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Exodus 32.1-6-While Moses Is On Mount Sinai For Forty Days And Forty Nights With God, Israel Commits The Sin Of Idolatry

Exodus Chapters 19-32  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:39:08
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Journey Through The Bible Series: Exodus 32:1-6-While Moses Is On Mount Sinai For Forty Days And Forty Nights With God, Israel Commits The Sin Of Idolatry-Lesson # 46


Wenstrom Bible Ministries

Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom

Sunday August 5, 2012

Journey Through The Bible Series: Exodus 32:1-6-While Moses Is On Mount Sinai For Forty Days And Forty Nights With God, Israel Commits The Sin Of Idolatry

Lesson # 46

Please turn in your Bibles to Exodus 32:1.

This morning we will study Exodus 32:1-6, which records Israel committing the sin of idolatry while Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 32:1 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.” 2 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.” 3 Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 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.” 5 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.” 6 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. (NASB95)

Verse 1 tells the reader that when the Israelites saw that Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain, they confronted Aaron and demanded that they make them a god that would go before them.

In Exodus 24:14, Moses tells the elders to wait for his return with Joshua and delegates authority to Aaron and Hur to decide legal matters in his stead, which would indicate quite clearly to the Israelites that Moses was intending to be away for quite awhile.

“Assembled about Aaron” is composed of the third person masculine singular niphal (reflexive) imperfect form of the verb qā∙hǎl (קָהַל) (kaw-hal´), “assembled” and this is followed by the preposition ʿǎl (עַל), “about” and then we have the proper name ʾǎ∙hǎrôn (אַהֲרֹון) (ă-har-one´), “Aaron.”

This phrase means that the Israelites “assembled themselves against Aaron” for the purpose of confronting and opposing Aaron since the preposition ʿǎl is a marker of opposition implying hostility toward Aaron, thus, they assembled “against” Aaron.

This interpretation of this preposition is substantiated by the context since the statement to follows records the Israelites demanding that Aaron make them a god who will go before them.

The fact that the people of Israel assembled themselves against Aaron in a confrontational sense and demanded immediate specific action from Aaron indicates that Aaron was faced with an angry, aggressive mob of people.

This angry, aggressive mob appears again when the spies came back with a false report about the land of Canaan and the people wept in Numbers 14 and in the Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebellion in Numbers 16 and in Numbers 20 when Miriam died.

Aaron should have done what Moses did in Numbers 16:4 and fell on his face in prayer to God for help but he lacked courage because he lacked faith in God at this time.

Aaron was saying to the people that the God who led them out of Egypt is represented by the golden calf, which is indicated by the fact that he commands that a feast to the Lord should be observed.

Thus, Aaron is associating the worship of the golden calf with the feast dedicated to the Lord golden.

“Will go before us” is a military expression and is composed of the third person masculine plural qal imperfect form of the verb hā∙lǎḵ (הָלַךְ) (haw-lak´), “will go” and then we have the preposition l- (לְ־) (leh) and then we have the masculine plural construct form of the noun pā∙ně(h) (פָּנֶה) (paw-neem´) which is followed by the first person plural pronominal suffix ʾǎnǎḥ∙nû (אֲנַחְנוּ) (an-akh´-noo), “us.”

This same expression is used as a military expression in Exodus 14:19, 23:23, and 32:34 and Deuteronomy 1:30.

When the noun panim is employed with the preposition l- it functions as a preposition literally meaning, “facing” and often translated “before,” or “in front of.”

The mob is demanding that an idol be made to lead them into battle and is thus an expression that is used with reference to military leadership (cf. Exodus 23:23).

The Israelites were thinking that if they cannot look to Moses to lead them to victory, then they will have a “god” who will “go before them” as they march into Canaan, to possess it.

The phrase “as for this Moses who brought us up from the land of Egypt” suggests that the Israelites were attributing their deliverance from Egypt to Moses and not to the Lord which is consistent with the fact that God calls Moses the deliverer of the Israelites.

In Exodus 3:12, 33:1 and Deuteronomy 9:12, Moses is described as the one who brought the Israelites out of Egypt whereas Exodus 12:17, 51, 20:2 and Numbers 20:6 says that Yahweh delivered them.

There is no contradiction since some passages focus on Moses’ part in their deliverance and others emphasize Yahweh’s part.

The passages which emphasize Moses are attempting to focus upon the fact that the Lord delegated him authority and was God’s instrument in bringing about this deliverance.

The phrase “we don’t know what has become of him” reflects the Israelites’ great impatience and total lack of faith.

This statement to Aaron in Exodus 32:1 reveals that the Israelites entered into panic because of their lack of faith and their lack of faith led them to assume that Moses was dead or was abandoning them.

His immediate response to the mob’s angry demand to build an idol indicates that Aaron had serious doubts about Moses being alive as well.

If he did believe Moses was alive and coming back, he certainly would have hesitated in giving this command for an idol from the gold of the people.

Aaron responded to “the people” by telling them to “tear off” the gold rings, which is a compromise since he should have stood up and led the people in the way of obedience that the Lord would have them go.

“Molten calf” is composed of the masculine singular construct form of the noun ʿē∙ḡěl (עֵגֶל) (ay´-ghel), “calf” which is modified by the feminine singular noun mǎs∙sē∙ḵā(h) (מַסֵּכָה) (mas-say-kaw´), “molten.”

The noun mǎs∙sē∙ḵā(h) means, “a cast image” and is a term for metallurgy, which is the science or technique of separating metals from their ores and is used with respect to the production of objects.

Contexts of several passages in which noun mǎs∙sē∙ḵā(h) is found suggest a method other than casting.

The people of the ancient world made their idols with a wooden center and were merely overlaid with gold such as Isaiah 40:19 and 30:22 demonstrate.

Aaron’s molten calf was also made in this way and was first of all formed of wood, and then covered with gold plate, which is evident from the way in which it was destroyed.

The image was first of all burnt, and then beaten or crushed to pieces, and pounded or ground to powder (Deut 9:21); i.e., the wooden centre was first burnt into charcoal, and then the golden covering beaten or rubbed to pieces (v. 20 compared with Deut 9:20-21).

The “golden calf” was copied from the Egyptian Apis but was not a symbol of the generative or bearing power of nature, but an image of Yahweh since when it was finished, those who had made the image, and handed it over to the people, said, “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.”

This is the explanation adopted in Psalm 106:19-20.

The children of Israel led by Aaron are exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image of a corruptible four-footed creature (Romans 1:18-25).

Seeing that the Israelites regarded the image as their “God,” Aaron began to play the priest, solemnizing this idolatrous occasion with “worship” which strikingly mimics the actions of Moses in chapter 24.

Aaron built an altar (32:5), just as Moses had (24:4), he proclaimed a feast (a covenant meal?), a “feast to the Lord” (v. 5), just as there was a meal on Mt. Sinai (24:11), he offered burnt offerings and peace offerings too, (32:6), just as these had been sacrificed in chapter 24 (v. 5).

Aaron in Exodus 32:5 is using the personal and proper name Yahweh rather than the more impersonal ʾělō∙hîm because he is referring to a feast that will be dedicated to the unique personality of the true and living God, whereas the mob is using ʾělō∙hîm.

This indicates that the mob did not see the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses as their personal God but rather they saw him as the heathen did, as an impersonal God.

Calf worship was repeated throughout Israel’s history and her prophets sent to her by the Lord condemned such idolatry (1 Kings 12:25-33; 2 Kings 17:7-18; Hosea 8:1-7; 13:1-3).

Israel’s actions recorded here in Exodus 32:1-6 are in violation of the second commandment recorded in Exodus 20:4-6, which is summarized in Exodus 20:23 and so they ignored the law they solemnly agreed to obey.

Exodus 32:6 says the Israelites “rose up to play” which is composed of the third person masculine plural qal imperfect form of the verb qûm (קוּם) (koom), “rose up” which is followed by the preposition l- (לְ־) (leh) “to” and its object is the piel infinitive construct form of the verb ṣā∙ḥǎq (צָחַק) (tsaw-khak´), “play.”

The verb ṣā∙ḥǎq means “to play, to party” or in our day and age we would say that they were “partying,” and what this partying involved is identified for us in verses 17, 18 and 19, namely “shouting” (verse 17), “singing” verse 18 and “dancing” (verse 19).

So Exodus 32:1-6 records the Israelites breaking the covenant which they solemnly swore to uphold.

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