Thursday, August 30, 2012

XLIX - Exodus 32 - 34 - The Golden Calf

Exodus 32 - 34  -  The Golden Calf

The nation Israel was about to encounter their greatest enemy to date:  Themselves

Moses has been on Mount Sinai for over a month receiving the law.  The people were camped at the bottom of the mountain and began to get restless.  When a very large group of people get restless, they are generally quick to abandon their designated course.  As they begin to abandon their course, soon they lose their way, and, when left to their own logic, they will follow a path to destruction.  The Israelite nation was prone to this for generations to come.

32:1-6  -  When Moses was gone longer than they thought he should be, they approached Aaron and asked him to make them gods to lead them.  {We're going to see a human side of Aaron in these chapters that we're not going to like very well, but as I said before, the Bible does not hold back the dark side of any of God's people.}  Aaron responds to their wishes very quickly.  He tells them to give him all their gold jewelry.  Little does Aaron know, but this gold is to be used to make the Ark of the Covenant and parts of the tabernacle.  So the people gathered all their gold and brought it to Aaron.  Aaron melted down the gold and fashioned it, with a tool, into the shape of a calf.  These people are so confused that they even say that this calf represents God Himself.  Why a calf?  These people had been Egyptian slaves, which meant much exposure to the Egyptian gods, not the least of which was Apis the Bull.  In Canaan also, the Baal gods were often represented by bulls.  It was a common idol shape of that day.  Much later we'll see how king Jereboam set up two golden calves as idols for his people to worship.  Like I mentioned before:  People are going to worship something, or worse yet, someone.

Aaron goes on to step further out of character:

He fashions an idol.
He built an altar to the idol.
He leads a worship service to it.
He called for a feast to celebrate it.
He sacrificed offerings to it.
Then, last but not least, he has the people party.

{My research leads me to believe that this party is little more than a sexual orgy.  This was not uncommon, especially in Canaan as they worshipped Baal and Baalum.  These were fertility gods and the only way these gods could be pleased was for the pagans to perform out-of-control sex in front of
their images.  As we can see, the Ten Commandments get trampled on early.  What was the first commandment?  Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.  They could try to defend their actions by saying that in verse 4 they referred to the calf as representing God Who brought them out of Egypt.  That doesn't hold water because the second commandment prohibits making graven images of anything in heaven, on earth, or below the earth.  Let's not forget the seventh commandment either.  A sexual orgy to celebrate a graven idol?  And of course the ninth commandment really gets
slammed when Aaron gives Moses his rendition of what happened.  Aaron actually melted down the gold and fashioned it into the form of a calf.  But he tells Moses that he threw the gold into a fire and it just came out a calf.  Did he really think Moses was going to buy into that?}

God saw what the people were doing and told Moses to get back down the mountain and get things under control.  When Moses saw what was going on, he burned with anger.  He threw the tablets onto the ground, breaking them into pieces.  {So symbolic of how broken the Ten Commandments had been by the Israelites.}  Moses was so angry with the people that he ground up the golden calf into powder, scattered it onto the water and made the Israelites drink it.  Then something significant happens in verses 25 and 26:  Moses stood at the entrance to the camp and called for all who is for the Lord to come to him.  All that came to Moses's side were the men from the tribe of Levi.  {The Levites were to become the tribe out of which all the priests would come.  The Levites would remain the priestly tribe with all the attached priviledges and responsibilities for centuries to come.}  Moses outfitted the Levites with weapons and commissioned them to go through the camp and kill the offenders.  Verse 28 says about three thousand were killed that day.  I would suppose the ones that were killed were the ringleaders and other enthusiastic participants.

Moses's relationship to these people was a mix of justice and mercy, anger and love, judge and priest.  As judge he had executed swift and angry justice.  Now as priest he would intercede for the people before God.  God was ready to give up on these people and Moses in vss 30-35 literally talks Him out of it.  God can be persuaded by His children through prayer.  Howbeit infrequent, it is found throughout the Scripture.  That should be encouraging.  Moses is never disrespectful or argumentative, but persistantly pleads his case.  He stands as the mediator between the Israelites and God.  Only Jesus has played a stronger role as Mediator.

In chapter 33 in the early verses, we see both God and Moses refer to the Israelites as a "stiff-necked" people.  This reference was often used for oxen, as a stiff-necked ox could not be led, but rather will insist on going his own way.  Many of these stiff-necked oxen had to be slaughtered because they were worthless and too expensive to feed.  Verses 7-11 mention a "Tent of Meeting" where Moses went to speak to God face-to-face.  This tent would eventually be repaced by the tabernacle.  Please read vss 12-23 which gives the story of Moses being allowed to see God as He passes by him.

Chapter 34 tells of the Lord replacing the broken tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments. During this time on the mountain, Moses continues intercession for the people.  God again emphasizes the dangers of complacency when dealing with the Canaanites:

He gives warnings against making treaties with them
Do no associate with them or be influenced by them to the point of participating in the worshipping of their gods
He warns against marrying their daughters, who will influences the young Israelite men
God tells them not to make ANY idols
God reminds them of the festivals they are to observe
All first born are to be dedicated to God
No one is to appear before God empty-handed
Reminds them to observe the Sabboth
God promises to drive the Canaanites out of the promised land
Do not make any offering containing yeast
Bring only the best to the House of the Lord
Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk

Moses is to write all of these things down.

For forty days and forty nights was Moses on Mount Sinai with God without food or water.  After he had received the new tablets with the Ten Commandments he came down from the mountain and his face shined from being in the presence of God.  So much so that Aaron and all the Israelites were afraid of him.  But Moses called all of the elders to him so he could read them the law as God gave it to him on the mountain.  After this Moses placed a veil over his face at all times except when he came into the presence of God.

Next post - Moses Teaches the Law

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