Exodus 32 reveals a terrible incident in the history of God’s people. God wants believers to interpret it correctly and learn much from it. This post addresses a few key truths that God wants us to learn.
The people engaged in idolatrous worship of a golden calf that they asked Aaron to make for them (Exod. 32:1-4). Some have wrongly understood whom or what the calf represented and who the object of their feasting was:
Some have tried to show that the bull represented one of the gods of Egypt, but that doesn’t fit the text, because Aaron called a feast to the Lord (Yahweh) and said that it was the god(s) which brought them out of the land of Egypt.
This understanding is incorrect for several reasons.
First, and most importantly, the NT makes plain that they did not make the calf to be or to represent Yahweh:
Acts 7:39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, 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.
The word gods in Acts 7:40 is the plural form of the Greek noun theos. The NT never uses any plural forms of theos when it speaks of the true God. They did not ask Aaron to make a representation of Yahweh.
Second, the Bible never says that Aaron said the following about the calf, “It was the god(s) which brought them out of the land of Egypt.” Every time that the Bible reveal any such statements about the golden calf, the speakers of the statements are the people and not Aaron:
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.
Exodus 32:8 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.
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;
Finally, Scripture makes clear that the feast that the people engaged in was in actuality not a feast to the Lord. It does so in several ways:
- Scripture says that they “forgot God their savior, which had done great things in Egypt” (Ps. 106:21). This revelation shows that they were not feasting to the Lord.
- They were “rejoicing in the works of their own hands” (Acts 7:41)—they were not rejoicing in Yahweh.
- The sacrifices that the people offered were in reality sacrifices to demons (Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20). When the people ate and drank what had been offered to the calf and then rose up to play (Exod. 32:6; 1 Cor. 10:7), they had fellowship with demons (1 Cor. 10:20) and not with God. Their feasting in actuality was not feasting to Yahweh.
God wants believers to properly interpret the Golden Calf Incident in Exodus 32 and learn much from it. Learning what He wants us to learn from it and properly applying what it teaches us is vital for consecrated believers (cf. 1 Cor. 10:6, 11; 10:20-33; 11:1).
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