Exodus 32:1-4, The Golden Calf

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Helen, Oct 1, 2002.

  1. Helen

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    Aug 29, 2001
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    (First of all, a note of apology for the lack of material here during September. Our family had a total of three surgeries for people and one for a dog and in order to be there for each member I spent the first two weeks of September in Australia and the last two weeks in California. Life seems to have settled down now, and all are healing nicely, so this should be a daily study again. The second note to add here is that, although it is my name on each of these, there are a number of people I discuss them with and get information from, the foremost of which is my husband, Barry Setterfield. Work checking things here on the net as well as the reference books we have is also included. In other words, I am not simply attempting to 'spout off' my own opinions, but to give as thorough a conservative series of thoughts on any particular chapter as possible. Thank you. Helen Setterfield)

    The last time we saw the Israelites was in chapter 25, when they agreed to everything the Lord had said. Then the Lord called Moses up on the mountain for forty days and nights. That's a long time, especially when it probably appeared to the people as though Moses had walked smack into the heart of an active volcano!

    "Missing and Presumed Dead" could very well have been on the milk cartons after forty days and forty nights gone up there (no, they didn't have milk cartons!).

    Then, for chapters 25-31, we are told what the Lord instructed Moses.

    All this time the people waited, and wondered.

    Moses did not show up.

    If we understand WHAT the people were aware of, and thus what they must have been wondering, we will have less puzzlement about their actions now.

    Chapter 32 starts with the statement that the people saw that Moses was 'so long' in coming down from the mountain. If Moses was dead, then, what about the deity he claimed to represent? Was that God dead, too? Or maybe they had been mistaken about that God all along? So many strange things had happened, and now here they were out in the middle of nowhere -- a few million of them -- not knowing what to do or where to turn next.

    And so they revert to what they knew in Egypt. Make your own gods, or at least make images of gods that might be. They ask Aaron to make them gods "who will go before us."

    Aaron is now in the middle. He knows God is real, but he has a frightened and rebellious people on his hands and WHERE ON EARTH is his brother?

    So Aaron tries to appease both sides. He tells the people to take their gold earrings and bring them to him. He melts them down and forms them into a calf. The people then declare that here is the god that brought them out of Egypt!

    Pause right there. Why a calf? Later on King Jeroboam would set up two golden calves in the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:28-29). Today in India, still, the cow is sacred. What is it with cattle?

    The major goddess Hathor is Egypt was depicted with cow-like features, and, occasionally, fully as a cow: http://www.mafdet.com/hathor.htm

    We can go back further, and still find the cow an object of worship: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Ithaca/1412/indus.html


    Although this is hinting at the possible origin of worship of cows/bulls/calves, it is not enough. Probably the best work was done by Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons, now available on the web here:

    For the ancients, The same word that signified a bull, signified also a ruler or prince.

    It was a linguistic thing that came down later as cow or bull worship! The section of the book with this explanation is here:

    So there was the origin.

    How strongly this association persisted into Egyptian times is not known. But the fact is that the cow or bull has been worship in the Middle East and India 'since time immemorial.' Thus, with Moses apparently gone, and perhaps his God with him, the Israelites turned to the deity they knew to be strong from Egypt.
  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Oct 10, 2001
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