When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain,1 they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us godsa who will go before2 us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."32
Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings4 that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me."
So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.
He took what they handed him and made it into an idol5 cast in the shape of a calf,6 fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods,b7 O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."85
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival9 to the LORD."
So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings.c10 Afterward they sat down to eat and drink11 and got up to indulge in revelry.127
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt,13 have become corrupt.148
They have been quick to turn away15 from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol16 cast in the shape of a calf.17 They have bowed down to it and sacrificed18 to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'199
"I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked20 people.
Now leave me alone21 so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy22 them. Then I will make you into a great nation."2311
But Moses sought the favor24 of the LORD his God. "O LORD," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?2512
Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'?26 Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster27 on your people.
Remember28 your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self:29 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars30 in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land31 I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.' "
Then the LORD relented32 and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony33 in his hands.34 They were inscribed35 on both sides, front and back.
The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.3617
When Joshua37 heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, "There is the sound of war in the camp."
Moses replied: "It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear."
When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf38 and the dancing,39 his anger burned40 and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces41 at the foot of the mountain.
And he took the calf they had made and burned42 it in the fire; then he ground it to powder,43 scattered it on the water44 and made the Israelites drink it.
He said to Aaron, "What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?"
"Do not be angry,45 my lord," Aaron answered. "You know how prone these people are to evil.4623
They said to me, 'Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.'4724
So I told them, 'Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.' Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf !"4825
Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock49 to their enemies.
So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me." And all the Levites rallied to him.
Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' "5028
The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.