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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Exodus 32

 

 

Verses 1-29

Exodus 32:1. 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.

They wanted something to look at, — something visible that they could adore. It was not that they meant to cease to worship Jehovah, but they intended to worship him under some tangible symbol. That is the great fault of Ritualists and Romanists, they aim at worshipping God, but they must do so through some sign, some symbol, some cross, some crucifix, or something or other that they can see.

Exodus 32:2-3. 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. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

People are often very generous in their support of a false religion; and, to make idol gods, they will sacrifice their most precious treasures, as these idolaters willingly gave their golden earrings.

Exodus 32:4. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a gravinq 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.

No doubt they copied the Egyptian God, which was in the form of a bull, which the Holy Spirit, by the pen of Moses, here calls a calf. The psalmist probably also alludes to it when he speaks of “an ox or a bullock that hath horns and hoofs.” It seems strange that these people should have thought of worshipping the living God under such a symbol as that.

Exodus 32:5. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.

“To Jehovah.” They intended to worship Jehovah under the form of a bull — the image of strength. Other idolaters go further, and worship Baal and various false gods, but, between the worship of a golden calf and the worship of false gods, there is very little choice; and, between the idolatry of the heathen and Popery, there is about as much difference as there is between six and half a dozen.

Exodus 32:6. 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.

It was usual to worship false gods with music and dancing and with orgies of drunkenness and obscene rites, and the Israelites fell into the same evils as they had seen among their neighbours.

Exodus 32:7. And the LORD said unto Moses,

Just in the midst of his hallowed communion, the Lord said to him: —

Exodus 32:7. Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:

God would not own them as his people. He called them Moses’ people: “thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.”

Exodus 32:8-10. 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 are thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: 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.

For Moses began at once to pray for the people, — to interpose between God and the execution of his righteous wrath; and, therefore, the Lord said to him, “Let me alone,... that I may consume them.”

Exodus 32:11. And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, —

See how he dares even to say to God, “They are thy people, though they have acted so wickedly. ‘Why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people,’” —

Exodus 32:11-13. Which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? 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. 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.

Moses pleaded the covenant which the Lord had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and there is no plea like that. Although it might have been to his own personal interest that the people should be destroyed, Moses would not have it so; and he pleaded with God, for the sake of his own honour, his faithfulness, and his truth, not to run back from the word which he had spoken.

Exodus 32:14-15. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. And Moses turned, and went down from the mount,

Does it not seem sad for Moses to have to go down from the immediate presence of God, and to stand among the idolatrous and rebellious people in the camp? Yet that is often the lot of those whom God employs as his servants. They have, as it were, to come down from heaven to fight with hell upon earth.

Exodus 32:15-17. 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. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. 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.

For Joshua was a younger man than Moses, and also a soldier, so his ear was quicker to hear what he took to be “a noise of war in the camp.”

Exodus 32:18. 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 knew that it was not a battle cry either of the victors or the vanquished; but the song of idolatrous worshippers.

Exodus 32:19. 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.

In righteous indignation, preserving those sacred tablets from the profane touch of the polluted people, by dashing them to fragments in his holy anger

Exodus 32:20. 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.

Think of the courage of this one man, to go single handed right into the middle of the idolaters’ camp, and deal thus with their precious god!

Exodus 32:21-24. And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. 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. 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.

Which was a lie. Aaron was a poor weak-minded creature, easily persuaded to do wrong; and when his stronger-minded and more gracious brother was absent, he became the willing tool of the idolatrous people; and yet Aaron is called, by the psalmist, “the saint of the Lord,” and so he was, taking him as a whole. One black spot, on the face of a fair man, does not prove him to be a negro; and so, one sin, in the life of a man who is usually holy, does not put him among the ungodly.

Exodus 32:25-28. And when Moses saw that the people were naked, (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies) 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. 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. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses:

The rebellious, the idolatrous, the men who had defied the authority of God, were to be summarily executed on the spot.

Exodus 32:28-29. And there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 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.

Such a colossal crime as that must be expiated before the Lord could again bless the chosen race.


Verses 1-35

Exodus 32:1. 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.

What a terrible speech to be made by the people whom God had chosen to be his own! “Make us gods. Make our Creator.” How could that be?

Exodus 32:2. 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.

Poor Aaron! He never had the backbone of his brother Moses. He was a better speaker; but oh, the poverty of his heart! He yields to the will of these idolatrous people, and bows to their wicked behests at once.

Exodus 32:3. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

Idolaters spare no expense; there is many a worshipper of a god of wood or mud who gives more to that idol than professing Christians give to the cause of the one living and true God. It is sad that it should be so.

Exodus 32:4. 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.

This was an Egyptian idolatry, the worship of God under the fashion of an ox, the emblem of strength; but God is not to be worshipped under emblems at all. What a poor representation of God any emblem must be!

Exodus 32:5. 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.

They were going to worship Jehovah under the emblem of an ox. This is what you will hear idolaters say; they do not worship the image, they say, but the true God under that image. Yet that is expressly forbidden under the second commandment.

Exodus 32:6. 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.

Lascivious games were sure to accompany idolatrous worship, for idolatry always leads to filthiness in some form or other, as if it were inevitable.

Exodus 32:7. 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:

How startled Moses must have been when Jehovah said this to him!

Exodus 32:8-9. 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. And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people.

Moses perhaps begins to lift his voice in prayer, and God says:-

Exodus 32:10. 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.

“I will keep my promise to Abraham by destroying these rebels, and taking thee, his true descendant, and fulfilling the covenant in thee.”

Exodus 32:11-13. 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? 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. 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 shalt inherit it for ever.

What a brave prayer this was! Here is a wrestling Moses, true son of wrestling Israel; and he brings his arguments to bear upon Jehovah when he is angry, and he succeeds in turning aside the Lord’s wrath.

Exodus 32:14-15. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. And Moses turned, and went down from the mount,

An unhappy, broken-hearted man, going from the closest communion with God, down into the midst of a wicked people.

Exodus 32:15-17. 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. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. 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.

Joshua had probably waited lower down, and he met Moses in his descent. He heard with the quick ears of a soldier, and his thoughts went that way.

Exodus 32:18-19. 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. 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.

This is he who had been praying to God, and saying, “Why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people?” Now he is in deep sympathy with God, and he is himself angry with the idolaters. He cannot help it when he begins to see their sin. Before, he had only thought of the people; but now he looks at their sin. When you see sin, if you are a man of God, your wrath waxes hot, and you get into sympathy with that holy God who cannot be otherwise than indignant at iniquity wherever it may be.

Exodus 32:20. 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.

See the power of this one man who has God at his back, and God in him. While the people are dancing around their idol, he tears it down, grinds it to powder, and says, “You shall drink it every one of you.” Why, there are millions to one; but what cares he about their millions? God is with him, and he is God’s servant; and, therefore, they all tremble before him.

Exodus 32:21-24. And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my Lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. 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. 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.

That was a lie, for he had made the calf, and shaped it himself. Aaron had not any backbone, nor any principle, he could not he stout-hearted for God. What a poor little man he seems by the side of his great brother! How he shrivels up under the rebuke of Moses!

Exodus 32:25. And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)

Moses does not spare Aaron, he lays at his door the guilt of the great sin he had committed: “Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies.

Exodus 32:26-27. 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. 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.

This is the man who pleaded for them on the top of the mount. See how he acts in the sight of their sin; by divine authority, he smites them right and left. Possibly, those who were slain were the men who refused to drink the water on which the powder had been sprinkled, or those who continued in rebellion against the Lord.

Exodus 32:28-30. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 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. 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.

I will be bound to say that this was said after a sleepless night. The people’s sin is now so vividly before him that he begins to feel that God will be just if he punishes them, and does not grant them any forgiveness, so he goes once more up that steep climb to the top of Sinai with a trembling heart, and with only a “peradventure” on his lip.

Exodus 32:31-32. And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-,

There he broke down, he could not finish that sentence.

Exodus 32:32. And if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.

“Let me die in their stead!” But God could not accept one man in the stead of another; there is a great Substitute, ordained of old, but he is more than man, and therefore he can stand in the sinner’s stead.

Exodus 32:33-35. And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. 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. And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

Moses had only half success in pleading for the people; they were not to die as yet, but God declared that he would visit their sin upon them.


Verses 7-14

Exodus 32:7. 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:

See how Jehovah will not own these idolaters as his people. He says to Moses, “Thy people which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.”

Exodus 32:8-10. 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. And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: 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.

What a great future was thus opened up before Moses! He might become another Abraham, and in him should all the nations of the earth be blessed. But Moses loves the people, even the people who have vexed and provoked him so many years. He still loves them so much that, even before he begins to pray for them, God says, “Let me alone,” as if he felt the force of Moses’ coming prayer, and would not have him offer it. O wondrous power of intercession, that by it even God’s right hand is held back when it is lifted up to smite!

Exodus 32:11. 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?

Moses will not have it that they are his people, nor that he brought them out of the land of Egypt; but he declares that they are God’s people, and that He brought them forth “with great power, and with a mighty hand.”

Exodus 32:12-14. 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. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed so 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. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

So a second time the mighty power of prayer was proven, and the Lord hearkened to the voice of a man. In the seventh chapter of the Gospel according to Mark, beginning at the twenty-fourth verse, is another story which you know well, which tells how the Lord Jesus was overcome by a woman’s mighty faith.

This exposition consisted of readings from Genesis 32:22-30; Exodus 32:7-14; and Mark 7:24-30.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Exodus 32:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/exodus-32.html. 2011.

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Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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