32:2 So Aaron said to them, “Break off the gold earrings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 1 32:3 So all 2 the people broke off the gold earrings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. 32:4 He accepted the gold 3 from them, 4 fashioned 5 it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf. 6 Then they said, “These are your gods, 7 O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
32:5 When 8 Aaron saw this, 9 he built an altar before it, 10 and Aaron made a proclamation 11 and said, “Tomorrow will be a feast 12 to the Lord.” 32:6 So they got up early on the next day and offered up burnt offerings and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and drink, 13 and they rose up to play. 14
32:7 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Go quickly, descend, 15 because your 16 people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly. 32:8 They have quickly turned aside 17 from the way that I commanded them – they have made for themselves a molten calf and have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.’”
32:17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, 18 he said to Moses, “It is the sound of war in the camp!” 32:18 Moses 19 said, “It is not the sound of those who shout for victory, 20 nor is it the sound of those who cry because they are overcome, 21 but the sound of singing 22 I hear.” 23
32:19 When he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became extremely angry. 24 He threw the tablets from his hands and broke them to pieces at the bottom of the mountain. 25 32:20 He took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire, ground it 26 to powder, poured it out on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. 27
1 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 937-38) argues that Aaron simply did not have the resolution that Moses did, and wanting to keep peace he gave in to the crowd. He also tries to explain that Aaron was wanting to show their folly through the deed. U. Cassuto also says that Aaron’s request for the gold was a form of procrastination, but that the people quickly did it and so he had no alternative but to go through with it (Exodus, 412). These may be right, since Aaron fully understood what was wrong with this, and what the program was all about. The text gives no strong indication to support these ideas, but there are enough hints from the way Aaron does things to warrant such a conclusion.
2 tn This “all” is a natural hyperbole in the narrative, for it means the large majority of the people.
3 tn Here “the gold” has been supplied.
4 tn Heb “from their hand.”
5 tn The verb looks similar to יָצַר (yatsar), “to form, fashion” by a plan or a design. That is the verb used in Gen 2:7 for Yahweh God forming the man from the dust of the ground. If it is here, it is the reverse, a human – the dust of the ground – trying to form a god or gods. The active participle of this verb in Hebrew is “the potter.” A related noun is the word יֵצֶּר (yetser), “evil inclination,” the wicked designs or intent of the human heart (Gen 6:5). But see the discussion by B. S. Childs (Exodus [OTL], 555-56) on a different reading, one that links the root to a hollow verb meaning “to cast out of metal” (as in 1 Kgs 7:15).
6 sn The word means a “young bull” and need not be translated as “calf” (although “calf” has become the traditional rendering in English). The word could describe an animal three years old. Aaron probably made an inner structure of wood and then, after melting down the gold, plated it. The verb “molten” does not need to imply that the image was solid gold; the word is used in Isa 30:22 for gold plating. So it was a young bull calf that was overlaid with gold, and the gold was fashioned with the stylus.
7 tn The word could be singular here and earlier; here it would then be “this is your god, O Israel.” However, the use of “these” indicates more than one god was meant by the image. But their statement and their statue, although they do not use the holy name, violate the first two commandments.
8 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive is subordinated as a temporal clause to the next preterite.
9 tn The word “this” has been supplied.
10 tn “Before it” means before the deity in the form of the calf. Aaron tried to redirect their worship to Yahweh, but the people had already broken down the barrier and were beyond control (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 413).
11 tn Heb “called.”
12 sn The word is חַג (khag), the pilgrim’s festival. This was the word used by Moses for their pilgrimage into the wilderness. Aaron seems here to be trying to do what Moses had intended they do, make a feast to Yahweh at Sinai, but his efforts will not compete with the idol. As B. Jacob says, Aaron saw all this happening and tried to rescue the true belief (Exodus, 941).
13 tn The second infinitive is an infinitive absolute. The first is an infinitive construct with a lamed (ל) preposition, expressing the purpose of their sitting down. The infinitive absolute that follows cannot take the preposition, but with the conjunction follows the force of the form before it (see GKC 340 §113.e).
14 tn The form is לְצַחֵק (lÿtsakheq), a Piel infinitive construct, giving the purpose of their rising up after the festal meal. On the surface it would seem that with the festival there would be singing and dancing, so that the people were celebrating even though they did not know the reason. W. C. Kaiser says the word means “drunken immoral orgies and sexual play” (“Exodus,” EBC 2:478). That is quite an assumption for this word, but is reflected in some recent English versions (e.g., NCV “got up and sinned sexually”; TEV “an orgy of drinking and sex”). The word means “to play, trifle.” It can have other meanings, depending on its contexts. It is used of Lot when he warned his sons-in-law and appeared as one who “mocked” them; it is also used of Ishmael “playing” with Isaac, which Paul interprets as mocking; it is used of Isaac “playing” with his wife in a manner that revealed to Abimelech that they were not brother and sister, and it is used by Potiphar’s wife to say that her husband brought this slave Joseph in to “mock” them. The most that can be gathered from these is that it is playful teasing, serious mocking, or playful caresses. It might fit with wild orgies, but there is no indication of that in this passage, and the word does not mean it. The fact that they were festive and playing before an idol was sufficient.
15 tn The two imperatives could also express one idea: “get down there.” In other words, “Make haste to get down.”
16 sn By giving the people to Moses in this way, God is saying that they have no longer any right to claim him as their God, since they have shared his honor with another. This is God’s talionic response to their “These are your gods who brought you up.” The use of these pronoun changes also would form an appeal to Moses to respond, since Moses knew that God had brought them up from Egypt.
17 tn The verb is a perfect tense, reflecting the present perfect nuance: “they have turned aside” and are still disobedient. But the verb is modified with the adverb “quickly” (actually a Piel infinitive absolute). It has been only a matter of weeks since they heard the voice of God prohibiting this.
19 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
20 tn Heb “the sound of the answering of might,” meaning it is not the sound of shouting in victory (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 418).
21 tn Heb “the sound of the answering of weakness,” meaning the cry of the defeated (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 415).
22 tn Heb “answering in song” (a play on the twofold meaning of the word).
24 tn Heb “and the anger of Moses burned hot.”
25 sn See N. M. Waldham, “The Breaking of the Tablets,” Judaism 27 (1978): 442-47.
26 tn Here “it” has been supplied.
27 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).