Exodus Chapter 32

For the previous several chapters of Exodus, Moses has been receiving instruction and commandments from the Lord for forty days and nights. Meanwhile, the Israelites have been waiting for him in their encampment around the base of Mount Sinai. They had just made covenants with the Lord, so it was basically thousands of new converts to the church awaiting word from their righteous leader. The book continues as follows:

1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord.
6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

The people did not know what had happened to Moses, who had led them from Egypt. They were floundering and did not know how to properly worship. They came to Aaron, who was now the acting religious leader. These people were coming from living in Egypt, where they worshipped many gods and had many false idols built. In fact, the Israelites had been the ones made to build all these idols and this was what they knew. Aaron told them to bring their gold to him, and he built a golden calf and an altar. Then, they made an offering to the Lord as they feasted. They worshipped a false God, which was against the commandments given to them by God. It is very common for those who are converts and have not rooted themselves in the gospel, to return to their old ways. This is why it is so very important for new members of the gospel, to immerse themselves in the gospel and to have righteous leaders and friends to help them find their way.

7 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
9 And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
11 And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
14 And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

The Joseph Smith Translation of verse 14 reads, “And the Lord said unto Moses, If they will repent of the evil which they have done, I will spare them, and turn away my fierce wrath; but, behold, thou shalt execute judgment upon all that will not repent of this evil this day. Therefore, see thou do this thing that I have commanded thee, or I will execute all that which I had thought to do unto my people.”

The Lord told Moses what was happening and commanded him to return to them. The Lord was full of righteous anger towards the Israelites, for they had broken the commandment to worship the only true and living God. Moses pleaded with the Lord in their behalf, so that the world would not see those who were saved by the Lord so quickly destroyed by Him. Instead, he pleaded that the Lord turn away His wrath so that the promised blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob), would be fulfilled. No nation would be able to say that the Lord could not fulfill his promises to the children of Israel. Moses wanted the Israelites to have the chance to repent.

I know that we are not perfect people. We live in a world full of sin, and are quick to forget the Lord. It is so easy to let life get in the way of our faith. I wonder if our modern prophets are also pleading with God for the sins of the world today. I cannot imagine anything less, because I can feel their love for us and I know they often plead with the members to return to Christ and avoid the things of the world.

15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
16 And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

Moses left the mount and returned to the people with the two stone tablets from the Lord. On the tablets were the commandments, or the law of Moses. Joshua, who had remained near Moses, told him there was loud noise, a riot, in the encampment. It was the sound of loud singing.

19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.
20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.
21 And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
22 And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
23 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
24 And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

When Moses came close to the camp, he saw them worshipping the golden calf. Then, Moses got angry and break the stone tablets. He burned the golden calf, ground the remnants and then scattered them in the water that came from the mountain, where the Israelites got their water. Moses asked Aaron what they did to cause him to lead them in worshipping false gods, and Aaron told him what happened. Aaron told Moses that he knew the people were set on mischief. I think that this may mean, he knew the people would turn to worldly ways if they did not have a witness in front of their eyes. Without Moses there to lead them with the power of God, they were unwilling to stay strong in the faith. They had shown this many times already. They had not become a converted people of faith, but were depending on the miracles they could see instead. Part of the test of this life, is whether or not we will follow commandments in faith and hope of the blessings to come, or if we will rely on the world we can see. It is natural to trust in man, because there is evidence of what will be. If we can find the courage to trust in the Lord, we will be blessed far beyond anything we could have in this life.

25 And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)
26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
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 to day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

Aaron had not kept their wrongs secret, but they were all out in the open. Moses called to the people, that whoever wanted to be on the Lord’s side, should join him. The Levites joined Moses and prepared to fight against those who rebelled, as God had commanded. They killed 3,000 men in the fight, in order to bring the blessings of God back to the people. I think that part of the reason for this, may have been to keep corruption out of the camp of Israel. If even one of the rebellious had been left alone, more rebellion would have followed from gathering more to his side.

30 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
31 And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
33 And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
34 Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
35 And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

Moses told those remaining, that they had sinned against the Lord. He also told them that he would try to atone for their sins, I think meaning he would plead for them to the Lord. Moses returned to the Lord and pleaded for the people to be forgiven, or put the blame on him. The Lord told Moses that those who did wrong, would be blotted out. Today, those of the LDS faith believe that we will only be held accountable for our own sins (see Article of Faith 1:2). Those who had sinned and would not repent, would be removed from the people of the Lord. The Lord then commanded Moses to lead the people as he had been commanded before and an angel would lead the way. The Lord would revisit them and their sin later, and at this time the people were plagued for their sin against the Lord.

There is a great lesson in this for us today. The ten commandments given to the Israelites are still commandments today. We are not to worship any false gods, or practice any form of idolatry. However, there are many things that people worship today. Anything that we hold in higher esteem than the Lord, is an idol. This could be money, clothing, a home, a car, people, power, knowledge, and so on. If we worship false gods, of any form, we no longer worship the Lord with all our soul. Instead, these things will draw us away from the Lord and the eternal blessings He has promised us. We may not loose our mortal lives to idolatry, as many of the Israelites did, but we will loose our eternal lives to it. It would be good for us to take inventory of our lives and do away with anything that has become an idol. This is not easy and can be quite painful. I have done this in my life recently and it was a difficult thing that I could not do alone. I found that the only way to do this, was with the help of my Savior. Many hours of prayer, study and pondering later, I feel more devoted to the Lord and consequently I have had greater joy in my life.

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About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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