Exodus 32 - Outline of Exodus (Book Notes menu page)
32:1 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
{ie., know} not what is become of him.
32:2 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.
32:3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which [were] in their ears,
and brought [them] unto Aaron.
32:4 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.
32:5 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.
32:6 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
{HB= tsachaq, to make sport, to make a mockery; cp. v.17-19; Num 25:2}.
when the people saw that Moses delayed...-
Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and nights (Ex 24:18; Deu 9:11,12),
receiving the pattern for the Tabernacle and the two stone tables of the Law (Ex 31:18).
Meanwhile, at the foot of the mountain, Israel wearied of waiting,
and broke the first two of the Ten Commandments (#1 - Ex 20:2,3; #2 - Ex 20:4,5)
God's people are called to live by faith in the invisible God (cp. Heb 11:1-3,27; Col 1:15; 1Tim 1:17).
Yet, the human heart loves that which can be seen and felt.
While God was revealing Himself to Moses in the design of the Tabernacle, the people were fabricating something of their own design.
  • They called it 'God.' (The HB "elohim" translated "gods" in v.1,4 is also the title "God.")
  • They called it by His Covenant Name, "the LORD." v.5
  • They credited it with His works. v.4; cp. Ex 29:45,46
  • They worshipped it. v.6; cp. Acts 7:41-
But their words and actions were lies. They had changed the truth of God into a lie (Rom 1:25).
Compare:the True & Living Godgods fashioned by the flesh
Glory-Above human comprehension
and ability to endure. (Ex 33:20)
As imagined by fallen men.
Isa 40:15-26; Rom 1:21-23
Holiness-Separate from sinners.
(Psa 5:4,5; 11:4-7; Heb 7:26)
Given to leudness (v.6)
and promiscuity (v.25).
Righteousness-Established by the standard of
His holiness. 1Pet 1:14-16; Rom 1:18
Approving of human lusts
and perversions. Rom 1:24-32
Moses was not deceived by this "form of godliness" (2Tim 3:5), because
he had been in the presence of God, and he had seen the pattern of the heavenly realities.
Aaron, at this point, apparently did not truly know the LORD, and His Word.
His relationship to God had been second hand, through Moses (Ex 4:16).
He was unwilling to take an unpopular stand for the Truth.
Today, the Lord Jesus Christ has gone into the heavenly Mount, beyond our sight.
There are many religious leaders, who willingly placate their people, while denying the Lord and His second coming (2Tim 4:3,4; 2Pet 2:1; 3:3,4).
"We must not cast off His realities for the graving tool of unbelief." [CHM]
32:7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down;
for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt,
have corrupted [themselves]:
32:8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them:
they have made them a molten calf,
and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto,
and said, These [be] thy gods, O Israel,
which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
32:9 And the LORD said unto Moses,
I have seen this people, and, behold, it [is] a stiffnecked people:
32:10 Now therefore let me alone,
that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them:
and I will make of thee a great nation.
32:11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said,
LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people,
which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt
with great power, and with a mighty hand?
32:12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say,
For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains,
and to consume them from the face of the earth?
Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants,
to whom thou swarest by thine own self,
and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven,
and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed,
and they shall inherit [it] for ever.
32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
The LORD said... thy people, whom thou broughtest... have corrupted themselves.-
The LORD -- condemned Israel's apostasy,
    -- threatened to destroy them, and
    -- offered to make "a great nation" of Moses' descendants (instead of Israel).
Moses besought the LORD...- he interceded in behalf of the people.
On what basis could Moses plead for them?
  • for Israel's sake? They were deserving of destruction.
  • for the sake of their ignorance? They had broken commands that they had promised to keep.
  • for the sake of the children? God's righteous wrath was ready to consume the whole nation.
No, the only ground of prayer is found in the LORD Himself. Moses pleads on the basis of...
  1. The historic demonstration of God's Glory (v.11)-
    1. 'They are Your people (cf. v.7). You know them thoroughly.
      It is no surprise to You that they are stiff-necked.'
    2. 'You brought them up out of Egypt. It was not in me to redeem them.
      You brought them out by the power of Your hand.'
  2. The present vindication of God's Name {reputation} before the nations (v.12).
  3. The future fulfillment of God's Oath (v.13).
    'Your promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are inviolable.'
    eg., Gen 12:2,3,7; 22:16-18; 26:3,4; Heb 6:13
    Jacob had prophesied that the promised Seed would come through Judah (Gen 49:10),
    but Moses was descended from Levi (of whom, Jacob had nothing good to say (Gen 49:5-7).
The LORD repented {'relented', in NIV}...-
When used of men, 'repent' means 'to turn around'; 'relent' means 'to give in.'
Did Moses force God to change His mind? by his persuasive power, or by his great faith?
No. God had been testing Moses:
  • The people had worshipped a false god.
    Would Moses also seek his own honor over the LORD's honor?
  • God had set forth a proposition (v.10b).
    From Moses' viewpoint, it appeared that God's plan had changed.
    By faith, Moses prayed according to God's previously stated and unchangeable Word.
    Therefore, God set aside the test proposal, and went on with His plan. cp. 1Joh 5:14,15
32:15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount,
and the two tables of the testimony [were] in his hand:
the tables [were] written on both their sides;
on the one side and on the other [were] they written.
32:16 And the tables [were] the work of God,
and the writing [was] the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
32:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted,
he said unto Moses, [There is] a noise of war in the camp.
32:18 And he said, [It is] not the voice of [them that] shout for mastery
{ie., victory},
neither [is it] the voice of [them that] cry for being overcome
{ie., defeat}:
[but] the noise of [them that] sing do I hear.
them that sing...- The word for 'sing' (HB= 'anah, to be afflicted, to be humbled) is in contrast
with the words used in Ex 15:1,2 for 'sing' and 'song' (which suggest the melodious and lyrical nature of the singing). There, Israel's hearts were filled with the LORD, rejoicing in His promises, and assured of His power to fulfill them. Here, they are making fools of themselves before false gods. (See Zech 10:2, where 'troubled' is HB= 'anah).
32:19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp,
that he saw the calf, and the dancing:
and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands,
and brake them beneath the mount.
32:20 And he took the calf which they had made,
and burnt [it] in the fire, and ground [it] to powder,
and strawed [it] upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink [of it].
32:21 And Moses said unto Aaron,
What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
32:22 And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot:
thou knowest the people, that they [are set] on mischief.
32:23 For they said unto me, 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
{ie., know} not what is become of him.
32:24 And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break [it] off.
So they gave [it] me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.
  • burned with anger.- his righteous indignation, was in harmony with the LORD (cp. v.10).
  • broke the tablets in anger.- The people had already broken the Law in their false worship.
    They had entered into a blood covenant with the LORD, to obey the Law which had been delivered to them orally, and recorded in a book (in ch. 20-23; Ex 24:3-8).
    But, they broke their contract before the 'hard copy' came into the camp.
  • destroyed the golden calf.- He 'burned' its wooden core, 'ground to powder' its gold exterior.
    Judgment had to begin at the house of God. cp. 23:23,24
  • made the people drink it.- He impressed upon them the distastefulness of their folly.
    The object of their desire, strewn upon the waters, was not "that Rock" from whom they were to drink. cp. 23:25; 1Cor 10:1-4
Aaron - had been directly responsible for facilitating and blessing the sin of the people (cp. v.21; v.1-5).
But he shifted the blame... to the people (v.22), to Moses (v.23), and to the calf itself (v.24).
32:25 And when Moses saw that the people [were] naked;
(for Aaron had made them naked unto [their] shame among their enemies:)
32:26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said,
Who [is] on the LORD'S side? [let him come] unto me.
And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
32:27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,
Put every man his sword by his side,
[and] go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp,
and slay every man his brother,
and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
32:28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses:
and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
32:29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD,
even every man upon his son, and upon his brother;
that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
Moses saw that the people were 'naked' {lit., "loosed", ie., of all restraint}.-
Moses took severe and decisive action: 3000 Israelites were slain by the sword.
  • Who is on the LORD's side?
  • Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD...-
    The word 'consecrate' is formed from two HB words, which literally mean: 'fill (or, satisfy) the hand.' The ceremony by which priests were consecrated for service, involved their hands... placed on the head of sacrifices, marked with blood and oil, and waving the final pieces which declared that the process was satisfied (see Ex 29:9-34; Lev 8:22-28). Following the priests' consecration, their hands would be filled with the work of satisfying God's holiness, in behalf of a sinful people. That work would include sacrifices for sin at the Brazen Altar, and the presentation of blood at the Mercy Seat.
         The incident, in v.25-29, occurred almost a year before Aaron and his sons would be consecrated (when the Tabernacle construction was completed). However, on this occasion, the tribe of Levi distinguished itself by filling their hands with swords and taking action to satisfy the holiness of God.
  • ...every man upon his son... upon his brother...-
    The LORD must be held more dear than the nearest relative. cp. Deu 13:6-11; Mat 10:37,38
      -- Radical surgery was needed to remove a deadly cancer from Israel, before all were infected.
    Scripture also admonishes the Church to excercise decisive...
    • discernment against error (false teachers, false gospels, false christs, etc.). eg., 2Cor 11:13; Gal 1:6-9; 2Pet 2:1
    • discipline toward sinning brothers (for the good of the body of believers, and also of the erring individual). eg., 1Cor 5:1-13; Heb 12:15,16
      Too often, the Church is soft and sentimental when confronting evil within its ranks.
that the LORD may bestow... a blessing...-
The tribe of Levi was rewarded with the priesthood for their faithfulness to the LORD, in this difficult and unpleasant matter. cp. Deu 33:8-10.
     God's previous declaration to Moses that Aaron and his sons would have this role (Ex 28:1),
was according to His foreknowledge (of how they would respond), and according to His Grace (by which a sinner like Aaron could be sanctified, to serve as the LORD's high priest).
32:30 And it came to pass on the morrow,
that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin:
and now I will go up unto the LORD;
peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
32:31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said,
Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
32:32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--;
and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
32:33 And the LORD said unto Moses,
Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
32:34 Therefore now go,
lead the people unto [the place] of which I have spoken unto thee:
behold, mine Angel shall go before thee:
nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
32:35 And the LORD plagued the people,
because they made the calf, which Aaron made.
Moses returned unto the LORD...- to intercede in their behalf.
Surgery (v.27) and prayer are complementary ministries.
peradventure {ie., perhaps} I shall make an atonement for your sin...-
Moses was not sure that the LORD would forgive such blatant sin.
In contrast, there was no uncertainty in Christ's atonement for sin.
Even before He went to the cross, He could say "I have finished the work..." (Joh 17:4; 14:2,3)
In the Father's house, Moses was a servant, but Christ is the Son. Heb 3:1-6
Moses prayed...
  1. 'This people have sinned a great sin... (v.31)- He confessed sin before the Holy One.
  2. 'If thou wilt forgive their sin...'- 'forgive' is HB= nasa, to lift, to carry, to bear, to take.
    Before the Holy God, the people could not bear their sins and live.
    Moses requested that God remove this sin from their account.
  3. 'if not, blot me... out of thy book' {cp. Psa 69:28; Dan 12:1}...-
    • Note that Moses was not attempting to coerce God. He was not saying: 'If you are the kind of God who would destroy His people, then I want nothing to do with you.' Rather...
    • Moses identified himself with the guilty people, and 'poured out his soul' in their behalf.
      He had great sorrow for his people, and would have taken their judgment upon himself, if it had been possible. (cp. Rom 9:1-3)
    • In these heart attitudes, Moses foreshadowed Christ. cp. Isa 53:12
whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of my book.-
  • Even the sacrifice of Moses, had it been accepted, could not have covered Israel's sin.
    Each man must bear the consequences of his own sin. v.33
  • What book(s) did Moses and God have in mind? in v.32,33
    • It was not possible to blot Moses' name from God's book of eternal life, because eternal life cannot be terminated. Moses' faith, like that of Abraham, was imputed to him for righteousness.
    • When God said that those who sinned would be blotted out of His book, He was apparently referring to the roll book of the nation of Israel. Just a few verses earlier, God had threatened to discard the entire nation of Israel and instead make of Moses a nation (v.10). Elsewhere, He identifies specific acts of disobedience, by which an individual sinner would be excluded or removed from the congregation of Israel (eg., Gen 17:14; Ex 12:19).
...I will visit their sin upon them... the LORD plagued the people...-
Though the LORD graciously chose not to destroy the people for their sin,
and though He would not dissolve His Covenant with them (cp. v.13; v.34),
yet, they would experience consequences for their sin. cp. Psa 99:8; Gal 6:7

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