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Exodus 32:19-35

Context

32:19 When he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became extremely angry. 1  He threw the tablets from his hands and broke them to pieces at the bottom of the mountain. 2  32:20 He took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire, ground it 3  to powder, poured it out on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. 4 

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; 5  you know these people, that they tend to evil. 6  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 7  to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out.” 8 

32:25 Moses saw that the people were running wild, 9  for Aaron had let them get completely out of control, causing derision from their enemies. 10  32:26 So Moses stood at the entrance of the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come 11  to me.” 12  All the Levites gathered around him, 32:27 and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Each man fasten 13  his sword on his side, and go back and forth 14  from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and each one kill his brother, his friend, and his neighbor.’” 15 

32:28 The Levites did what Moses ordered, 16  and that day about three thousand men of the people died. 17  32:29 Moses said, “You have been consecrated 18  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.” 19 

32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, 20  “You have committed a very serious sin, 21  but now I will go up to the Lord – perhaps I can make atonement 22  on behalf of your sin.”

32:31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has committed a very serious sin, 23  and they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32:32 But now, if you will forgive their sin…, 24  but if not, wipe me out 25  from your book that you have written.” 26  32:33 The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me – that person I will wipe out of my book. 32:34 So now go, lead the people to the place I have spoken to you about. See, 27  my angel will go before you. But on the day that I punish, I will indeed punish them for their sin.” 28 

32:35 And the Lord sent a plague on the people because they had made the calf 29  – the one Aaron made. 30 

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

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

3 tn Here “it” has been supplied.

4 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).

5 sn “My lord” refers to Moses.

6 tn Heb “that on evil it is.”

7 tn Here “it” has been supplied.

8 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.

9 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.

10 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).

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

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

13 tn Heb “put.”

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

15 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.

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

17 tn Heb “fell.”

18 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.

19 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.”

20 tn Heb “and it was on the morrow and Moses said to the people.”

21 tn The text uses a cognate accusative: “you have sinned a great sin.”

22 tn The form אֲכַפְּרָה (’akhappÿrah) is a Piel cohortative/imperfect. Here with only a possibility of being successful, a potential imperfect nuance works best.

23 tn As before, the cognate accusative is used; it would literally be “this people has sinned a great sin.”

24 tn The apodosis is not expressed; it would be understood as “good.” It is not stated because of the intensity of the expression (the figure is aposiopesis, a sudden silence). It is also possible to take this first clause as a desire and not a conditional clause, rendering it “Oh that you would forgive!”

25 tn The word “wipe” is a figure of speech indicating “remove me” (meaning he wants to die). The translation “blot” is traditional, but not very satisfactory, since it does not convey complete removal.

26 sn The book that is referred to here should not be interpreted as the NT “book of life” which is portrayed (figuratively) as a register of all the names of the saints who are redeemed and will inherit eternal life. Here it refers to the names of those who are living and serving in this life, whose names, it was imagined, were on the roster in the heavenly courts as belonging to the chosen. Moses would rather die than live if these people are not forgiven (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 356).

27 tn Heb “behold, look.” Moses should take this fact into consideration.

28 sn The Law said that God would not clear the guilty. But here the punishment is postponed to some future date when he would revisit this matter. Others have taken the line to mean that whenever a reckoning was considered necessary, then this sin would be included (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 957). The repetition of the verb traditionally rendered “visit” in both clauses puts emphasis on the certainty – so “indeed.”

29 tn The verse is difficult because of the double reference to the making of the calf. The NJPS’s translation tries to reconcile the two by reading “for what they did with the calf that Aaron had made.” B. S. Childs (Exodus [OTL], 557) explains in some detail why this is not a good translation based on syntactical grounds; he opts for the conclusion that the last three words are a clumsy secondary addition. It seems preferable to take the view that both are true, Aaron is singled out for his obvious lead in the sin, but the people sinned by instigating the whole thing.

30 sn Most commentators have difficulty with this verse. W. C. Kaiser says the strict chronology is not always kept, and so the plague here may very well refer to the killing of the three thousand (“Exodus,” EBC 2:481).



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