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Exodus 32:15-29

Context

32:15 Moses turned and went down from the mountain with 1  the two tablets of the testimony in his hands. The tablets were written on both sides – they were written on the front and on the back. 32:16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 32:17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, 2  he said to Moses, “It is the sound of war in the camp!” 32:18 Moses 3  said, “It is not the sound of those who shout for victory, 4  nor is it the sound of those who cry because they are overcome, 5  but the sound of singing 6  I hear.” 7 

32:19 When he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became extremely angry. 8  He threw the tablets from his hands and broke them to pieces at the bottom of the mountain. 9  32:20 He took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire, ground it 10  to powder, poured it out on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. 11 

32:21 Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought on them so great a sin?” 32:22 Aaron said, “Do not let your anger burn hot, my lord; 12  you know these people, that they tend to evil. 13  32:23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods that will go before us, for as for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ 32:24 So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, break it off.’ So they gave it 14  to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out.” 15 

32:25 Moses saw that the people were running wild, 16  for Aaron had let them get completely out of control, causing derision from their enemies. 17  32:26 So Moses stood at the entrance of the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come 18  to me.” 19  All the Levites gathered around him, 32:27 and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Each man fasten 20  his sword on his side, and go back and forth 21  from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and each one kill his brother, his friend, and his neighbor.’” 22 

32:28 The Levites did what Moses ordered, 23  and that day about three thousand men of the people died. 24  32:29 Moses said, “You have been consecrated 25  today for the Lord, for each of you was against his son or against his brother, so he has given a blessing to you today.” 26 

1 tn The disjunctive vav (ו) serves here as a circumstantial clause indicator.

2 sn See F. C. Fensham, “New Light from Ugaritica V on Ex, 32:17 (br’h),” JNSL 2 (1972): 86-7.

3 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

4 tn Heb “the sound of the answering of might,” meaning it is not the sound of shouting in victory (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 418).

5 tn Heb “the sound of the answering of weakness,” meaning the cry of the defeated (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 415).

6 tn Heb “answering in song” (a play on the twofold meaning of the word).

7 sn See A. Newman, “Compositional Analysis and Functional Ambiguity Equivalence: Translating Exodus 32, 17-18,” Babel 21 (1975): 29-35.

8 tn Heb “and the anger of Moses burned hot.”

9 sn See N. M. Waldham, “The Breaking of the Tablets,” Judaism 27 (1978): 442-47.

10 tn Here “it” has been supplied.

11 tn Here “it” has been supplied.

sn Pouring the ashes into the water running from the mountain in the brook (Deut 9:21) and making them drink it was a type of the bitter water test that tested the wife suspected of unfaithfulness. Here the reaction of the people who drank would indicate guilt or not (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 419).

12 sn “My lord” refers to Moses.

13 tn Heb “that on evil it is.”

14 tn Here “it” has been supplied.

15 sn Aaron first tried to blame the people, and then he tried to make it sound like a miracle – was it to sound like one of the plagues where out of the furnace came life? This text does not mention it, but Deut 9:20 tells how angry God was with Aaron. Only intercession saved his life.

16 tn The word is difficult to interpret. There does not seem to be enough evidence to justify the KJV’s translation “naked.” It appears to mean something like “let loose” or “lack restraint” (Prov 29:18). The idea seems to be that the people had broken loose, were undisciplined, and were completely given over to their desires.

17 tn The last two words of the verse read literally “for a whispering among those who rose up against them.” The foes would have mocked and derided them when they heard that they had abandoned the God who had led them out of Egypt (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 354).

18 tn “come” is not in the text, but has been supplied.

19 tn S. R. Driver suggests that the command was tersely put: “Who is for Yahweh? To me!” (Exodus, 354).

20 tn Heb “put.”

21 tn The two imperatives form a verbal hendiadys: “pass over and return,” meaning, “go back and forth” throughout the camp.

22 tn The phrases have “and kill a man his brother, and a man his companion, and a man his neighbor.” The instructions were probably intended to mean that they should kill leaders they knew to be guilty because they had been seen or because they failed the water test – whoever they were.

23 tn Heb “did according to the word of Moses.”

24 tn Heb “fell.”

25 tn Heb “Your hand was filled.” The phrase “fill your hands” is a familiar expression having to do with commissioning and devotion to a task that is earlier used in 28:41; 29:9, 29, 33, 35. This has usually been explained as a Qal imperative. S. R. Driver explains it “Fill your hand today,” meaning, take a sacrifice to God and be installed in the priesthood (Exodus, 355). But it probably is a Piel perfect, meaning “they have filled your hands today,” or, “your hand was filled today.” This was an expression meant to say that they had been faithful to God even though it turned them against family and friends – but God would give them a blessing.

26 tn The text simply has “and to give on you today a blessing.” Gesenius notes that the infinitive construct seems to be attached with a vav (ו; like the infinitive absolute) as the continuation of a previous finite verb. He reads the verb “fill” as an imperative: “fill your hand today…and that to bring a blessing on you, i.e., that you may be blessed” (see GKC 351 §114.p). If the preceding verb is taken as perfect tense, however, then this would also be perfect – “he has blessed you today.”



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