Reading through the Bible together
The Hebrews had come out of Egypt where nature was worshipped through hundreds of gods within a complex, spiritualistic religion. They had been rescued from a world and worldview steeped in Satan’s deceptions. Now that God had delivered them and provided them with every need, the same reeducation process that Moses went through over the past 40 years of his exile was required for them. God through His servant revealed His covenant plan and now, while Moses is on the mountain, God would write the law of this covenant in stone with His own finger. But Moses is delayed. No explanation is given for this delay – none is needed. Moses was with God and the people were to remain in humble submission in the plain, waiting for His return. Falling back to their same impatience and restlessness, the people demand that they be given a visual representation of that which their finite minds could not see. “Make us gods!”
The golden calf could have represented any number of Egyptian deities. The Apis bull was worshiped in Memphis as Ptah, the god of life. Hathor, the cow goddess, was worshiped in Thebes as goddess of motherhood, beauty, love, and joy. In Exodus 32 the people “rose up to play” which had clear sexual overtones and might be equated with Hathor. It is clear from Scripture that Aaron, their spiritual leader, gave in to their requests and to justify their worship announced a “feast to the Lord.” This mixed worship led God to disown the Hebrews as He refers to them as “your people.” But as God rejects the people who chose the calf rather than Him, Moses steps in and asks that his name be blotted from the book of life. So great was Moses’ love for his people that he offered his life for theirs. But there is only one substitutionary death acceptable to God and that is the death of His Son Jesus. Have you tried in your life to compromise the world and its practices with your worship of God? Here we see the consequences of such action. God would have a people that are faithful to Him, and Him only, though the heavens fall (Education, 57).
School of Religion
Southern Adventist University