Shemot 32

1 2 And when HaAm saw that Moshe delayed to come down from HaHar, HaAm gathered themselves together unto Aharon, and said unto him, Up, make us elohim (g-ds), which shall go before us; for as for this Moshe, the ish that brought us up out of Eretz Mitzrayim, we know not what is become of him.
2 And Aharon said unto them, Take off the rings of zahav in the ears of your nashim, of your banim, and of your banot, and bring them unto me.
3 And kol HaAm removed the rings of zahav which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aharon.
4 And he received them at their yad, and fashioned it with a cheret, after he had made it an Egel Masekhah (Molten Calf); and they said, These be thy elohim, O Yisroel, which brought thee up out of Eretz Mitzrayim.
5 And when Aharon saw it, he built a Mizbe’ach before it; and Aharon made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a chag (feast) to Hashem.
6 And they rose up early the next day, and offered olot, and brought shelamim; and HaAm sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up letzachek (to revel).
7 And Hashem said unto Moshe, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of Eretz Mitzrayim, have corrupted themselves;
8 They have turned aside quickly from HaDerech which I commanded them; they have made them an Egel Masekhah, and have bowed down to it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy elohim, O Yisroel, which have brought thee up out of the Eretz Mitzrayim.
9 And Hashem said unto Moshe, I have seen this people, and, hinei, it is an Am Kesheh Oref (stiffnecked, obstinate people);
10 Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; I will make of thee a Goy Gadol.
11 And Moshe besought Hashem Elohav, and said, Hashem, why doth Thy wrath burn hot against Thy people, which Thou hast brought forth out of Eretz Mitzrayim with ko’ach gadol, and with a yad chazakah?
12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, For ra’ah (evil intent) did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of ha’adamah? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and relent of the ra’ah against Thy people.
13 Remember Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yisroel, Thy avadim, to whom Thou swore by Thine own Self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your zera as the kokhavim of Shomayim, and kol haaretz hazot that I have spoken of will I give unto your zera, and they shall inherit it l’olam.
14 And Hashem relented of the ra’ah which He thought to do unto His people.
15 And Moshe turned, and went down from HaHar, and the two Luchot HaEdut were in his yad; the Luchot were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
16 And the Luchot were the ma’aseh Elohim, the writing was the Mikhtav Elohim, engraved upon the Luchot.
17 And when Yehoshua heard the kol HaAm as they shouted, he said unto Moshe, There is a noise of milchamah in the machaneh.
18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for gevurah, neither is it the voice of them that cry of chalushah; but the noise of them that sing that I hear.
19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the machaneh, that he saw the Egel, and the mecholot (dancing); and the anger of Moshe burned hot, and he threw the Luchot out of his hands, and broke them at the foot of HaHar.
20 And he took the Egel which they had made, and burned it in the eish, and ground it to powder, and scattered it upon the mayim, and made the Bnei Yisroel drink of it.
21 And Moshe said unto Aharon, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so chata’ah gedolah upon them?
22 And Aharon said, Let not the anger of adoni burn hot; thou knowest HaAm, that they are prone to rah (evil).
23 For they said unto me, Make for us elohim, which shall go before us; for as for this Moshe, the ish that brought us up out of Eretz Mitzrayim, we know not what is become of him.
24 And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any zahav, let them remove it. So they gave it me; then I cast it into the eish, and there came out this Egel.
25 And when Moshe saw that HaAm were exposed; (for Aharon had exposed them to derision among their enemies;)
26 Then Moshe stood in the sha’ar of the machaneh, and said, Who is on Hashem’s side? Let him rally unto me. And all the Bnei Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
27 And he said unto them, Thus saith Hashem Elohei Yisroel, Put every man his cherev by his side, and go in and out from sha’ar to sha’ar throughout the machaneh, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.
28 And the Bnei Levi did according to the word of Moshe; and there fell of HaAm that day about three thousand men.
29 For Moshe had said, Consecrate yourselves today to Hashem, even every man against his ben, and against his brother; that He may bestow upon you a brocha this day.
30 And it came to pass on the next day, that Moshe said unto HaAm, Ye have sinned a chata’ah gedolah; and now I will go up unto Hashem; perhaps I can make kapporah for your chattat.
31 And Moshe returned unto Hashem, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a chata’ah gedolah, and have made for themselves elohei zahav.
32 Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their chattat but if not, blot me, now, out of Thy Sefer which Thou hast written.
33 And Hashem said unto Moshe, Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My Sefer.
34 Therefore now go, lead HaAm unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee; hinei, Malachi shall go before thee; nevertheless in the yom when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
35 And Hashem plagued HaAm, because they made the Egel, which Aharon made.

Shemot 32 Commentary

Chapter 32

The people cause Aaron to make a golden calf. (1-6) God's displeasure, The intercession of Moses. (7-14) Moses breaks the tables of the law, He destroys the golden calf. (15-20) Aaron's excuse, The idolaters slain. (21-29) Moses prays for the people. (30-35)

Verses 1-6 While Moses was in the mount, receiving the law from God, the people made a tumultuous address to Aaron. This giddy multitude were weary of waiting for the return of Moses. Weariness in waiting betrays to many temptations. The Lord must be waited for till he comes, and waited for though he tarry. Let their readiness to part with their ear-rings to make an idol, shame our niggardliness in the service of the true God. They did not draw back on account of the cost of their idolatry; and shall we grudge the expenses of religion? Aaron produced the shape of an ox or calf, giving it some finish with a graving tool. They offered sacrifice to this idol. Having set up an image before them, and so changed the truth of God into a lie, their sacrifices were abomination. Had they not, only a few days before, in this very place, heard the voice of the Lord God speaking to them out of the midst of the fire, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image? Had they not themselves solemnly entered into covenant with God, that they would do all he had said to them, and would be obedient? ch. 24:7 . Yet before they stirred from the place where this covenant had been solemnly made, they brake an express command, in defiance of an express threatening. It plainly shows, that the law was no more able to make holy, than it was to justify; by it is the knowledge of sin, but not the cure of sin. Aaron was set apart by the Divine appointment to the office of the priesthood; but he, who had once shamed himself so far as to build an altar to a golden calf, must own himself unworthy of the honour of attending at the altar of God, and indebted to free grace alone for it. Thus pride and boasting were silenced.

Verses 7-14 God says to Moses, that the Israelites had corrupted themselves. Sin is the corruption of the sinner, and it is a self-corruption; every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lust. They had turned aside out of the way. Sin is a departing from the way of duty into a by-path. They soon forgot God's works. He sees what they cannot discover, nor is any wickedness of the world hid from him. We could not bear to see the thousandth part of that evil which God sees every day. God expresses the greatness of his just displeasure, after the manner of men who would have prayer of Moses could save them from ruin; thus he was a type of Christ, by whose mediation alone, God would reconcile the world to himself. Moses pleads God's glory. The glorifying God's name, as it ought to be our first petition, and it is so in the Lord's prayer, so it ought to be our great plea. And God's promises are to be our pleas in prayer; for what he has promised he is able to perform. See the power of prayer. In answer to the prayers of Moses, God showed his purpose of sparing the people, as he had before seemed determined on their destruction; which change of the outward discovery of his purpose, is called repenting of the evil.

Verses 15-20 What a change it is, to come down from the mount of communion with God, to converse with a wicked world. In God we see nothing but what is pure and pleasing; in the world nothing but what is sinful and provoking. That it might appear an idol is nothing in the world, Moses ground the calf to dust. Mixing this powder with their drink, signified that the backslider in heart should be filled with his own ways.

Verses 21-29 Never did any wise man make a more frivolous and foolish excuse than that of Aaron. We must never be drawn into sin by any thing man can say or do to us; for men can but tempt us to sin, they cannot force us. The approach of Moses turned the dancing into trembling. They were exposed to shame by their sin. The course Moses took to roll away this reproach, was, not by concealing the sin, or putting any false colour upon it, but by punishing it. The Levites were to slay the ringleaders in this wickedness; yet none were executed but those who openly stood forth. Those are marked for ruin who persist in sin: those who in the morning were shouting and dancing, before night were dying. Such sudden changes do the judgments of the Lord sometimes make with sinners that are secure and jovial in their sin.

Verses 30-35 Moses calls it a great sin. The work of ministers is to show people the greatness of their sins. The great evil of sin appears in the price of pardon. Moses pleads with God for mercy; he came not to make excuses, but to make atonement. We are not to suppose that Moses means that he would be willing to perish for ever, for the people's sake. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves, and not more than ourselves. But having that mind which was in Christ, he was willing to lay down his life in the most painful manner, if he might thereby preserve the people. Moses could not wholly turn away the wrath of God; which shows that the law of Moses was not able to reconcile men to God, and to perfect our peace with him. In Christ alone, God so pardons sin as to remember it no more. From this history we see, that no unhumbled, carnal heart, can long endure the holy precepts, the humbling truths, and the spiritual worship of God. But a god, a priest, a worship, a doctrine, and a sacrifice, suited to the carnal mind, will ever meet with abundance of worshippers. The very gospel itself may be so perverted as to suit a worldly taste. Well is it for us, that the Prophet like unto Moses, but who is beyond compare more powerful and merciful, has made atonement for our souls, and now intercedes in our behalf. Let us rejoice in his grace.

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of the idolatry of the Israelites making and worshipping a golden calf, Ex 32:1-6 the information of it God gave to Moses, bidding him at the same time not to make any suit in their favour, that he might consume them, and make a large nation out Moses's family, Ex 32:7-10 the intercession of Moses for them, in which he succeeded, Ex 32:11-14 his descent from the mount with the two tables in his hands, accompanied by Joshua, when he was an eyewitness of their idolatry, which raised his indignation, that he cast the two tables out of his hands and broke them, took the calf and burnt it, and ground it to powder, and made the children of Israel drink of it, Ex 32:15-20 the examination of Aaron about the fact, who excused himself, Ex 32:21-24 the orders given to the Levites, who joined themselves to Moses, to slay every man his brother, which they did to the number of 3000 men, Ex 32:25-29 another intercession for them by Moses, which gained a respite of them for a time, for they are threatened to be visited still for their sin, and they were plagued for it, Ex 32:30-35.

Shemot 32 Commentaries

The Orthodox Jewish Bible fourth edition, OJB. Copyright 2002,2003,2008,2010, 2011 by Artists for Israel International. All rights reserved.