A Golden Calf with Earrings
Category : Glenda's Soap Box
Could it be that all of the trouble began way before the golden calf was ever constructed in Exodus 31?
In Exodus 19, only three months after the children of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt where they had been enslaved for approximately 300+ years, they arrived at the desert of Sinai and camped at the base of Mount Sinai.
God called Moses up to the mountain with this message to the children of Israel:
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you will be a peculiar treasure to Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine. And you will be a kingdom of priests to Me and a holy nation.”
Moses then called the elders and all of the people together and delivered the message, to which they responded- “All that the LORD* has spoken we will do.” That is what is called a collective covenant agreement. The greater party sets the terms, the lesser party agrees to the terms.
The next thing the LORD* wanted to do- after the people were sanctified and prepared in the manner He required- was to allow the people to hear Him (v. 9) when He spoke to Moses (v. 19) and to come down Himself upon Mount Sinai in the “sight of all the people”.
What did He say? He declared ten statements, which we have come to know as the ten commandments.
To say the people were terrified would be an understatement. After hearing His voice, the thunderings and the lightnings, the noise of the shofar and witnessing the mountain smoking, the resulting discomfort they experienced motivated them to quickly move away from the area. In Exodus 20:16, they declared to Moses that they did not want to hear from God directly anymore, but preferred to receive their instructions secondhand from him alone. The voice of God terrified them.
One of the statements they had heard directly from God was this one: “You will have no other gods before Me. You will not make any graven image for yourself, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water underneath the earth. You will not bow down yourself to them, or serve them, for I AM the LORD* your God, a jealous God…”.
Fast forward to Exodus 31:18. Moses was at the end of a 40 day/40 night meeting with God on the mountain receiving instructions, and amazingly enough also receiving “two tablets of testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God”, all the while the people at the foot of the mountain ran out of patience waiting for his return and decided (in the absence of Moses) that they needed a tangible expression (graven image) of God that could apparently be constructed with the gold from their earrings, thanks to the creativity of Aaron, who was the second in command. The image they chose? A golden calf. In other words, instead of waiting for the detailed instruction manual from God on how He wanted things done, they preferred to write their own.
When Aaron asked for and received the earrings of gold from all of the earringed population among them (wives, sons and daughters), verse 4 of Chapter 32 states, “and he took [the earrings] from their hands, and fashioned it in a mold, and he made a molten calf” as the people all declared ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you up out of the land of Egypt’. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD*’. And they rose up early on the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings (as God had instructed them earlier to do for Him), and the people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play.”
This was wrong on so many levels! But after reading this portion of scripture, a couple of things came to my mind.
#1- They fashioned it in a ‘mold’. Where did they get the mold for the golden calf? Did someone bring a mold with them from Egypt or did they painstakingly construct one? Were they reviving the worship of Apis, the bull deity of the Egyptians, because that is the first image that came to their minds?
#2- They proclaimed the god they had made with their hands (and earrings) to be the one who delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. Yikes! It is one thing to do something absolutely and completely stupid by first making a golden calf and then worshiping it, but then they added insult to injury by indicating that the One True God and the golden calf were one in the same.
They made a god after an image they chose.
He looked like what they wanted him to look like.
They worshiped him in the manner they chose.
This should give us some kind of pause because we are not altogether unlike the children of Israel.
Do we serve the One True God, or are we serving a god of our own making? One that we can control. One of our own choosing. Is our god “bullish” on the things that we want? If so, we might be missing a few earrings. It could be a god we have made from our very own mold. A safe god. A comfortable god. A nice god. A harmless god. A predictable god. A god like us.