1When the people saw that Moshe was taking a long time to come down from the mountain, they gathered around Aharon and said to him, “Get busy; and make us gods to go ahead of us; because this Moshe, the man that brought us up from the land of Egypt — we don’t know what has become of him.” 2Aharon said to them, “Have your wives, sons and daughters strip off their gold earrings; and bring them to me.” 3The people stripped off their gold earrings and brought them to Aharon. 4He received what they gave him, melted it down, and made it into the shape of a calf. They said, “Isra’el! Here is your god, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 5On seeing this, Aharon built an altar in front of it and proclaimed, “Tomorrow is to be a feast for Adonai.” 6Early the next morning they got up and offered burnt offerings and presented peace offerings. Afterwards, the people sat down to eat and drink; then they got up to indulge in revelry.
7Adonai said to Moshe, “Go down! Hurry! Your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have become corrupt! 8So quickly they have turned aside from the way I ordered them to follow! They have cast a metal statue of a calf, worshipped it, sacrificed to it and said, ‘Isra’el! Here is your god, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” 9Adonai continued speaking to Moshe: “I have been watching these people; and you can see how stiffnecked they are. 10Now leave me alone, so that my anger can blaze against them, and I can put an end to them! I will make a great nation out of you instead.”
11Moshe pleaded with Adonai his God. He said, “Adonai, why must your anger blaze against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a strong hand? 12Why let the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intentions that he led them out, to slaughter them in the hills and wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger! Relent! Don’t bring such disaster on your people! 13Remember Avraham, Yitz’chak and Isra’el, your servants, to whom you swore by your very self. You promised them, ‘I will make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky; and I will give all this land I have spoken about to your descendants; and they will possess it forever.’” 14Adonai then changed his mind about the disaster he had planned for his people.
15Moshe turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets inscribed on both sides, on the front and on the back. 16The tablets were the work of God; and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17When Y’hoshua heard the noise of the people shouting he said to Moshe, “It sounds like war in the camp!” 18He answered, “That is neither the clamor of victory nor the wailings of defeat; what I hear is the sound of people singing.”
19But the moment Moshe got near the camp, when he saw the calf and the dancing, his own anger blazed up. He threw down the tablets he had been holding and shattered them at the base of the mountain. 20Seizing the calf they had made, he melted it in the fire and ground it to powder, which he scattered on the water. Then he made the people of Isra’el drink it.
21Moshe said to Aharon, “What did these people do to you to make you lead them into such a terrible sin?” 22Aharon replied, “My lord shouldn’t be so angry. You know what these people are like, that they are determined to do evil. 23So they said to me, ‘Make us gods to go ahead of us; because this Moshe, the man that brought us up from the land of Egypt — we don’t know what has become of him.’ 24I answered them, ‘Anyone with gold, strip it off!’ So they gave it to me. I threw it in the fire, and out came this calf!”
25When Moshe saw that the people had gotten out of control — because Aharon had allowed them to get out of control, to the derision of their enemies — 26Moshe stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “Whoever is for Adonai, come to me!” All the descendants of Levi rallied around him. 27He told them, “Here is what Adonai, the God of Isra’el, says: ‘Each of you, put his sword on his side; and go up and down the camp, from gate to gate; and every man is to kill his own kinsman, his own friend and his own neighbor!” 28The sons of Levi did what Moshe said, and that day three thousand of the people died. 29Moshe said, “You have consecrated yourselves today to Adonai, because every one of you has been against his own son and against his own kinsman, in order to bring a blessing on yourselves today.”
30The next day Moshe said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin. Now I will go up to Adonai ; maybe I will be able to atone for your sin.” 31Moshe went back to Adonai and said, “Please! These people have committed a terrible sin: they have made themselves a god out of gold. 32Now, if you will just forgive their sin! But if you won’t, then, I beg you, blot me out of your book which you have written!” 33Adonai answered Moshe, “Those who have sinned against me are the ones I will blot out of my book. 34Now go and lead the people to the place I told you about; my angel will go ahead of you. Nevertheless, the time for punishment will come; and then I will punish them for their sin.” 35Adonai struck the people with a plague because they had made the calf, the one Aharon made.