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32
The People Make a Gold Calf
1The people saw that a long time had passed and Moses had not come down from the mountain. So they gathered around Aaron and said, “Moses led us out of Egypt, but we don’t know what has happened to him. Make us gods who will lead us.”
2Aaron said to the people, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, sons, and daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3So all the people took their gold earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4He took the gold from the people and formed it with a tool and made a statue of a calf. Then the people said, “Israel, these are your gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
5When Aaron saw all this, he built an altar before the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a special feast to honor the Lord.” 6The people got up early the next morning and offered whole burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. They sat down to eat and drink, and then they got up and sinned sexually.
7Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down from this mountain, because your people, the people you brought out of the land of Egypt, have ruined themselves. 8They have quickly turned away from the things I commanded them to do. They have made for themselves a calf covered with gold, and they have worshiped it and offered sacrifices to it. They have said, ‘Israel, these are your gods who brought you out of Egypt.’ ”
9The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen these people, and I know that they are very stubborn. 10So now do not stop me. I am so angry with them that I am going to destroy them. Then I will make you and your descendants a great nation.”
11But Moses begged the Lord his God and said, “Lord, don’t let your anger destroy your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with your great power and strength. 12Don’t let the people of Egypt say, ‘The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt for an evil purpose. He planned to kill them in the mountains and destroy them from the earth.’ So stop being angry, and don’t destroy your people. 13Remember the men who served you—Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. You promised with an oath to them and said, ‘I will make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky. I will give your descendants all this land that I have promised them, and it will be theirs forever.’ ” 14So the Lord changed his mind and did not destroy the people as he had said he might.
15Then Moses went down the mountain, and in his hands he had the two stone tablets with the Agreement on them. The commands were written on both sides of each stone, front and back. 16God himself had made the tablets, and God himself had written the commands on the tablets.
17When Joshua heard the sound of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “It sounds like war down in the camp.”
18Moses answered:
“It is not a shout of victory;
it is not a cry of defeat.
It is the sound of singing that I hear.”
19When Moses came close to the camp, he saw the gold calf and the dancing, and he became very angry. He threw down the stone tablets that he was carrying and broke them at the bottom of the mountain. 20Then he took the calf that the people had made and melted it in the fire. He ground it into powder. Then he threw the powder into the water and forced the Israelites to drink it.
21Moses said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you? Why did you cause them to do such a terrible sin?”
22Aaron answered, “Don’t be angry, master. You know that these people are always ready to do wrong. 23The people said to me, ‘Moses led us out of Egypt, but we don’t know what has happened to him. Make us gods who will lead us.’ 24So I told the people, ‘Take off your gold jewelry.’ When they gave me the gold, I threw it into the fire and out came this calf!”
25Moses saw that the people were acting wildly. Aaron had let them get out of control and become fools in front of their enemies. 26So Moses stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Let anyone who wants to follow the Lord come to me.” And all the people from the family of Levi gathered around Moses.
27Then Moses said to them, “The Lord, the God of Israel, says this: ‘Every man must put on his sword and go through the camp from one end to the other. Each man must kill his brother, his friend, and his neighbor.’ ” 28The people from the family of Levi obeyed Moses, and that day about three thousand of the Israelites died. 29Then Moses said, “Today you have been given for service to the Lord. You were willing to kill your own sons and brothers, and God has blessed you for this.”
30The next day Moses told the people, “You have done a terrible sin. But now I will go up to the Lord. Maybe I can do something so your sins will be removed.” 31So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “How terribly these people have sinned! They have made for themselves gods from gold. 32Now, please forgive them of this sin. If you will not, then erase my name from the book in which you have written the names of your people.”
33But the Lord told Moses, “I will erase from my book the names of the people who sin against me. 34So now, go. Lead the people where I have told you, and my angel will lead you. When the time comes to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
35So the Lord caused terrible things to happen to the people because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.
32
Israel Worships a Golden Calf
1The people saw that Moses took a long time to come down from the mountain. So they gathered around Aaron. They said to him, "Come. Make us a god that will lead us. This fellow Moses brought us up out of Egypt. But we don't know what has happened to him."
2Aaron answered them, "Take the gold earrings off your wives, your sons and your daughters. Bring the earrings to me."
3So all of the people took off their earrings. They brought them to Aaron. 4He took what they gave him and made it into a metal statue of a god. It looked like a calf. He shaped it with a tool.
Then the people said, "Israel, here is your god who brought you up out of Egypt."
5When Aaron saw it, he built an altar in front of the calf. He said, "Tomorrow will be a feast day in the Lord's honor."
6So the next day the people got up early. They sacrificed burnt offerings and brought friendship offerings. They sat down to eat and drink. Then they got up to dance wildly in front of their god.
7The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, "Go down. Your people you brought up out of Egypt have become very sinful. 8They have quickly turned away from what I commanded them. They have made themselves a statue of a god that looks like a calf. They have bowed down and sacrificed to it. And they have said, 'Israel, here is your god who brought you up out of Egypt.'
9"I have seen those people," the Lord said to Moses. "They are stubborn. 10Now leave me alone. My anger will burn against them. I will destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."
11But Moses asked the Lord his God to show favor to the people. "Lord," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people? You used your great power and mighty hand to bring them out of Egypt. 12Why should the Egyptians say, 'He brought them out to hurt them. He wanted to kill them in the mountains. He wanted to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn away from your burning anger. Please take pity on your people. Don't destroy them!
13"Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel. You made a promise. You took an oath in your name. You said, 'I will make your children after you as many as the stars in the sky. I will give them all of this land I promised them. It will belong to them forever.' "
14Then the Lord took pity on his people. He didn't destroy them as he had said he would.
15Moses turned and went down the mountain. He had the two tablets of the covenant in his hands. Words were written on both sides of the tablets, front and back. 16The tablets were the work of God. The words had been written by God. They had been carved on the tablets.
17Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting. So he said to Moses, "It sounds like war in the camp."
18Moses replied, "It's not the sound of winning.
It's not the sound of losing.
It's the sound of singing that I hear."
19As Moses approached the camp, he saw the calf. He also saw the people dancing. So he burned with anger. He threw the tablets out of his hands. They broke into pieces at the foot of the mountain.
20He took the calf the people had made. He burned it in the fire. Then he ground it into powder. He scattered it on the water. And he made the people of Israel drink it.
21He said to Aaron, "What did these people do to you? How did they make you lead them into such terrible sin?"
22"Please don't be angry," Aaron answered. "You know how these people like to do what is evil. 23They said to me, 'Make us a god that will lead us. This fellow Moses brought us up out of Egypt. But we don't know what has happened to him.'
24"So I told them, 'Anyone who has any gold jewelry, take it off.' They gave me the gold. I threw it into the fire. And out came this calf!"
25Moses saw that the people were running wild. Aaron had let them get out of control. The people had become a joke to their enemies.
26Moses stood at the entrance to the camp. He said, "Anyone who is on the Lord's side, come to me." All of the Levites joined him.
27Then he spoke to them. He said, "The Lord, the God of Israel, says, 'Each man must put on his sword. Then he must go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other. Each man must kill his brother, friend and neighbor.' " 28The Levites did as Moses commanded. About 3,000 of the people died that day. 29Then Moses said to the Levites, "You have been set apart for the Lord today. You stood against your own sons and brothers. And he has blessed you this day."
30The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a terrible sin. But now I will go up to the Lord. Maybe if I pray to him, he will forgive your sin."
31So Moses went back to the Lord. He said, "These people have committed a terrible sin. They have made a god out of gold for themselves. 32Now please forgive their sin. But if you won't, then erase my name from the scroll you have written."
33The Lord replied to Moses, "I will erase from my scroll only the names of those who have sinned against me. 34Now go. Lead the people to the place I spoke about. My angel will go ahead of you. But when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin."
35The Lord struck the people with a plague. That's because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.