It is a great sin to make gold, or anything else, a god,
as those do who let it become a supreme object of their affections, taking the place of God in any degree.
1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
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.
5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
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.
9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
15 ¶ And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
16 And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.
19 ¶ And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.
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.
21 And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
22 And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
23 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
24 And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.
25 ¶ And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)
26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
30 ¶ And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
34 Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.
Exodus 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Exodus 32:1-14 – Aaron’s Golden Calf Offends the Lord
The people never thought of taking Aaron as a substitute for Moses, because they instinctively recognized his moral weakness. Though he was dressed in the garments of the high priest, he was essentially a weak man. This came into evidence:
(1) By his reply to the people. When they demanded the calf he ought to have met them with an indignant negative; but instead, and to prevent the unpopularity which such an attitude might have evoked, he contented himself with putting difficulties in the way of their project. “Surely,” he thought, “they will never go on with their mad scheme, if they have to pay for it with their jewels.” But the event did not justify his expectations.
(2) By his reply to Moses. “There came out this calf” (v. 24). It was the furnace, not I, that did it. “Blame my heredity, environment, companions,” says the wrongdoer. The weak becomes the sinful one. Strong Son of God, help us! Make us strong! See Jeremiah 15:20. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Exodus 32:15-24 – Moses Breaks the Tables and Burns the Calf
There was no weak compromise on the part of Moses. He cast the tables from his hands as though he felt that the covenant between God and the Hebrew race was hopelessly broken. He remonstrated with Aaron, destroyed the calf, and appointed the tribe of Levi as the executors of divine justice. How striking the act that forced the people to drink the dust of the golden calf! Men always have to drink the dust of their idolatries. You cannot make an idol without growing into the likeness of your idol and becoming, some day, nauseated with it.
As Israel turned from the splendors that shone on the summit of Sinai to fashion the calf, and found that the end of those things was misery, so those who turn from the Savior, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His Person, pierce themselves through with many sorrows and perish. See Hebrews 12:25. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Exodus 32:15, 19
When you have been sitting in a well-lighted room, and are suddenly called into the outer darkness, how black it seems; and thus, when a man has dwelt in communion with God, sin becomes exceeding sinful, and the darkness in which the world lieth appears like tenfold night. (Spurgeon)
Exodus 32:25-35 – Moses Punishes Idolaters and Prays for the People
The heart of Moses was full of that wonderful new word, atonement. For many days Jehovah had been speaking to him about it. But he seemed to feel that on this occasion, the blood of goats and bulls could not avail to put away the black transgression of His people. Then there arose within him the noble resolve to which he gave expression, when he returned by the well-worn path to the summit of Sinai.
His voice was very broken as he commenced to plead. Mark that unfinished sentence, “If thou wilt forgive their sin–… I” (v. 32). It was arrested by a burst of uncontrollable emotion. Can we finish it? “If thou wilt forgive, thou wilt act worthily of thyself and bind us to thee forever; but if not, and if the blood of beasts does not avail, let me be their atoning sacrifice, and blot me from thy book!” See Romans 9:1-3. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Exodus 32:30 – Peradventure I shall make an Atonement for your sin.
The heart of Moses was full of that great, wonderful new word, Atonement. For many days God had been telling him about it, and speaking it over and over to his heart. He seemed, however, to feel that no ordinary sacrifices would avail: the blood of goats and bulls would surely be insufficient to put away the black transgression into which Israel had fallen. But there was rising in his heart a resolve, to which he gave expression when he returned to God: “Blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (v. 32). He did not realize that his blood would not avail, but that the blood of Christ, who should, in the fulness of times, offer Himself without spot to God, alone could put away sin.
In every heart there is a deep conviction of the necessity of an Atonement.—This is the source of the temples, altars, and sacrifices, which have marked the history of every nation under heaven. Man has felt as by a natural instinct that some reparation was necessary to the broken law.
The insufficiency of animal sacrifice.—In the Levitical system there was a remembrance of sin made year by year; but the sin itself could not be purged by such rites. The fact that the worshippers so constantly came back to offer their sacrifices shows that they were not assured. The priests always stood: their attitude was an emblem of an unfinished work.
The sufficiency of Christ’s Atonement.—He was willing to be cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of His people; and because He died, there is no longer the “–” (v. 32) which in Moses’ prayer speaks of uncertainty; but a blessed assurance that we are at one with God, with each other, and with all holy beings. —Our Daily Homily