Exodus 32:4

4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,a Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

Read Exodus 32:4 Using Other Translations

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.
And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"
Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

What does Exodus 32:4 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Exodus 32:4

And he received [them] at their hand
For the use they delivered them to him:

and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten
calf;
that is, after he had melted the gold, and cast it into a mould, which gave it the figure of a calf, and with his tool wrought it into a more agreeable form, he took off the roughness of it, and polished it; or if it was in imitation of the Egyptian Apis or Osiris, he might with his graving tool engrave such marks and figures as were upon that; to cause the greater resemblance, so Selden F25 thinks; (See Gill on Jeremiah 46:20) or else the sense may be, that he drew the figure of a calf with his tool, or made it in "a mould" F26, into which he poured in the melted gold,

and made it a molten calf;
the Targum of Jonathan gives another sense of the former clause, "he bound it up in a napkin"; in a linen cloth or bag, i.e. the gold of the ear rings, and then put it into the melting pot, and so cast it into a mould, and made a calf of it. Jarchi takes notice of this sense, and it is espoused by Bochart F1, who produces two passages of Scripture for the confirmation of it, ( Judges 8:24 ) ( 2 Kings 5:23 ) and illustrates it by ( Isaiah 46:6 ) . What inclined Aaron to make it in the form of a calf, is not easy to say; whether in imitation of the cherubim, one of the faces of which was that of an ox, as Moncaeus thought; or whether in imitation of the Osiris of the Egyptians, who was worshipped in a living ox, and sometimes in the image of one, even a golden one. Plutarch is express for it, and says F2, that the ox was an image of Osiris, and that it was a golden one; and so says Philo the Jew F3, the Israelites, emulous of Egyptian figments, made a golden ox; or whether he did this to make them ashamed of their idolatry, thinking they would never be guilty of worshipping the form of an ox eating grass, or because an ox was an emblem of power and majesty:

and they said, these be thy gods, O Israel, [which brought] thee up
out of the land of Egypt;
they own they were, brought up out of that land by the divine Being; and they could not be so stupid as to believe, that this calf, which was only a mass of gold, figured and decorated, was inanimate, had no life nor breath, and was just made, after their coming out of Egypt, was what brought them from hence; but that this was a representation of God, who had done this for them; yet some Jewish writers are so foolish as to suppose, that through art it had the breath of life in it, and came out of the mould a living calf, Satan, or Samael, entering into it, and lowed in it F4.


FOOTNOTES:

F25 De Diis Syris Syntagm. 1. c. 4. p. 138.
F26 (jrxb wta ruyw) "formavit illud modulo", Piscator; so some in Ben Melech, and in Vatablus; and so the Vulgate Latin, "formant opere fusorio"; see Fagius in loc.
F1 Hierozoic. p. 1. l. 2. c. 39. col. 334, 335.
F2 De Isid. & Osir.
F3 De Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 677.
F4 Pirke Eliezer, c. 45.
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