Ark of the Covenant - Bible History Online
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Exodus 32:1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

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Exodus 32:2 >

      Ex 32:1-35. THE GOLDEN CALF.

      1. when the people saw that Moses delayed--They supposed that he had lost his way in the darkness or perished in the fire.
      the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron--rather, "against" Aaron in a tumultuous manner, to compel him to do what they wished. The incidents related in this chapter disclose a state of popular sentiment and feeling among the Israelites that stands in singular contrast to the tone of profound and humble reverence they displayed at the giving of the law. Within a space of little more than thirty days, their impressions were dissipated. Although they were still encamped upon ground which they had every reason to regard as holy; although the cloud of glory that capped the summit of Sinai was still before their eyes, affording a visible demonstration of their being in close contact, or rather in the immediate presence, of God, they acted as if they had entirely forgotten the impressive scenes of which they had been so recently the witnesses.
      said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us--The Hebrew word rendered "gods" is simply the name of God in its plural form. The image made was single, and therefore it would be imputing to the Israelites a greater sin than they were guilty of, to charge them with renouncing the worship of the true God for idols. The fact is, that they required, like children, to have something to strike their senses, and as the Shekinah, "the glory of God," of which they had hitherto enjoyed the sight, was now veiled, they wished for some visible material object as the symbol of the divine presence, which should go before them as the pillar of fire had done.

JFB.


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Brief Summary: It is a very lamentable interruption which the story of this chapter gives to the record of the establishment of the church, and of religion among the Jews. Things went on admirably well towards that happy settlement: God had shown himself very favourable, and the people also had seemed to be pretty tractable. Moses had now almost completed his forty days upon the mount, and, we may suppose, was pleasing himself with the thoughts of the very joyful welcome he should have to the camp of Israel at his return, and the speedy setting up of the tabernacle among them. But, behold, the measures are broken, the sin of Israel turns away those good things from them, and puts a stop to the current of God's favours; the sin that did the mischief (would you think it?) was worshipping a golden calf. The marriage was ready to be solemnized between God and Israel, but Israel plays the harlot, and so the match is broken, and it will be no easy matter to piece it again. Here is, I. The sin of Israel, and of Aaron particularly, in making the golden calf for a god (v. 1-4), and worshipping it (v. 5, v. 6). II. The notice which God gave of this to Moses, who was now in the mount with him (v. 7, v. 8), and the sentence of his wrath against them (v. 9, v. 10). III. The intercession which Moses immediately made for them in the mount (v. 11-13), and the prevalency of that intercession (v. 14). IV. His coming down from the mount, when he became an eye-witness of their idolatry (v. 15-19), in abhorrence of which, and as an expression of just indignation, he broke the tables (v. 19), and burnt the golden calf (v. 20). V. The examination of Aaron about it (v. 21-24). VI. Execution done upon the ring-leaders in the idolatry (v. 25-29). VII. The further intercession Moses made for them, to turn away the wrath of God from them (v. 30-32), and a reprieve granted thereupon, reserving them for a further reckoning (v. 33, etc.).

Outline
The people cause Aaron to make a golden calf. (1-6)
God's displeasure, The intercession of Moses. (7-14)
Moses breaks the tables of the law, He destroys the golden calf. (15-20)
Aaron's excuse, The idolaters slain. (21-29)
Moses prays for the people. (30-35)
 

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