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Immediately following the account of this period of communion between Moses and God we have the record of the sin of the people. When they said, "Up, make us Gods," they were seeking something to represent God rather than seeking a new god. The day after the calf was erected they observed a feast to Jehovah.
In this connection Moses is seen in one of the greatest hours of his life as he stood and pleaded with God. It is to be observed that his plea was not so much on behalf of the people as on behalf of God. He spoke to Him of "Thy people, that Thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt" and then pleaded the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Undoubtedly Moses was filled with compassion for the people, but his chief concern was for the honor of the name of God. In such a man God found vantage ground for the activity of mercy and the carrying out of purpose.
Another side of Moses' character is revealed in the story of his return to the people. He came in anger, broke the tables of stone, ground the calf to powder, and compelled the people to drink of the water into which it was flung. These actions were far more than a mere outburst of passion. They were followed by inquisition. From this inquisition Moses returned into the presence of God and there confessed the sin of the people, pleading that they might be spared, even though he be blotted out of the Book. God's answer was strict justice and mercy. Moses was commanded to return and lead the people, and it was promised that an angel would lead them.
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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Exodus 32". "Morgan's Exposition on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent