“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–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” Exodus 32:31-33 KJV.
“‘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. 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. 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. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.’
As Moses beheld the children of Israel shouting and dancing in an excited manner, in imitation of the idolatrous feasts and idol-worshipers of Egypt, so unlike the reverential worship of God, he was overwhelmed. He had just come from the presence of God’s glory, and although he had been warned of God that the people had corrupted themselves, had made an idol, and had sacrificed to it; yet he was in a measure unprepared for the dreadful exhibition which he witnessed of the degradation of Israel. He threw down the tables of stone, in utter discouragement and wrath because of Israel’s great sin before God.
The act of Moses in burning the calf and grinding it to powder, and making them drink of it, was to show them the utter worthlessness of the god which they had been worshiping—that their god had no power at all. Men could burn it in the fire, grind it to powder and drink it, without receiving any injury therefrom. He asked them how, then, they could expect such a god to save them, or to do them any good, or any evil. Then he rehearsed to them the exhibitions which they had witnessed of the unlimited power, glory, and majesty, of the living God.
‘And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness (for the mountain did burn with fire), that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And ye said, Behold, the Lord our God hath sheaved us his glory, and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. Now, therefore, why should we die? for this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say; and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it. And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me. And the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee. They have well said all that they have spoken. Oh, that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!’
Moses then presented before them their disgraceful conduct in worshiping a calf, the work of man, in the place of offering sincere devotion to the living God. He pointed them to the broken tables of stone, which represented to them that thus had they broken the covenant which they had so recently made with God. God did not reprove Moses for breaking the tables of stone, but was very angry with Aaron because of his sin; and he would have destroyed him, had it not been for the special intercessions of Moses in his behalf. Moses inquired of Aaron, ‘What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?’
Aaron endeavored to excuse his sin, and related to Moses the clamors of the people that if he had not complied with their wishes, they would have killed him. ‘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.’ He would have Moses think that a miracle had been performed—that the gold was cast into the fire, and by some miraculous power it was changed to a calf. This was to lessen his guilt in the eyes of Moses, and cause it to appear that he had a plausible excuse for permitting the people to sacrifice to it, and to proclaim, ‘These be thy gods, 0 Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.'” EGW, SOP, Vol 1, 1870, pp. 247-250.
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