Exodus 32: This chapter records a tragedy for the Israelites. It is here that they turn against Elohim very soon after their deliverance from Egypt. They are without Moses for a few days and they get impatient with Elohim.
(Exo 32:1 NASB) Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
Exo 32:1: This didn’t take a long time at all. After just a few days of waiting, the people grew impatient. They gave Moses up for dead and decided that Elohim doesn’t care anymore. They wanted to make their own gods and go back to Egypt.
They speak of Moses very disrespectfully “as for this Moses…” They spoke of him as someone who was a passerby.
(Exo 32:2 NASB) And Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”
Exo 32:2: In that time, earrings at times had cultic significance (Gen. 35:4). However, it should be kept in mind that Israel was never told not to wear earrings. They were sometimes used for evil purposes, but earrings themselves are not condemned in Scripture.
(Exo 32:3 NASB) Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.
(Exo 32:4 NASB) And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
Exo 32:4: A “calf” was a common pagan symbol of strength, leadership and fertility. It meant these people were still serving the gods of Egypt.
Sadly enough, they take their earrings to Aaron and he is a leader in the dirty work.
It is strange that it was both “molten,” and “fashioned with a graving tool.” It is possible that it was a wood structure overlaid with gold.
(Exo 32:5 NASB) Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.”
(Exo 32:6 NASB) So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
Exo 32:6: The term “play” here is the Hebrew verb sahaq which refers to “playing around.” There was gross immorality and sexual promiscuity going on at this time.
Notice that the people considered this as a way to make a new Feast Day to Yahweh. They were even offering two of the commanded offerings to it (burnt and peace offerings). They were not really making what they considered a new god. They were making this golden calf to be a channel to Elohim. This was as much their replacement for Moses as anything.
(Exo 32:7 NASB) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.
(Exo 32:8 NASB) “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'”
Exo 32:8: Elohim is giving a detailed description of what is going on down below. The people may think Elohim is not watching, but He is watching very close. He does not forget.
Keep in mind that the people were not stupid enough to think that this statue they just made was some kind of deity. They apparently thought that this calf was a potent symbol that could invoke the power of Elohim who brought them out of the land of Egypt.
(Exo 32:9 NASB) And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.
Exo 32:9: Yahweh uses a derogatory term to refer to Israel in the same way they used a derogatory term to depict Moses. He said, “I have seen this people.”
His description of them is not kind. His fury is burning at this point.
(Exo 32:10 NASB) “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
Exo 32:10: This must have been a test for Moses. Elohim tells him that He will dispose of the people and make Moses a great nation. Elohim would still be able to make His promise good through Moses since he is a descendant of Abraham.
Moses now goes into one of the greatest prayers in Scripture.
(Exo 32:11 NASB) Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why doth Thine anger burn against Thy people whom Thou hast brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
(Exo 32:12 NASB) “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about doing harm to Thy people.
Exo 32:12: Moses is saying, “The Egyptians would say that You are not capable of delivering the Israelites.” This gave Moses a passing grade in this difficult test.
Elohim was going to let Moses have the glory by making a great people out of him. Moses is saying here that he wants Elohim to have all the glory, not Moses. This is the answer Moses was to give.
(Exo 32:13 NASB) “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'”
Exo 32:13: Moses is still wanting Elohim to get all the glory. He is reminding Elohim that keeping His promises to the descendants of these people will ultimately give Him glory.
Moses gives three reasons not to give Moses the glory:
1. These are His people that He delivered.
2. The rest of the world would see who He is by completing His deliverance.
3. He asked Elohim to remember His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This was a test that Moses passed.
(Exo 32:14 NASB) So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Exo 32:14: The comment that Elohim “changed His mind” is not an accurate one. He was still angry at Israel. What changed were His actions towards them. There are places in Scripture where Elohim changes His actions in order to demonstrate His grace and mercy. Or He might change His actions because of the prayers of His people, such as the case is here. But Elohim does not “change His mind,” per se. He still hates sin and He still judges it in the same manner as always.
However, the grace and mercy of Elohim has always been His nature, just as he exhibits here.
(Exo 32:15 NASB) Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other.
Exo 32:15: The tablets were written on both sides, not just one. I do not know the significance of that fact. But we are told that the Book with the seven seals in Revelation is written in a similar way (Rev. 5:1).
There were two tablets of the testimony written on the front and on the back. Why two? Couldn’t Elohim have found one a little larger and put all the commandments on one? The fact is that probably there were two tablets that were identical to one another. The tablets were Elohim’s signature on the covenant made with the people of Israel. The two copies of that signature were being stored in the Ark of the Covenant. Not only would two copies of the signature establish the matter, but when a contract is signed by two parties, they each receive a signed copy.
(Exo 32:16 NASB) And the tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.
Exo 32:16: This is a very powerful verse. Some ancient Rabbi’s said this verse points out that Torah is Elohim’s preoccupation. Another ancient rabbi, Maimonides, claims that Elohim created these tablets just before the first Sabbath during the creation week. He claims that they were just given to Moses at this time and that they are as much a part of the creation.
Regardless, the Commandments are as much a part of His creation as the laws of nature and the cosmos are a part of His creation. To say they are “Elohim’s work,” and “Elohim’s writing” are Scriptural facts and quotes.
(Exo 32:17 NASB) Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.”
(Exo 32:18 NASB) But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear.”
Exo 32:18: Moses already was informed what all the noise was about. He was just informing Joshua. The people of Israel were having a celebrating their lawlessness.
(Exo 32:19 NASB) And it came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.
Exo 32:19: Why did Moses break the tablets? They were the “Tablets of the Covenant.” The breaking of the tablets was symbolic of the covenant that the Israelites were breaking (Exodus 24:3). They promised they would keep all of Elohim’s commandments before they were given. They ended up breaking that promise. Therefore the tablets with represented that promise (covenant) were broken also.
(Exo 32:20 NASB) And he took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water, and made the sons of Israel drink it.
Exo 32:20: The demolition and forced ingestion of the idol conveys the picture of total annihilation of the object.
Also this is a picture of what the wife suspected of adultery was to do. She was to forced to drink the bitter water mingled with the dust of the floor of the sanctuary in order to determine if she is an adulteress (Num. 5:12-31 not shown).
(Exo 32:21 NASB) Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?”
Exo 32:21: Aaron’s response is priceless.
(Exo 32:22 NASB) And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil.
Exo 32:22: “You know how these crazy people are…”
(Exo 32:23 NASB) “For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’
(Exo 32:24 NASB) “And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
Exo 32:24: “As for me…. I innocently took this gold they threw at me and tossed it into the fire and out popped this calf.!!! You had to see it to believe it!!!”
(Exo 32:25 NASB) Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control– for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies–
Exo 32:25: The KJV says “the people were naked…” They were involved in gross immorality. We may think that this generation invented nudism, sex, and drugs but that is simply not the case. It has been going on since the time sin entered the world.
(Exo 32:26 NASB) then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.
(Exo 32:27 NASB) And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.'”
Exo 32:27: Moses is treating this sin like cancer. It must be cut out and removed from the people. This judgement is serious and extreme.
We cannot compromise with sin. That is not part of Elohim’s plan. For us to claim some sin is okay and to go on about our lives is not acceptable.
(Exo 32:28 NASB) So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
Exo 32:28: This may sound brutal to some people, but sin is serious business. Elohim is not soft, sentimental, and silly. On the other hand, we are too often stupid in the way we handle evil.
(Exo 32:29 NASB) Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD– for every man has been against his son and against his brother– in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”
Exo 32:29: What does he mean by “every man has been against his son and against his brother?” It is a reference to obeying the Torah of Yahweh rather than even loved ones (Deut. 33:8-10). To turn the sons to the father and the fathers to the sons is to observe Torah. In the book of Malachi, we are told that, in the last days, the hearts of the sons would turn to the fathers and hearts of the father to sons (Mal. 4:4-6).
(Exo 32:30 NASB) And it came about on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
Exo 32:30: Moses wants to ask Elohim for a way to cover up this great sin. Moses offered his life up for the people of Israel. This is another way that Moses is a picture of Yeshua Messiah.
(Exo 32:31 NASB) Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves.
Exo 32:31: Moses is making a confession on behalf of the people. He is spelling out exactly what they did and telling Elohim that He is right and righteous. We must handle our sin the same way.
(Exo 32:32 NASB) “But now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin– and if not, please blot me out from Thy book which Thou hast written!”
Exo 32:32: Moses knows the importance of Elohim keeping His promises exactly as He states them. Moses asks to be blotted out of His Book which He has written if He cannot forgive their sin. Moses is referring to the Book of Life (Psalm 69:28, Deut. 29:18-20, Isa. 4:1-3). This is the Book spoken of in Revelation that only the Lamb could open (Rev. 5 – not shown).
Moses is making the same plea for the Israelites as Paul made (Rom 9:1-3).
(Exo 32:33 NASB) And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
Exo 32:33: Elohim will deal with each person individually.
(Exo 32:34 NASB) “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
(Exo 32:35 NASB) Then the LORD smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.
Exo 32:35: Because of the intercession of Moses, Elohim will not give up on His people. This should impress upon you and me the importance of the prayer of a righteous man (James 5:16)
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas