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Exodus 32:19

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 7-35

The faithfulness of Moses in the office that had been entrusted to him was now to be put to the test. It was to be made manifest whether he loved his own glory better than he loved the brethren who were under his charge; whether he would prefer that he should himself become the founder of a “great nation,” or that the Lord‘s promise should be fulfilled in the whole people of Israel. This may have been especially needful for Moses, in consequence of his natural disposition. See Numbers 12:3; and compare Exodus 3:11. With this trial of Moses repeated in a very similar manner Numbers 14:11-23, may be compared the trial of Abraham Matthew 4:8-10.

Exodus 32:8

These be thy gods … have brought - This is thy god, O Israel, who has brought …

Exodus 32:10

Let me alone - But Moses did not let the Lord alone; he wrestled, as Jacob had done, until, like Jacob, he obtained the blessing Genesis 32:24-29.

Exodus 32:14

This states a fact which was not revealed to Moses until after his second intercession when he had come down from the mountain and witnessed the sin of the people Exodus 32:30-34. He was then assured that the Lord‘s love to His ancient people would prevail God is said, in the language of Scripture, to “repent,” when His forgiving love is seen by man to blot out the letter of His judgments against sin (2 Samuel 24:16; Joel 2:13; Jonah 3:10, etc.); or when the sin of man seems to human sight to have disappointed the purposes of grace (Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:35, etc.). The awakened conscience is said to “repent,” when, having felt its sin, it feels also the divine forgiveness: it is at this crisis that God, according to the language of Scripture, repents toward the sinner. Thus, the repentance of God made known in and through the One true Mediator reciprocates the repentance of the returning sinner, and reveals to him atonement.

Exodus 32:17-18

Moses does not tell Joshua of the divine communication that had been made to him respecting the apostasy of the people, but only corrects his impression by calling his attention to the kind of noise which they are making.

Exodus 32:19

Though Moses had been prepared by the revelation on the Mount, his righteous indignation was stirred up beyond control when the abomination was before his eyes.

Exodus 32:20

See Deuteronomy 9:21. What is related in this verse must have occupied some time and may have followed the rebuke of Aaron. The act was symbolic, of course. The idol was brought to nothing and the people were made to swallow their own sin (compare Micah 7:13-14).

Exodus 32:22

Aaron‘s reference to the character of the people, and his manner of stating what he had done Exodus 32:23

Make us gods - Make us a god.

Exodus 32:25

Naked - Rather unruly, or “licentious”.

Shame among their enemies - Compare Psalm 44:13; Psalm 79:4; Deuteronomy 28:37.

Exodus 32:26-29

The tribe of Levi, Moses‘ own tribe, now distinguished itself by immediately returning to its allegiance and obeying the call to fight on the side of Yahweh. We need not doubt that the 3,000 who were slain were those who persisted in resisting Moses. The spirit of the narrative forbids us to conceive that the act of the Levites was anything like an indiscriminate massacre. An amnesty had first been offered to all by the words: “Who is on the Lord‘s side?” Those who were forward to draw the sword were directed not to spare their closest relations or friends; but this must plainly have been with an understood qualification as regards the conduct of those who were to be slain. Had it not been so, they who were on the Lord‘s side would have had to destroy each other. We need not stumble at the bold, simple way in which the statement is made.

Exodus 32:29

Consecrate yourselves to day to the Lord … - The margin contains the literal rendering. Our version gives the most probable meaning of the Hebrew, and is supported by the best authority. The Levites were to prove themselves in a special way the servants of Yahweh, in anticipation of their formal consecration as ministers of the sanctuary (compare Deuteronomy 10:8), by manifesting a self-sacrificing zeal in carrying out the divine command, even upon their nearest relatives.

Exodus 32:31

Returned unto the Lord - i. e. again he ascended the mountain.

Gods of gold - a god of gold.

Exodus 32:32

For a similar form of expression, in which the conclusion is left to be supplied by the mind of the reader, see Daniel 3:15; Luke 13:9; Luke 19:42; John 6:62; Romans 9:22. For the same thought, see Romans 9:3. It is for such as Moses and Paul to realize, and to dare to utter, their readiness to be wholly sacrificed for the sake of those whom God has entrusted to their love. This expresses the perfected idea of the whole burnt-offering.

Thy book - The figure is taken from the enrolment of the names of citizens. This is its first occurrence in the Scriptures. See the marginal references. and Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philemon 4:3; Revelation 3:5, etc.

Exodus 32:33, Exodus 32:34

Each offender was to suffer for his own sin. Compare Exodus 20:5; Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 18:20. Moses was not to be taken at his word. He was to fulfill his appointed mission of leading on the people toward the land of promise.

Exodus 32:34

Mine Angel shall go before thee - See the marginal references and Genesis 12:7.

In the day when I visit … - Compare Numbers 14:22-24. But though the Lord chastized the individuals, He did not take His blessing from the nation.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
What a change it is, to come down from the mount of communion with God, to converse with a wicked world. In God we see nothing but what is pure and pleasing; in the world nothing but what is sinful and provoking. That it might appear an idol is nothing in the world, Moses ground the calf to dust. Mixing this powder with their drink, signified that the backslider in heart should be filled with his own ways.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

He saw the calf, and the dancing - Dancing before the idol takes place in almost every Hindoo idolatrous feast - Ward.

He cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them - He might have done this through distress and anguish of spirit, on beholding their abominable idolatry and dissolute conduct; or he probably did it emblematically, intimating thereby that, as by this act of his the tables were broken in pieces, on which the law of God was written; so they, by their present conduct, had made a breach in the covenant, and broken the laws of their Maker. But we must not excuse this act; it was rash and irreverent; God's writing should not have been treated in this way.

Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 163

When Israel murmured against God and against Moses because they could get no water, they accused him of leading them out to kill them and their children. God heard their murmurings and bade Moses speak to the rock, that the people might have water. Moses smote the rock in wrath and took the glory to himself. The continual waywardness and murmuring of the children of Israel had caused him the keenest sorrow, and for a little time he forgot how much the Lord had borne with them, and that their murmuring was not against him, but against God. He thought only of himself, how deeply he was wronged, and how little gratitude they manifested in return for his deep love for them. EW 163.1

It was God's plan to bring often His people into strait places, and then in their necessity to deliver them by His power, that they might realize His love and care for them, and thus be led to serve and honor Him. But Moses had failed to honor God and magnify His name before the people that they might glorify Him. In this he brought upon himself the Lord's displeasure. EW 163.2

When Moses came down from the mount with the two tables of stone and saw Israel worshiping the golden calf, his anger was greatly kindled, and he threw down the tables of stone and broke them. I saw that Moses did not sin in this. He was wroth for God, jealous for His glory. But when he yielded to the natural feelings of his heart and took to himself the honor which was due to God, he sinned, and for that sin God would not suffer him to enter the land of Canaan. EW 163.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 101

“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. 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 “Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies).” TM 101.1

To us the warning is given, “All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Mark the influence of their extremes and fanaticism in the service of the great master worker, Satan. As soon as the wicked one had the people under his control, there were exhibitions of a satanic character. The people ate and drank without a thought of God and His mercy, without a thought of the necessity of resisting the devil, who was leading them on to the most shameful deeds. The same spirit was manifested as at the sacrilegious feast of Belshazzar. There was glee and dancing, hilarity and singing, carried to an infatuation that beguiled the senses; then the indulgence in inordinate, lustful affections—all this mingled in that disgraceful scene. God had been dishonored; His people had become a shame in the sight of the heathen. Judgments were about to fall on that infatuated, besotted multitude. Yet God in His mercy gave them opportunity to forsake their sins. TM 101.2

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Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 279

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. 3SG 279.1

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 could they expect such a God to save them, or 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. 3SG 279.2

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1 (EGW), 1109

18. Original Law in Heavenly Ark—I warn you, Do not place your influence against God's commandments. That law is just as Jehovah wrote it in the temple of heaven. Man may trample upon its copy here below, but the original is kept in the ark of God in heaven; and on the cover of this ark, right above that law, is the mercy seat. Jesus stands right there before that ark to mediate for man (Manuscript 6a, 1886). 1BC 1109.1

Law Preserved in Ark—“And He [Christ] gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of communicating with him upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written by the finger of God.” Nothing written on those tables could be blotted out. The precious record of the law was placed in the ark of the testament and is still there, safely hidden from the human family. But in God's appointed time He will bring forth these tables of stone to be a testimony to all the world against the disregard of His commandments and against the idolatrous worship of a counterfeit Sabbath (Manuscript 122, 1901). 1BC 1109.2

There are abundant evidences of the immutability of God's law. It was written with the finger of God, never to be obliterated, never to be destroyed. The tables of stone are hidden by God, to be produced in the great judgment-day, just as He wrote them (The Review and Herald, March 26, 1908). 1BC 1109.3

When the judgment shall sit, and the books shall be opened, and every man shall be judged according to the things written in the books, then the tables of stone, hidden by God until that day, will be presented before the world as the standard of righteousness. Then men and women will see that the prerequisite of their salvation is obedience to the perfect law of God. None will find excuse for sin. By the righteous principles of that law, men will receive their sentence of life or of death (The Review and Herald, January 28, 1909). 1BC 1109.4

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