Shemot (Exodus): Ki Tisa > Ch 32

People force Aaron to create the golden calf, and they worship it

  • People saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain and might not be returning. They gathered against Aaron, and told him to make gods that will go before them
  • Aaron asked them to give him all golden earrings; they did so and brought them to Aaron. Aaron fashioned the gold with an engraving tool, and made it into a molten calf
  • People said: "These are your gods, O Israel, who have brought you up from the land of Egypt!"
  • When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of it, and proclaimed: "Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord."
  • On the next day they arose early, offered up burnt offerings, brought peace offerings, sat down to eat and to drink, and got up to make merry.

G-d tells Moses what the people had done. He decides to kill them and make Moses into a great nation. Moses pleads with G-d to save them and G-d reconsiders His decision.

  • And the Lord said to Moses: Go, descend, for your people that you have brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned away from the path that I have commanded them; they have made themselves a molten calf! And they have prostrated themselves before it, slaughtered sacrifices to it, and said: ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who have brought you up from the land of Egypt.' I have seen this people and behold! they are a stiff necked people. Now leave Me alone, and My anger will be kindled against them so that I will annihilate them, and I will make you into a great nation.
  • Moses pleaded before the Lord, his G-d, and said: Why, O Lord, should Your anger be kindled against Your people whom You have brought up from the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand? Why should the Egyptians say: 'He brought them out with evil [intent] to kill them in the mountains and to annihilate them from upon the face of the earth'? Retreat from the heat of Your anger and reconsider the evil [intended] for Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your very Self, and to whom You said: 'I will multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens, and all this land which I said that I would give to your seed, they shall keep it as their possession forever.' The Lord [then] reconsidered the evil He had said He would do to His people.

Moses descends from the mountain carrying tablets of G-d’s work, inscribed from both sides

  • Moses went down from the mountain, the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets inscribed from both their sides; on one side and on the other side they were inscribed. Now the tablets were G-d's work, and the inscription was G-d's inscription, engraved on the tablets.

Moses sees the calf and shatters the tablets at the foot of the mountain

  • When Joshua heard the voice of the people in their shouting, he said to Moses: "There is a voice of battle in the camp!" But [Moses] said: "[It is] neither a voice shouting victory, nor a voice shouting defeat; a voice of blasphemy I hear." Now it came to pass when he drew closer to the camp and saw the calf and the dances, that Moses' anger was kindled, and he flung the tablets from his hands, shattering them at the foot of the mountain.

Moses burns the calf and forces the people to drink it, he gathers the tribe of Levi who never failed to believe in G-d and they kill 3000 men who were most responsible for the sin

  • Moses took the calf, burned it in fire, ground it to fine powder, scattered [it] upon the surface of the water, and gave [it to] the children of Israel to drink.
  • Moses said to Aaron: "What did this people do to you that you brought [such] a grave sin upon them?" Aaron told him what the people had done, also saying that he threw the gold into the fire and out came the calf
  • Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said: "Whoever is for the Lord, [let him come] to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. He said to them: "So said the Lord, the God of Israel: 'Let every man place his sword upon his thigh and pass back and forth from one gate to the other in the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his friend, every man his kinsman.' " The sons of Levi did according to Moses' word; on that day some three thousand men fell from among the people. And Moses said: "Initiate yourselves today for the Lord for each man with his son and with his brother so that He may bestow a blessing upon you this day."

Moses returns to the mountain. He asks G-d to forgive the people or erase his name from the Torah. G-d erases names of the sinners from the Torah and he strikes the people with a plague.

  • On the next day Moses returned to the mountain to try to obtain atonement for the people’s sin
  • Moses returned to G-d and said: "Please! This people has committed a grave sin. They have made themselves a god of gold. And now, if You forgive their sin but if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written."
  • G-d told Moses: "Whoever has sinned against Me, him I will erase from My book!"
  • And now go, lead the people to [the place] of which I have spoken to you. Behold My angel will go before you. But on the day I make an accounting [of sins upon them], I will bring their sin to account against them."
  • Then the Lord struck the people with a plague, because they had made the calf that Aaron had made.