In Exo 32.7-10, the Lord tells Moses to go down from the mountain at once because “your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” They had quickly turned aside from the way which God had commanded them, made a molten Golden Calf, worshiped and sacrificed to it and said, “This is your God (eloheycha), O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” The Lord says they are obstinate and he wants to destroy them and make Moses a great nation.
There are several truths to know. In Gan Eden they were quick to sin. Here the people were quick to sin. We would like to believe we wouldn’t have done that, but the truth is, we would have, too. That is the nature of man. Even the best of us would have been right in there with them like Aaron. It’s not the “no goods” in the community, it was the “esteemed ones” in the community. Its the same in our cities today. Moses has a powerful incentive in v 10, but he interceded for an unworthy people, like Yeshua. Destroying the people was conditional on Moses “leaving” God alone, but he doesn’t. He interceded for them.
Exo 32.11-14 in Jewish tradition was the 9th of Av. Readings for that day are Lamentations; Deut 4.25-40; Jer 8.13-9.23. The Haftorah (reading from the Prophets) is Isa 55.6-6.8. In the morning it is Exo 32.11-14 and the afternoon it is Exo 34.1-10. In a Siddur (prayer book) for Yom Kippur it says that God is asked for forgiveness in the merit of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, etc. Some get offended about that.
In Exo 32.13 we see Moses interceding for Israel, asking God to remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Jacob). We must realize that God does extend mercy to us because he is merciful, but he has made a covenant with promises and God is faithful to them. He did make promises to Abraham, and renewed them to Isaac and Jacob. As a result, we may deserve to be destroyed, like Israel, God will honor his promises. It is accurate to pray “In the merit of…” because God Made a promise to the people.
Moses asks God to “change his mind” and it says he does in 32.14, and here is how this works. God knows us from the foundation of the earth. He knew everything we would do, say,and think, both good and bad. He is not saying “Oh, you convinced me, Moses.” That is not what is happening here. What is happening is God already knew what was happening and it was part of his plan. For the sake of Moses he says this, to plead for the people. For Moses to bring out what is coming up. It was by the merits of those promises he made to their fathers that they survived.
God doesn’t “change his mind” or alters his plans and covenants. He controls everything and it works according to what his plan is. This is recorded here so that we can understand it. That’s why Replacement Theology Christianity, or any other religion, is false. He has not replaced Israel because he made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Torah has not been done away with. But for Replacement Theology to work, you have to do away with it because that is where the promises begin. The language here is called “anthropomorphic” because it describes human feelings (changed his mind) to a being or thing that is not human. God showed Moses a judgment, but didn’t do it because of his promises. This change is in accordance to his secret plans and purposes (Num 23.19; Hos 11.8; Amos 7.6). Other examples are Jer 26.1-15; Joel 2.13-14; Jonah 4.2; Judges 2.18; 2 Sam 24.16; Psa 106.45, 136.14; Jer 42.10; Num 23.19; 1 Sam 15.29-35; Psa 89.34; Psa 110.4; Ezek 24.14.
In Exo 32.15-16 Moses comes down with the two tablets, written by the hand of God, not angels and not men. He “engraved” the commands on the tablets. The word for “engraved” here is “charut.” The word for “freedom” is “cherut.” Liberty is found in the Torah, not in “freedom” from it (Psa 119.45; James 1.25; John 8.32; 1 John 5.3; 2 Cor 3.17; Rom 2.13; Jam 2.20; Luke 11.28; Luke 6.46-47; Jam 2.12). These tablets were written on both sides meaning that some of the command were on the right and some were on the left, and so the tablets wight be clapped together as a book is folded. They were not rounded at the top as in most pictures because they were to fit inside the Ark.
Exo 32.17-19 tells us that Joshua hears the people and tells Moses there is a sound of war in the camp. Moses, knowing better, says “No” but it was the sound of singing. Moses was very angry and he threw the tablets down and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. Exo 32.20 tells us that Moses took the calf and burned it down, then ground it to powder. He then scattered it on the surface of the water and made Israel drink the water. The water turned red because of the gold, and this act was very similar to the ashes of the Red Heifer.
Several rabbinic commentaries compared this to the woman suspected of adultery, called the Sotah in Num 5. She is made to drink “bitter waters.” So, there is a parallel between people drinking “bloody colored water” and the Red Heifer, and the woman accused of adultery called the Sotah. What makes the water “bitter?” They go inside the Temple and there was a place in the Heichal and there was a slab with a hook in it. They scrape dirt off the floor and they put it in the water, along with a parchment, for the Sotah to drink. When she drinks the water, her belly swells and she dies if she is guilty. If she is innocent, nothing happens. remember this because we are going to come back to it. Now, keep this in mind. This isn’t just a golden calf, it is a golden calf they are calling Yehovah, so there is a parallel between this calf and the Sotah.
In Part 58, we will pick here in this story and begin with what Moses had to say to Aaron. To say the least, he was very disappointed in his brother.