Bible Review 20:2, April 2004

The Golden Calf

Made by Man...or God?

By Victor Hurowitz

While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the first edition of the Ten Commandments, the people down below grew impatient and asked Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make them another god to lead them. Aaron instructed the people to rip off their gold earrings, which, the text tells us explicitly and unambiguously, “he made into a molten calf” (Exodus 32:4)—the famous Golden Calf. “These,” the people responded, “are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the Golden Calf, he became enraged and hurled the two tablets to the ground, smashing them to smithereens. And he burned the Golden Calf until it became a powder that he mixed with water, and then he made the wayward Israelites drink the resulting potion (Exodus 32:20), thereby calling attention to their infidelity (see Numbers 5:11–31).

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