When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a goda who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt-we don't know what has happened to him!"
Then Aaron replied to them, "Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters and bring [them] to me."
So all the people took off the gold rings that were on their ears and brought [them] to Aaron.
He took [the gold] from their hands, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, "Israel, this is your God,b who brought you up from the land of Egypt!"
When Aaron saw [this], he built an altar before it; then he made an announcement: "There will be a festival to the Lord tomorrow."
Early the next morning they arose, offered burnt offerings, and presented fellowship offerings. The people sat down to eat and drink, then got up to revel.c7
The Lord spoke to Moses: "Go down at once! For your people you brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly.
They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them; they have made for themselves an image of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it, and said, 'Israel, this is your God,d who brought you up from the land of Egypt.' "
The Lord also said to Moses: "I have seen this people, and they are indeed a stiff-necked people.
Now leave Me alone, so that My anger can burn against them and I can destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."
But Moses interceded with the Lord his God: "Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people You brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a strong hand?
Why should the Egyptians say, 'He brought them out with an evil intent to kill them in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from Your great anger and change Your mind about this disaster [planned] for Your people.
Remember that You swore to Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel by Yourself and declared to them, 'I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and will give your offspring all this land that I have promised, and they will inherit [it] forever.' "e14
So the Lord changed His mind about the disaster He said He would bring on His people.
Then Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides-inscribed front and back.
The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was God's writing, engraved on the tablets.
When Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a sound of war in the camp."
But Moses replied: It's not the sound of a victory cry and not the sound of a cry of defeat; I hear the sound of singing!
As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became enraged and threw the tablets out of his hands, smashing them at the base of the mountain.
Then he took the calf they had made, burned [it] up, and ground [it] to powder. He scattered [the powder] over the surface of the water and forced the Israelites to drink [the water].
Then Moses asked Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have led them into [such] a grave sin?"
"Don't be enraged, my lord," Aaron replied. "You yourself know that the people are [intent] on evil.
They said to me, 'Make us a godf who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt-we don't know what has happened to him!'
So I said to them, 'Whoever has gold, take it off,' and they gave [it] to me. When I threw it into the fire, out came this calf!"
Moses saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had let them get out of control, so that they would be vulnerable to their enemies.
And Moses stood at the camp's entrance and said, "Whoever is for the Lord, [come] to me." And all the Levites gathered around him.
He told them, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says, 'Every man fasten his sword to his side; go back and forth through the camp from entrance to entrance, and each of you kill his brother, his friend, and his neighbor.' "
The Levites did as Moses commanded, and about 3,000 men fell dead that day among the people.
Afterwards Moses said, "Today you have been dedicatedg to the Lord, since each man went against his son and his brother.h Therefore you have brought a blessing on yourselves today."