1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled themselves to Aaron and said to him, "Arise, make us gods which shall go before us. For as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." 2 And Aaron said to them, "Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters and bring them to me." 3 And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received them at their hand and fashioned it with an engraving tool and made it a molten calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you out of the land of Egypt." 5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD." 6 And they rose early on the next day and offered burnt-offerings and brought peace-offerings. And the people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play.
7 And the LORD said to Moses, "Go, go down, for your people, which you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly from the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molten calf, worshiped it, sacrificed to it, and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt.'" 9 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore, leave me alone so that my wrath may wax hot against them and that I may consume them, and I will make of you a great nation."
11 And Moses implored the LORD his God and said, "LORD, why does your wrath wax hot against your people which you have brought forth from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak and say, 'For evil he brought them out to slay them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce wrath and repent of this evil against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel your servants, to whom you swore by your own self and said to them, 'I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of I will give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.'" 14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.
15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both their sides, on one side and on the other they were written. 16 And the tablets were the work of God and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. 17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a noise of war in the camp."
18 And he said, "It is not the voice of those who shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of those who cry for being overcome, but the noise of those who sing I hear."
19 And it came to pass as soon as he came near to the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. And Moses's anger waxed hot, and he cast the tablets from his hands and broke them beneath the mountain. 20 And he took the calf which they had made, burnt it in the fire, ground it to powder, strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink it.
21 And Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?" 22 And Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord wax hot. You know the people that they are set on mischief. 23 For they said to me, 'Make us gods which shall go before us. For as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 24 And I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.' So they gave it to me, then I cast it into the fire and this calf came out."
25 And when Moses saw that the people were naked (for Aaron had made them naked to their shame, among their enemies), 26 Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, "Who is on the LORD'S side? Let him come to me." And all the sons of Levi assembled themselves to him. 27 And he said to them, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Every man put his sword by his side and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each slay his brother, each his companion, and each his neighbor.'" 28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 29 For Moses had said, "Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son and upon his brother, so that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day."
30 And it came to pass on the next day, that Moses said to the people, "You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD. It may be that I shall make an atonement for your sin." 31 And Moses returned to the LORD and said, "Oh, this people has sinned a great sin and has made themselves gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if you will, forgive their sin. And if not, blot me, I pray you, out of your book which you have written." 33 And the LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot him out of my book. 34 And now, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them." 35 And the LORD afflicted the people because they made the calf which Aaron made.
[v.1a] - Do not use Christ's absence as an occasion to fall into sin, expecting a later opportunity to repent of those sins. Christians are to live in the belief that Christ may come today. "But if that servant says in his heart, 'My lord delays his coming,' and begins to beat the men-servants and maidens, and to eat, drink, and to be drunken, the lord of that servant will come in a day when he does not look for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him asunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers" (Luke 12:45-46)
[v.1b] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "Misinterpretations of our Redeemer's delays are the occasion of a great deal of wickedness. Our Lord Jesus has gone up into the mount of glory, where he is appearing in the presence of God for us, but out of our sight; the heavens must contain him, must conceal him, that we may live by faith. There he has been long; there he is yet. Hence unbelievers suggest that they know not what has become of him; and ask, 'Where is the promise of his coming?' (2nd Peter 3:4), as if, because he has not come yet, he would never come. The wicked servant emboldens himself in his impieties with this consideration, 'My Lord delays his coming.'"
[v.1c] - Quoted in Acts 7:40.
[v.3-4] - Reference, Psalm 106:20-21.
[v.5-6] - Reference, Psalm 106:19; Jeremiah 17:9; 1st Corinthians 10:6-7; Hebrews 7:26-28.
[v.6] - Quoted in 1st Corinthians 10:7.
[v.8] - Reference, James 1:14.
[v.9-10] - Reference, Deuteronomy 9:13-14.
[v.13] - Reference, Genesis 12:2-3, 7, 13:15-16, 15:5-7, 26:3-4, 28:13-14, 35:11-12, 48:16; Deuteronomy 7:8; Luke 1:54-55; Hebrews 6:13.
[v.14] - Reference, Psalm 106:45.
[v.19] - Reference, Deuteronomy 9:17; John 2:13-17.
[v.20] - Reference, 1st Corinthians 8:4.
[v.21] - From Robert Hawker's Commentary: "So great a sin. It appears that, but for the intercession of Moses, Aaron would have been cut off for it, see Deuteronomy 9:20. But reader! remember in all this Moses only typified Christ."
[v.22-24] - These verses show Aaron's attempt to excuse himself from consenting to and participating in the sin committed here. He tries to deflect the blame from himself to the mischievous Israelites. He was in a position of authority in the absence of Moses, yet he allowed the idol to be built and added to it an altar and a proclaimed feast to the idol. Aaron was as much in this sin as any other of the Israelites. This is similar to Adam attempting to blame Eve for his sin, which she then attempted to blame the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). Our sin is our own responsibility and we must accept the consequences of our sin. We have no one else to blame, but ourselves. God knows every intention of our heart. "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." (Proverbs 15:3).
[v.26] - Reference, Malachi 2:4-6.
[v.30] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "Yet it was some encouragement to the people (when they were told that they had sinned a great sin) to hear that Moses, who had so great an interest in heaven and so true an affection for them, would go up to the Lord to make atonement for them. Consolation should go along with conviction: first wound, and then heal; first show people the greatness of their sin, and then make known to them the atonement, and give them hopes of mercy. Moses will go up to the Lord, though it be but an uncertainty that he should make atonement. Christ, the great Mediator, went upon greater certainty than this, for he had lain in the bosom of the Father, and perfectly knew all his counsels. But to us poor supplicants it is encouragement enough in prayer for particular mercies that perhaps we may obtain them, though we have not an absolute promise. Zephaniah 2:3: 'It may be, you shall be hid.' In our prayers for others, we should be humbly earnest with God, though it is but an uncertainty that God will give them repentance (2nd Timothy 2:25)."
[v.32] - From Robert Hawker's Commentary: "How striking is the type here; only, indeed, with this difference, that Moses did but offer to die, whereas the Lord Jesus did actually die, the just for the unjust, to bring sinners to God. See those sweet Scriptures: Daniel 9:26; Isaiah 53:8; John 10:11."
[v.34] - "my angel" - From John Gill's Exposition: "Not the Angel of the covenant, and of his presence, as in Exodus 23:20, but a created angel, which, though a favor, was a lessening of the mercy before promised and granted; and which gave the people a great deal of concern, though Moses by his supplications got the former blessing restored (Exodus 33:2, 4, 14, 17)."
[v.35] - Reference, Psalm 89:30-32.