12 Israel Worships the Golden Calf. Ex 32-34Exodus - God Makes a Way
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From Dr. Coy Roper in the Truth for Today commentary: Exodus 25—31 relates the instructions for building the tabernacle, while Exodus 35—39 describes, often in almost identical language, how those instructions were carried out. In the middle of this narration (chs. 32—34), the text tells about Israel’s apostasy with regard to the golden calf, its resultant punishment, and God’s gracious renewal of His covenant with His people. The book ends with the completion of the tabernacle and God’s blessing it with His presence (ch. 40).
EXODUS 32 – APOSTASY: ISRAEL’S “BULL-HEADED” IDOLATRY
32:1-6 ISRAEL’S SIN: THE GOLDEN CALF
Delay + impatience + doubt + anxiety + fear = rash decisions.
Most people are followers, asking someone else to lead.
When godly leaders are absent, others (good/bad) will fill the vacuum.
“Come, make us a god” (or gods, elohim used here with plural verb).
Appeasing people by compromising truth leads to “anything goes.”
Aaron: “feast to Yahweh tomorrow” connects the calf to the true God.
“Calf” (‘egel): a young bull in its first strength. Symbol of lordship, power, vital energy, and fertility. Seen in Egypt: sacred bull of Apis.
“Play:” carousing, orgies, singing, dancing, feasting. Fertility festivals.
32:7-10 GOD’S THREAT: DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL
“Your people” implies “not acting like My people” at present.
Obstinate or stubborn – lit., “stiff-necked,” like an animal refusing to wear the yoke. First use of this term in OT here.
Why do people refuse God’s yoke, since it’s the key to all that’s good?
God’s offer would relieve Moses of having to deal with these rebellious, idolatrous complainers. He could start fresh as head of a new nation.
What a temptation that might have been!
32:11-13 MOSES’ INTERCESSION
Moses has no interest in his own promotion or Israel’s destruction.
He is rather the defense attorney, taking up for his accused client.
True leadership: service, sacrifice, patience, protection, intercession.
“Why destroy Your own people, whom You saved with such power?”
“Why give the Egyptians cause to impugn Your motives and deeds?”
“Turn from Your anger! Change Your mind!”
“Remember the patriarchs (Your servants) and Your sworn oath!”
32:14 GOD’S RECONSIDERATION
God cannot “repent” (KJV) in the sense of turning from sin.
God can and does “relent” (NKJV), changing His mind re: His response.
God in His nature does not change. Num 23:19; Jas 1:17
God in His mind and actions does change, in response to …
 intercession (here with Moses, also Amos 7:1-6; Jas 5:16),
 sinners’ repentance, (Jer 18:3-11; Jon 3:9-10), and
 His compassion (Deut 32:36; Judg 2:18; 2 Sam 24:16; Ps 106:45).
32:15-35 ISRAEL’S CONSEQUENCES
32:15-24 Drinking Polluted Water
From the mountain with God to the revelry with the calf.
From compassion and intercession to righteous anger and action.
Broke tablets. Destroyed calf. Made people drink its powder in water.
Aaron’s excuses: the people forced me, and the calf just came out!
32:25-29 Three Thousand Slain by the Levites
“Out of control” – due in part to Aaron’s faulty, weak leadership.
Derision to enemies. Ex 32:12; Dt 28:37; 2 Sam 12:14; Rom 3:24
“Who is on the LORD’s side?” All could choose Him. Only Levites did.
Judgment impartial. Brother, friend, and neighbor. Mt 10:21, 34-39.
32:30-35 Further Unspecified Punishment
“If you blot them out, blot me out!” Cf. Rom 9:1-3.
Each person accountable for his/her own sin only. Cf. Ezek. 18:4, 20.
First scrip. mention of God having a book with names of the faithful.
EXODUS 33 – RESTORATION: GOD’S PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE
33:1-6 GOD’S ORDER: MY ANGEL, NOT I, WILL GO.
God to keep His oath, but to send an angel rather than go Himself.
Yet another unforeseen, unintended consequence of apostasy.
Sin separates man from God. Isa 59:1-2. He doesn’t move; we do.
Protective refusal. “I would destroy you in one moment!” If He is too close to Israel when they sin, His wrath will blaze, and they will die.
Removing ornaments: sign of mourning and repentance. Earrings were used to make the golden calf. Often associated with pagan idolatry.
33:7-11 GOD’S DIRECTION: WITH MOSES IN THE TENT.
Distance from God: tent of meeting placed far away from the camp.
One had to separate from the (sinful) camp to go and seek the LORD.
Reaction: people stood, watched, and worshiped from a distance.
Note again the glory cloud of God’s presence.
“Face to face:” personal, intimate interaction, as a friend to a friend.
Imagine having that fellowship with God! Hymn, “My God and I.”
Theophany again. God’s “face” itself not actually seen. Cf. 33:20.
Of course, God is spirit, described in human terms. No physical face.
33:12-16 MOSES’ PLEA: GO WITH US, LORD!
Who will You send with me?
Let me know Your ways, that I may know You, that I may please You!
“If that is how You feel about me, You should reveal Yourself more fully to me.” Seeking as a result to be even more pleasing to God.
Consider: this nation is Your people. You have a stake in their survival.
“My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Relented, retracting His earlier threat about not going with them.
Rest – in the land, from enemies. Dt 12:10; 25:19; Josh. 11:23; 21:44.
33:17-23 GOD’S REPLY: I WILL SHOW YOU MY GLORY!
God changes His response, for “… found favor … known name.”
What if Moses had not asked? What if we do not ask? Jas 4:1ff.
Be gracious … have compassion … God is no respecter of persons, and yet He is not obligated to show His grace and favor to every human being or to any human being. Cf. Rom 9:14-16.
“Pass by.” Cf. Jesus’ intent to “pass by” the boat in Mark 6:45-52.
Ex 33:22 … while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.
“Rock of Ages” (Toplady). “A Wonderful Savior” (Crosby).
EXODUS 34 – RESTORATION: RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT
34:1-4 THE TWO TABLETS REPLACED
God’s amazing grace and patience. “Let’s try this again!”
Same God, same Moses, same mountain, same kind of tablets, same commands, same nation, but different in that sin had occurred.
Would Israel do any better obeying God the second time around?
We, like they, have fallen short.
We, like they, have received multiple “second chances.”
We, like they, know God’s commands and requirements.
What can we learn from them, so that we will remain faithful?
34:5-9 GOD’S NAME AND NATURE PROCLAIMED
God both in OT and NT: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin …
God both in OT and NT: … yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.
The unrepentant sinner, the defiant and habitual sinner, not seeking God’s forgiveness, receives instead what his sin deserves. Future generations suffer the consequences, not the guilt. Ezek 18:4, 20.
First confession of sin, then request for pardon. 1 Jn 1:9-10.
34:10 THE COVENANT RENEWED
Ex 34:10 Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful (“awesome,” ESV) thing that I am going to perform with you.”
“Behold:” don’t miss this! Give it your full attention!
Even after Israel’s failure with the golden calf, God’s amazing grace!
God wants the nations and all His people to see His awesome deeds.
What part would Israel (and do we) play in that?
34:11-28 THE LAW REISSUED
Repetition and reemphasis of content given earlier in Ex 23-24.
“Asherim:” plural of “Asherah,” a carved pole resembling that goddess or her sacred tree. Pole apparently made of wood (Jud 6:25-26; 1 Kgs 15:13) and stood beside an altar. Asherah: Fertility goddess, wife of El and mother of 70 gods, her son Baal being the most famous.
No covenant! It would become a snare!
No compromise! Yahweh’s name (character) is “Jealous!”
No eating of their sacrifices! No “harlotry” with their gods!
No “mixed marriages” with their daughters!
Worship Yahweh only, by His directions only!
34:29-35 THE LORD’S GLORY SEEN AND REFLECTED
Having spoken with God, Moses glowed! Others saw what he did not.
Calling the leaders, he spoke with them with his face uncovered.
Finished speaking, he covered his face with a veil.
In God’s presence or speaking God’s word – uncovered.
The longer he was away from God, the more the glow faded.
Read 2 Cor 3:7-18. Note the last verse:
2 Co 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.