Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  Exodus Table of Contents  |  Previous Section   |  Next Section  |



The Golden Calf The Gold Calf The Breaking of the Covenant The Gold Bull-Calf The Golden Calf
32:1-6 32:1-6 32:1-6 32:1 32:1-5
Moses Forewarned by Yahweh
32:7-10 32:7-10 32:7-10 32:7-10 32:7-10
Moses' Entreaty The Prayer of Moses
32:11-14 32:11-14 32:11-14 32:11-14 32:11-14
Moses Breaks the Tablets of the Law
32:15-18 (18) 32:15-18 (18) 32:15-20 (18) 32:15-16 32:15-16
32:17 32:17-18 (18)
Moses' Anger 32:18
32:19-20 32:19-24 32:19-21 32:19-24
32:21-24 32:21-24
32:22-24 The Zeal of the Levites
32:25-29 32:25-29 32:25-29 32:25-29 32:25-29
Moses Prays Again
32:30-35 32:30-34 32:30-34 32:30-32 32:30-35
32:35 32:35 32:35

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. This chapter shows the fragile condition of Israel's early faith. They had been deeply influenced by Egyptian idolatry over hundreds of years (cf. Ezek. 20:6-8).

  2. If YHWH was faithful and forgiving to them, He will surely will be to us!

  3. Exodus 32 also shows the tragedy of weak leadership (i.e., Aaron) and its consequences.

  4. Moses' great faith and powerful intercession are clearly demonstrated in Exod. 32:30-33. Also note that sin and rebellion have consequences (Exod. 32:34-35).

  5. Exodus 32:33 is a reminder of individual responsibility, foreshadowing Deut. 24:6; Ezek. 18:1- 32; 33:10-20; and Jer. 31:29-30. We reap what we sow (cf. Job 34:11,25; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 12:14; 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Ezek. 33:20; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12).
    Lifestyle choices reveal the heart!


11Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." 2Aaron said to them, "Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 3Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt." 5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord." 6 So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

32:1 "Moses delayed" "Delayed" is literally "saw" (BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERFECT with waw), used in the sense of "understand" or "recognized." In Exod. 24:18 (cf. Deut. 9:11) we learn that Moses had been on the mountain 40 days. This seems to be a round number to describe a long period of time, longer than one lunar cycle. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE.

▣ "the mountain" This refers to Mt. Sinai/Horeb. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE LOCATION OF MT. SINAI.

▣ "make us a god who will go before us" This word "god" is elohim. Whether this should be translated "gods" or "god" is debatable but the PLURAL VERB is also used, which denotes a pagan deity. Yet, Exod. 32:4-5 implies that the young bull was meant to represent YHWH. It violated Exod. 20:4, not 20:3. If the young bull was meant to represent Osiris/Apis or the Mneuis bull of Hierapolis, then it did violate Exod. 20:3.
The people direct two commands to Aaron.

  1. arise - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE
  2. make - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERATIVE

▣ "who will go before us" The angel of the Lord will do this (Exod. 32:34), not the golden calf!

▣ "this Moses" This is a Hebrew idiom of disrespect (cf. Exod. 32:9). How quickly sinful humans forget!

▣ "the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt" This shows a lack of understanding on the part of the people about who it was who delivered them (cf. Exod. 32:4; 14:11). It was YHWH (cf. Exod. 3:8)!

32:2 "gold rings which are in the ears" This refers to gifts which were taken from the Egyptians (cf. Exod. 3:22; 11:2; 12:36). The men wore jewelry (cf. Gen. 54:4; Exod. 11:2; 33:5-6). Nose rings were not common in Egypt.

32:4 "He took. . .and fashioned it" The VERB "fashioned" (צור, BDB 849 IV, KB 1015, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is a rare VERB.

  1. 1 Kgs. 7:15 - NASB, "cast"
  2. Ezek. 43:11 - NASB, "form"
  3. suggested similar root in Jer. 1:5 (יצר, BDB 427, KB 428, Qal IMPERFECT) - translated "formed"
In this context "cast" is best guess.
The word "a graving tool" (BDB 354) is also rare. It is used only here and in Isa. 8:1, where it is translated "stylus." So, did Aaron make a wooden image with a wood carving tool of some kind and then overlay it with gold? NRSV, TEV, NJB, and JPSOA translate this word as "mold." Compare other texts about how idols were made (i.e., Isa. 30:22; 40:19; Hab. 2:18). The rabbis say that he did this personally so that the guilt would be on himself only. The rabbis try every way possible to excuse Aaron's actions. They often quote Exod. 32:24 as true instead of a lie by Aaron.

▣ "calf" This is better translated "young bull" (BDB 722), which was a symbol of strength and fertility in Egypt. It is possible that this was a stand or pedestal (i.e., Canaanite origin) on which YHWH would dwell instead of the ark.

▣ "your god, O Israel" The rabbis say that these were the words of the Egyptian minority who were traveling with Israel (cf. Exod. 12:38; Num. 11:4). The term elohim could be translated "gods" (cf. Exod. 12:12; 23:24; Lev. 19:4), but here the single image of a young bull implies one deity.

32:5 "he built an altar. . .Tomorrow" The rabbis say that Aaron did these things to give Moses more time to return from the mountain. They try to make Aaron look good.

32:6 "to play" "Play" (BDB 850) has sexual connotations in Gen. 26:8; 39:14, therefore, this seems to refer to a fertility orgy involving an Egyptian deity! Paul uses this verse in 1 Cor. 10:7; see SPECIAL TOPIC: FERTILITY WORSHIP OF THE ANE.

7Then the Lord spoke to Moses, "Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'" 9The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation."

32:7 "your people" God speaks to Moses about his people; Moses turns this around in Exod. 32:11.

NASB, NKJV, NJB  "corrupted"
NRSV  "acted perversely"
TEV  "rejected Me"
JPSOA  "acted basely"
REB  "committed a monstrous act"
LXX  "acted lawlessly"
The VERB (BDB 1007, KB 1469, Piel PERFECT) in Piel stem is used for
  1. destroyed eye - Exod. 21:26
  2. destruction of a nation - Hos. 11:9; 13:9
  3. in Exod. 12:23 the root is used of "the destroyer angel"
but here and in Deut. 9:12; 32:5 it has a moral sense. The Hiphil stem is also used in this sense (cf. Deut. 4:16; 31:29). Israel committed fertility worship in front of the golden bull.

32:8 "from the way" The "way" is an idiom for God's covenant (cf. Jdgs. 2:17; Mal. 3:7). They did not stay on the clearly marked way of Exodus 20-23.

32:9 "an obstinate people" This is literally "stiff necked" (BDB 766 I CONSTRUCT BDB 904 and 791, cf. Exod. 33:3,5; 34:9; Deut. 9:6,13; 31:27; Ezek. 2:4; Acts 7:51) and is used of domestic animals that will not respond to a bridle or yoke.
This description (by YHWH) of Israel is very important. YHWH did not choose them because of their morality, number, or character (cf. Deut. 9:6; 10:16; 31:27; Ezek. 2:4). As a matter of fact, His character is fully revealed in light of their character. If He was patient with them; He will be patient with us!

32:10 "let Me alone" The rabbis say that this was directed to Moses because YHWH knew his personal prayers would be effective. I think YHWH was testing Moses.


▣ "I will make of you a great nation" These were YHWH's very words to

  1. Abraham - Gen. 12:2; 18:18
  2. Jacob - Gen. 46:3
  3. Moses - here and Num. 14:12
God was testing Moses with the same promise He made to Abraham in Gen. 12:2.

11Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, "O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" 14So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

32:11 "with great power and with a mighty hand" This refers to the plagues (cf. Exod. 3:20; 6:1). It becomes a recurrent, idiomatic phrase of God's actions in the exodus (cf. Exod. 13:3,9; 32:11; Deut. 4:34; 5:15; 6:21; 7:8,19; 9:26; 26:8; Ps. 136:12; Jer. 32:21; Dan. 9:15). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND.

32:12 Moses bases his plea for mercy, not on Israel's merits, but on God's name and reputation (and in Exod. 32:13, on His covenant promises, cf. Lev. 26:42; Ps. 105:8).
There are three IMPERATIVES OF ENTREATY in this verse.

  1. "turn from" - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal, Exod. 32:12; this term is often associated with "repent"; see SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE (OT)
  2. "change your mind" - BDB 636, KB 688, lit. "be sorry," Niphal, Exod. 32:12, cf. Gen. 6:6; 2 Sam. 24:16; Ps. 106:45; Jer. 18:7-10; Amos 7:1-6
  3. "remember" - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal, Exod. 32:13
Notice Moses calls Israel "Your people," which is covenant terminology.

▣ "land" This term has several connotations depending on the context. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LAND, COUNTRY, EARTH (erets).

32:13 Moses refers to YHWH's ancient covenant promises to the Patriarchs (cf. Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 26:3; Deut. 1:35-36; 9:27).

▣ "Your servants" See SPECIAL TOPIC: MY SERVANT.

▣ "I will multiply your descendants, as the stars of heaven" YHWH's promise of descendants started in Gen. 12:2. This promise uses three metaphors.

  1. as the stars of heaven - Gen. 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; Exod. 32:13; Deut. 1:10; 10:22; 28:62
  2. like the sand of the seashore - Gen. 22:17; 32:12
  3. like the dust of the earth - Gen. 13:16; 28:14; Num. 23:10
Also note Gen. 16:10!

▣ "they shall inherit it forever" God's promises are surely from His side (i.e., Jos. 1:6), but conditional on Israel's side (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30; Jos. 24:19-28). The two exiles of Abraham's descendants from Canaan demonstrate this. See SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT.
The word "forever" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER)) must be interpreted in context.

32:14 "the Lord changed His mind" This seems to be a strange phrase when connected to the God who does not change (cf. Mal. 3:6; James 1:17). This is an anthropomorphic idiom (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN). There are several places in the OT where God changes His mind (cf. 1 Sam. 15:11; Ps. 106:45; Jer. 18:7-10; 26:3,13,19; Amos 7:3,6; Jonah 3:10).
God's sovereignty can be affected by circumstances and prayer (see SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER). God has an eternal redemptive plan for humanity made in His image (see SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH'S ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN). He wants to change His mind when His people repent and seek Him!

15Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. 16The tablets were God's work, and the writing was God's writing engraved on the tablets. 17Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a sound of war in the camp." 18But he said,
  "It is not the sound of the cry of triumph,
  Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat;
  But the sound of singing I hear."


▣ "written on both sides" This was highly unusual. It denotes a full and complete message. This is surely eyewitness detail. The rabbis say that the words were cut clear through the stone.

32:16 This emphatically states that the Law was not of human origin or ingenuity (cf. Exod. 31:18).

▣ "engraved" This VERB (BDB 362, KB 359, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE) occurs only here. It describes how YHWH wrote (cf. Exod. 31:18) the ten words.

32:17 "Joshua" He was not a part of this sin, but had waited for Moses somewhere on or between the mount and the camp. Joshua thought it was the sound of battle! Moses knew better (cf. Exod. 32:18).

32:18 This verse is a poem or song. The Hebrew VERB "sing" (BDB 777, KB 854) occurs three times. The first two are Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS and the third the intensified Peil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT (LXX implies "drunkenness"). This may imply that the last form refers to the fertility chant/dancing/music/sound.

19It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses' anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. 20He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.

32:19 "Moses' anger burned" This term (BDB 354, KB 351) is used four times in Exodus 32.

  1. Exod. 32:1 - VERB, Qal JUSSIVE (of YHWH's anger, cf. Exod. 4:14; 22:24)
  2. Exod. 32:11 - VERB, Qal IMPERFECT
  3. Exod. 32:19 - VERB, Qal IMPERFECT with waw (of Moses' anger, cf. Num. 16:15)
  4. Exod. 32:22 - same as #1 but here Aaron's plea to Moses

▣ "he threw the tablets" This was a symbol of the covenant being broken. Some see the PLURAL for tablet as a reference to the two aspects of the Ten Words; toward God and toward fellow Israelites. However, archaeology (i.e., Hittite Treaties) seems to imply two separate copies, one for the temple and one for the king. Both of these were in Israel's future.

32:20 Notice the number of things Moses did to this idol (cf. Deut. 9:21).

  1. "burned it with fire" - BDB 976, KB 1358, Qal IMPERFECT with waw
  2. "ground it" - BDB 377, KB 374, Qal IMPERFECT with waw
  3. "to powder" - this is another VERB - BDB 200, KB 229, "to crush," Qal PERFECT with waw
  4. "scattered it over the surface of the water" - BDB 279, KB 280, Qal IMPERFECT with waw
  5. "made the sons of Israel drink it" - BDB 1052, KB 1639, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw, see Num. 5:18-22
The waw denotes a series of actions. It occurs often in this chapter. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW GRAMMAR.

21Then Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?" 22Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. 23For they said to me, 'Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 24I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.' So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf."

32:21 "What did this people do to you" The rabbis again see this as Moses' sympathy, not anger toward Aaron, but the context does not support this. Aaron sinned!

▣ "great sin" Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, p. 37, says this was a phrase (cf. Exod. 32:21,30,31) used for "adultery"; In this text "spiritual adultery" (i.e., going after other gods, cf. 2 Kgs. 17:21). This is the imagery of YHWH as husband and Israel as wife.

32:22 "lord" This is the Hebrew word adon (BDB 10, see SPECIAL TOPIC: LORD), which was a title of respect and leadership (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 259).

  1. to Moses from Aaron - Exod. 32:22; Num. 12:11
  2. to Moses from Joshua - Num. 11:28
  3. to Moses by the sons of Gad and Reuben - Num. 32:25,27
  4. to Moses by the sons of Gilead, Machir, Manasseh, Joseph - Num. 36:2

▣ "they are prone to evil" Aaron tries to pass the buck of responsibility. He is trying to shift blame just as Adam did (i.e., Gen. 3:12) and as Moses will do later (cf. Num. 20:12; Deut 1:37; 3:26,27). However, his charge against Israel was true (cf. Num. 14:22-23; Deut. 9:7,21).

32:23 This is a repeat of Exod. 32:1-4.

32:24 "I threw it into the fire and out came this calf" To us, this seems a ridiculous excuse but the rabbis relate it to Ps. 106:19-20, and say that the calf came to life by means of the Egyptian magicians who were with Israel.

25Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies- 26then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. 27He said to them, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.'" 28So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29Then Moses said, "Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord-for every man has been against his son and against his brother-in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today."

NASB, JPSOA, REB  "out of control"
NKJV  "unrestrained"
NRSV  "running wild"
TEV  "get out of control"
NJB  "out of hand"
LXX  "that it had scattered"
Peshitta  "had sinned"
The MT has the VERB, "let go" or "let alone" (BDB 828 III, KB 970). It appears twice in this verse.
  2. Qal PERFECT

The BDB says "remove restraint from them" (cf. 2 Chr. 28:19; same root in Pro. 29:18). The restraint was God's leader's presence. When he was gone, they showed their basic tendencies to idolatry. This context implies a fertility festival in YHWH's name!

NASB, NRSV, NJB  "a derision"
NKJV  "shame"
TEV  "make fools of themselves"
JPSOA  "a menace"
NJB  "the secret malice"
LXX  "an object of gloating"
This FEMININE NOUN (BDB 1036, KB 1580) is found only here. Here are the suggestions (KB).
  1. LXX - gloating, mockery, ridicule
  2. Vulgate, Peshitta, Targums - disgrace, dishonor, bad reputation

32:26 "all the sons of Levi gathered" This sets the stage for this tribe becoming priests. They had a priority zeal for the Lord, even over family (cf. Matt. 10:34-39).

32:27 Moses gives the tribe of Levi four commands.

  1. "put his sword upon his thigh" - BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE
  2. "go back and forth" (i.e., idiom)
    1. BDB 716, KB 778, Qal IMPERATIVE
    2. BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERATIVE
  3. Same as 2.
  4. "kill" - BDB 246, KB 255, Qal IMPERATIVE (Deut. 33:9 implies not all of the tribe of Levi responded to Moses' call; some were executed!)
    1. his brother (BDB 26)
    2. his friend (BDB 945)
    3. his neighbor (BDB 898)
Later another priest, Phinehas, shows the same zeal (cf. Num. 25:7-13).
Wow! What a difficult task (cf. Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:26)! Rebellion is serious and has fatal consequences. About 3,000 died (cf. Exod. 32:28).

32:28 One wonders how those who were killed were chosen. Possibly they were caught in the act of fertility worship, as in Numbers 25. This is only my speculation.

▣ "three thousand"The Vulgate has 23,000. Paul mentions this same number but probably refers to Numbers 25, not here.
Numbers were very tricky to copy and translate. There are many variants, especially between Kings and Chronicles. See Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings.

NASB, JPSOA  "dedicate yourselves"
NKJV  "consecrate yourselves"
NRSV, LXX, Vulgate, Targums  "you have ordained yourselvest"
TEV, NJB  "you have consecrated yourselves"
REB  "be installed as priests"
This is a Hebrew idiom, "fill your hands" (Qal IMPERATIVE and NOUN). Exodus 32:29 is Moses' affirmation of the tribe of Levi.
The UBS Text Project (p. 145) suggests that the VERB be viewed, not as an IMPERATIVE denoting the men of the tribe of Levi, but a PERFECT stem
  1. describing God's actions of consecrating them
  2. NET Bible (p. 201) suggests it means the tribe of Levi had been faithful to God even though it turned them against family and friends
The same idiom is used of the ordination of Aaron and his sons in Exod. 28:41; 29:9,29,33,35.

30On the next day Moses said to the people, "You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the Lord, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." 31 Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, "Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" 33The Lord said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin." 35Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.

32:30 "You yourselves" This is an emphatic statement.

▣ "perhaps" This reflects Moses' hope and doubt that his intercession (i.e., asking as priest for the assembly) would be effective once again.

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, LXX  "make atonement"
TEV  "obtain forgiveness"
NJB  "secure expiation"
JPSOA  "win forgiveness"
REB  "secure pardon"
The VERB (BDB 497, KB 493, Piel COHORTATIVE) means "to cover." It is the term used in "Day of Atonement" in Leviticus 16. Here, it refers to Moses' intercessory prayer (cf. Exod. 32:30-35; see SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER).

32:34 "lead the people where I told You" This refers to Exod. 3:17, which refers to Gen. 15:12-21.

▣ "My angel" In many passages this seems to refer to the pre-Incarnate Messiah (cf. Gen. 16:7-13; 22:11-15; 31:11,13; 48:15-16; Exod. 3:2-4; 13:21; 14:19; Jdgs. 2:1; 6:22-23; 13:3-22; Zech. 3:1-2). However, in other passages the angel seems to refer to a typical angelic servant (cf. Gen. 24:7,40; Exod. 23:20-23; Num. 22:22; Jdgs. 5:33; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chr. 21:15ff; Zech. 1:12-13). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD.

▣ "nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin" In the OT God's visit (i.e., personal presence) could be for blessing or judgment. Israel will be spared immediate judgment but the terrible consequences of their propensity toward idolatry remained and would reappear again and again in Israel's history, with severe consequences.

32:35 The people would bear their own sin and be judged for their acts. Moses could not act as a substitute for them. But One will come who can and did! (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isaiah 53; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21). It is difficult to know if this verse refers to

  1. Exod. 32:20 (caused illness)
  2. Exod. 32:28 (caused death)
  3. some future judgment, such as this whole generation dying in the wilderness (cf. Num. 14:26-35; 26:64-65; Deut. 2:14; Jos. 5:4)
The word "smote" (BDB 619, KB 669, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is used in Exodus 12 of people hitting or striking another person. In Exod. 8:2 it is used of YHWH sending the plagues on Egypt (cf. Num. 11:33).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How could this have happened? They had seen the Lord's power and mercy.
  2. Was the golden calf meant to be an idol of a foreign pagan god?
  3. Why is Exod. 32:10 a test of Moses?
  4. What does Exod. 32:32-35 say to us about intercessory prayer?

Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  Exodus Table of Contents  |  Previous Section   |  Next Section  |