It is hard to believe that these are the people who in Exodus 20:18-19 were so fearful and in awe of the Lord; and that in Exodus 20:23 were explicitly warned not to make idols. Could it be any coincidence that the disaster of Jeroboam I making the two idols was done with him using almost the exact words of verse 4, when he said in 1 Kings 12:28 “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt”? The golden calf was probably the Egyptian bull “deity” Apis. Sadly, Aaron’s confession to Moses about what they had done is so lame in verses 22-24 – He just threw their gold into the fire, and out comes this calf! Does any of that remind you of Adam in Genesis 3:12, as it does me?
Joshua had been waiting for Moses at his post on the mountain when he remarked to Moses that the noise from the people below sounded like war. Notice that Moses, having been informed by the Lord, asks in verse 26 “Who is on the Lord’s side?” When the sons of Levi come to his side, he orders them to put to death a number of those who did not come at that time – an easy detail to miss with so much happening. In verse 29, he blesses them, saying that they have been ordained for the Lord.
But the Lord is rightfully hot with anger at this “stiff-necked people” and He wants nothing more to do with them. Stephen refers to those who had rejected Jesus in the same way in Acts 7:51, before he is stoned.
(Side note: more information about the Egyptian idol that the calf may have been fashioned after can be found in this Wikipedia article)
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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indeed, aaron’s excuse was lame, but aaron was spared.