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.Fasten your seatbelts, folks, it's going to be a bloody ride.
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 today 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.
- Panicked by Moses' delayed return, the Israelites ask Aaron to "make us gods," i.e., to create idols for them to worship. This violates the deity's second commandment. But sometimes people need a binky to cling to like, I don't know, a cross or something — maybe with a guy nailed to it. Just an idea....
- Without objection, Aaron — God's #2 go-to guy — tells the scaredy-cats to break the golden earings (no clip-ons, I guess) off their wives, sons (!), and daughters, and then he melts them into a golden calf. So, squandering a nation's treasure on quixotic homeland-security measures is a time-honored idea.
- The people considered the calf their gods (not sure how one calf is a plural), and credit it/them with delivering them from Egypt, which seems rather unearned no matter how you look at it.
- Aaron builds an altar for the golden god and proclaims a feast for YHWH (other translations confirm that the "Lord" the feast is for is the "real one"). If the cow-god is just a tchotchke honoring the big guy, why should this be such a big deal?
- The people served up burnt offerings, and "peace offerings," and they "sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play." If you don't mind the burnt-offering part, sounds like a nice little affair.
- But Yahweh is furious, and he tells Moses that the people "have corrupted themselves." He's plainly feeling forgotten as the dude that got 'em out of
DodgeEgypt and the all-around right guy to sacrifice to, etc. Like the man said in Exodus 20, "I the LORD thy God am a jealous God." So admirable.
- He calls the people "stiffnecked," i.e., "stubborn"
- Then he threatens some Tarantino-esque bad-ass shit: "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." That is, "I'll destroy the nation in order to save it."
- Moses asks him to chill, arguing that the Egyptians will assume that slaughtering the Israelites was God's plan even as he was freeing them from Egypt. I'm not sure why YHWH would care what the Egyptians think — though he created everything, he shows absolutely no interest in being their god.
- Moses reminds God of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel: to give them many descendants and land they shall inherit forever
- And the Lord turns out not to be stiffnecked, as he repents "the evil which he thought to do unto his people." So far, so good...
- Moses leaves with the tablets, which it turns out are written on both sides
- Joshua, last seen fighting the forgotten war with Amalek, tells the descending Moses of noises that he misinterprets as battle sounds. The world's first case of shell-shock?
- Moses realizes it's not war cries or suffering they're hearing, it's a par-tay!
- Moses isn't the man who loved calf dancing. When he reaches the camp, his "anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." Too bad there was no Jed Leland there to say, "I'd like to keep those particular pieces of stone myself. I have a hunch it might turn out to be something pretty important. A document." Oh well, easy come, easy go. And so much for chilling out.
- Moses burns the calf, grinds it into powder, puts it in water and makes the Israelites drink it. As David Cross (and how's that for an all-purpose Biblical name?) observes, "tasteless, odorless gold. to EAT! and i thought, 'wow man, if that isn't the ultimate 'FUCK YOU!' to poor people, then I don't know what is." Actually, forcing the poor people to eat the little gold they have is a bigger fuck you. Also, I wonder if "Mythbusters" ever tried burning gold and then grinding it into powder. How you do that?
- Moe asks his bro "wha' hoppen?"
- Aaron doesn't want God to be angry, and he blames it on the mischievous people (not mentioning that he didn't object at all, despite his legendary oratory skills)
- Moses then notices that the people were naked (a quick study, that one), which turns out to be Aaron's way of making them ashamed in the eyes of the enemies (nice excuse for hosting a drop-trou party, BTW)
- Moses asks who's still a Yahweh man, and the sons of Levi (Moses' own tribe) join him
- Moses, who just secured the Lord's mercy on the people says "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." WTF, seriously, WTF!?
- And the Levites do just that and kill "about three thousand men." For dancing around a metal cow. So, who was left alive, outside the Levi line, to consecrate themselves and for Moses to atone for about the offending bovine trinket?
- Moses asks God to forgive the sinners or make him unlisted in the book. (Which book? Is God writing a book? I wonder what it's called, and where you can get a copy.)
- YHWH tells Moses to take the people to a previously disclosed location, where God's angel will be waiting. And when God visits, he'll "visit their sin upon them." Again, assuming some of the sinners weren't stabbed to death.
- And sure as shooting (or stabbing), God visits one or more plagues upon the people "because they made the calf, which Aaron made."