Who Made the Golden Calf in Horeb?

July 4, 2019

Scripture records information explicitly about the Golden Calf Incident (GCI) in at least six chapters in six books of the Bible: Exodus 32; Deuteronomy 32; Nehemiah 9; Psalm 106; Acts 7; and 1 Corinthians 10. A careful examination of the stress the Spirit places on who made the golden calf in Horeb (Deut. 9:8-21) brings out some striking facts.

Eleven Explicit Statements

In the six passages cited above that speak about the GCI, the Spirit records eleven explicit statements in which He said who made the calf. Ten of them are in the Old Testament, with 8 in the Pentateuch itself.

Pentateuch

1. Exodus 32:4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

2. Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

3. Exodus 32:20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

4. Exodus 32:31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.

5. Exodus 32:35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calfwhich Aaron made.

6. Deuteronomy 9:12 And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy peoplewhich thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.

7. Deuteronomy 9:16 And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.

8. Deuteronomy 9:21 And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.

Rest of the Old Testament

9. Nehemiah 9:18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;

10. Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. 20 Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. 21 They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;

New Testament

11. Acts 7:40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

Discussion

Based on the data presented above, what does God want us to learn? Out of the 11 passages that speak of who made the calf, Scripture specifies Aaron as the one who made the calf once by himself (Ex. 32:4) and twice in conjunction with the people (Ex. 32:35; Acts 7:40-41).

In all the other 8 occurrences, however, the Spirit says that it was the people who made the calf. Of the 5 statements in Exodus 32, the Spirit says 4 times that the people made the calf. All 3 times in Deuteronomy 9, it is the people who made the calf. Both Nehemiah 9 and Psalm 106 say that the people made the calf. Acts 7 as well says that the people made the calf.

By my count, the Spirit explicitly says 10 times that the people made the calf and does so in all 5 books that talk about the making of the calf. So who does the Spirit stress as the one(s) who made the calf?

Why has He done so?

Rajesh

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