captain: Sir, can I see your license?
Driver: Sure. Here it is.
It was valid.
Captain: Whose car is this?
Driver: It’s mine, officer. Here’s the owner’ card.
The driver owned the car.
Captain: Could you slowly open your glove box so I can see if there’s a gun in it?
Driver: Yes, sir, but there’s no gun in it.
Sure enough, there was nothing in the glove box.
Captain: Would you mind opening your trunk? I was told you said there’s a body in it.
Driver: No problem.
Trunk is opened; no body.
Captain: I don’t understand it. The officer who stopped you said you told him you  didn’t have a license, stole the car, had a gun in the glovebox, and that there was a dead body in the trunk.
Driver: Yeah, I’ll bet he told you I was speeding, too
Last June while I was out in Murrieta on the way to the Pastors’ Conference, I got a little distracted and as I headed into an intersection, I noticed a flash, and realized I had just gone through one of those intersections that give you a ticket for going through a red light.  And sure enough, a couple weeks later I get a letter in the mail telling me what I had done.  I had all kinds of excuses I was running through my head, but the problem was that I was there in the picture, running a red light.  And there was no one to tell my excuses to anyways.   I was guilty.
God is not looking for excuses.  He’s looking for confession.  He’s looking for us to admit what we did.
David wrote,
(Psa 32:3-5 NKJV)  When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. {4} For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah {5} I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

What do you do when you are caught?  Stop blaming other people.  Stop blaming your circumstances.  Own up to what you’ve done.

I think it’s a part of growing up.

:25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies),

The King James here says,

(Exo 32:25 KJV)  And when Moses saw that the people were naked…

unrestrainedpara‘– (Qal)  to let go, let loose; to let alone, avoid, neglect; to loosen

(Exo 32:25 NLT)  When Moses saw that Aaron had let the people get completely out of control--

We know there were immoral sexual things going on.

to their shame among their enemies –

(2 Sam 12:14 KJV)  Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.

:26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, "Whoever is on the Lord's side; come to me." And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.

Moses was of the tribe of Levi.

Up to this point, the Levites are just like any other tribe.  After this incident, they will become the priestly tribe, the tribe responsible for producing priests and those who helped in the Tabernacle.

:27 And he said to them, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.'"

The Levites are not just killing anyone they run into. Judgment is taking place on those who were unrepentant.

:28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.

An interesting parallel:

The day that the Law came down from the mountain, three thousand died.

The day that the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2) three thousand were saved.

(2 Cor 3:6 NKJV)  …for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

:29 Then Moses said, "Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother."

:30-35 Moses intercedes again

:30 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin."

:31 Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, "Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!

:32 "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin; but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written."

blot me out of Your book

This kind of sounds like what Paul wrote,

 (Rom 9:3 NKJV)  For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

It kind of sounds like what God did,

(John 3:16 NKJV)  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Moses is displaying the true heart of God – willing to lay down his life for others.

:33 And the LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

(Ezek 18:20 NKJV)  "The soul who sins shall die.

:34 "Now therefore, 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 visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin."

:35 So the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.

Even though there would be forgiveness, there would also be further consequences for this sin as well.


Pray for the tough ones

Throughout this passage we see Moses praying over and over for these people.
Even when he’s angry, he goes back and prays for the people.
What do you do with those you're disappointed with? Those who let you down?
Do you stay angry, or do you stop and pray for God to be merciful and loving toward them?
Jesus said,
(Mat 5:44 NKJV)  love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
James wrote,
(James 2:13 NKJV)  For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.