In all probability these three chapters originally formed a distinct composition. The main incidents recorded in them follow in the order of time, and are therefore in their proper place as regards historical sequence.
The golden calf - The people had, to a great extent, lost the patriarchal faith, and were but imperfectly instructed in the reality of a personal unseen God. Being disappointed at the long absence of Moses, they seem to have imagined that he had deluded them, and had probably been destroyed amidst the thunders of the mountain Exodus 24:15-18. Accordingly, they gave way to their superstitious fears and fell back upon that form of idolatry which was most familiar to them (see Exodus 32:4 note). The narrative of the circumstances is more briefly given by Moses at a later period in one of his addresses to the people Deuteronomy 9:8-21, Deuteronomy 9:25-29; Deuteronomy 10:1-5, Deuteronomy 10:8-11. It is worthy of remark, that Josephus, in his very characteristic chapter on the giving of the law, says nothing whatever of this act of apostacy, though he relates that Moses twice ascended the mountain.
Unto Aaron - The chief authority during the absence of Moses was committed to Aaron and Hur Exodus 24:14.
Make us gods - The substantive אלהים 'elôhı̂ym is plural in form and may denote gods. But according to the Hebrew idiom, the meaning need not be plural, and hence, the word is used as the common designation of the true God (Genesis 1:1, etc. See Exodus 21:6 note). It here denotes a god, and should be so rendered.
Break off the golden earrings - It has been very generally held from early times, that Aaron did not willingly lend himself to the mad design of the multitude; but that, overcome by their importunity, he asked them to give up such possessions as he knew they would not willingly part with, in the hope of putting a check on them. Assuming this to have been his purpose, he took a wrong measure of their fanaticism, for all the people made the sacrifice at once Exodus 32:3. His weakness, in any case, was unpardonable and called for the intercession of Moses Deuteronomy 9:20.
The sense approved by most modern critics is: and he received the gold at their hand and collected it in a bag and made it a molten calf. The Israelites must have been familiar with the ox-worship of the Egyptians; perhaps many of them had witnessed the rites of Mnevis at Heliopolis, almost; on the borders of the land of Goshen, and they could not have been unacquainted with the more famous rites of Apis at Memphis. It is expressly said that they yielded to the idolatry of Egypt while they were in bondage Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:8; Ezekiel 23:3, Ezekiel 23:8; and this is in keeping with the earliest Jewish tradition (Philo). In the next verse, Aaron appears to speak of the calf as if it was a representative of Yahweh - “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” The Israelites did not, it should be noted, worship a living Mnevis, or Apis, having a proper name, but only the golden type of the animal. The mystical notions connected with the ox by the Egyptian priests may have possessed their minds, and, when expressed in this modified and less gross manner, may have been applied to the Lord, who had really delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Their sin then lay, not in their adopting another god, but in their pretending to worship a visible symbol of Him whom no symbol could represent. The close connection between the calves of Jeroboam and this calf is shown by the repetition of the formula, “which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” 1 Kings 12:28.
These be thy gods - This is thy god. See Exodus 32:1 note.
The people sat down to eat and to drink - The burnt-offerings were wholly consumed; the peace-offerings, when the blood bad been poured out, became the food of the priests, etc. When therefore the strictly religious part of these ceremonies was finished, the people sat down to eat of the peace-offerings, and this they did merely as the idolaters, eating and drinking to excess. And it appears they went much farther, for it is said they rose up to play, לצחק letsachek, a word of ominous import, which seems to imply here fornicating and adulterous intercourse; and in some countries the verb to play is still used precisely in this sense. In this sense the original is evidently used, Genesis 39:14.
Parties for frivolous, worldly pleasure, gatherings for eating, drinking, and singing, are inspired by a spirit that is from beneath. They are an oblation to Satan. The exhibitions in the bicycle craze are an offense to God. His wrath is kindled against those who do such things. In these gratifications the mind becomes besotted, even as in liquor drinking. The door is opened to vulgar associations. The thoughts, allowed to run in a low channel, soon pervert all the powers of the being. Like Israel of old, the pleasure lovers eat and drink, and rise up to play. There is mirth and carousing, hilarity and glee. In all this the youth follow the example of the authors of the books placed in their hands for study. The greatest evil of it all is the permanent effect that these things have upon the character. 8T 66.1
Those who take the lead in these things bring upon the cause a stain not easily effaced. They wound their own souls, and through their lifetime will carry the scars. The evildoer may see his sins and repent; God may pardon the transgressor; but the powers of discernment, which ought ever to be kept keen and sensitive to distinguish between the sacred and the common, are in a great measure destroyed. Too often human devices and imaginations are accepted as divine. Some souls will act in blindness and insensibility, ready to grasp cheap, common, and even infidel sentiments, while they turn against the demonstrations of the Holy Spirit. 8T 66.2Read in context »
God has been testing the fidelity of His people, proving them to see what use they would make of His intrusted precious blessing. This blessing came from our Intercessor and Advocate in the heavenly courts; but Satan was ready to enter any avenue that was open for him, in order that he might turn the light and blessing into darkness and cursing. 1SM 140.1
How may the blessing be turned into a curse? By persuading the human agent not to cherish the light, or not to reveal to the world that it has been effective in transforming the character. Imbued with the Holy Spirit, the human agent consecrates himself to cooperate with divine agencies. He bears the yoke of Christ, lifts his burdens, and works in Christ's line to gain precious victories. He walks in the light as Christ is in the light. The scripture is fulfilled to him, “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). 1SM 140.2
Another year has now passed into eternity with its burden of record; and the light which shone from heaven upon you was to prepare you to arise and shine, to show forth the praises of God to the world as His commandment-keeping people. You were to be living witnesses; but if no special endeavor of a high and holy character bears testimony before the world, if no higher effort has been made than that which is seen in the popular churches of the day, then the name of God has not been honored, and His truth has not been magnified before the world, by presenting divine credentials in the people who have received great light. If they have had no greater appreciation of the manifest power of God than to eat and drink, and rise up to play, as did ancient Israel, then how can the Lord trust His people with rich and gracious manifestations? If they act directly contrary in almost every respect to the known will of God, and are found in carelessness, in levity, in selfishness, in ambition and pride, corrupting their way before the Lord, how can He give them another outpouring of the Holy Spirit? 1SM 140.3Read in context »
My soul is deeply stirred at the things that have been represented before me. I feel an indignation of spirit that in our institutions so little honor has been given to the living God, and so much honor to that which is supposed to be superior talent, but with which the Holy Spirit has no connection. The Spirit of God is not acknowledged and respected; men have passed judgment upon it; its operations have been condemned as fanaticism, enthusiasm, undue excitement. CT 367.1
God sees that which the blind eyes of the educators do not discern—that immorality of every kind and degree is striving for the mastery, working against the manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit. The commonest of conversation, and low, perverted ideas are woven into the texture of character and defile the soul. CT 367.2
The low, common pleasure parties, gatherings for eating and drinking, singing and playing on instruments of music, are inspired by a spirit that is from beneath. They are an oblation unto Satan. The exhibitions in the bicycle craze are an offense to God. His wrath is kindled against those who do such things. For in these gratifications the mind becomes besotted, even as in liquor drinking. The door is opened to vulgar associations. The thoughts, allowed to run in a low channel, soon pervert all the powers of the being. Like Israel of old, the pleasure lovers eat and drink, and rise up to play. There is mirth and carousing, hilarity and glee. In all this the youth are following the example of the ungodly authors of some of the books that are placed in their hands for study. All these things are having their effect upon the character. CT 367.3Read in context »
In what manner is the light of truth shining from that thoughtless, pleasure-seeking company? Professed followers of Jesus Christ who indulge in gaiety and feasting cannot be partakers with Christ in His sufferings. They have no sense of His sufferings. They do not care to meditate upon self-denial and sacrifice. They find but little interest in studying the marked points in the history of the life of Christ upon which the plan of salvation rests, but imitate ancient Israel who ate and drank and rose up to play. In order to copy a pattern correctly we must carefully study its design. If we are indeed to overcome as Christ overcame, that we may mingle with the blood-washed, glorified company before the throne of God, it is of the highest importance that we become acquainted with the life of our Redeemer and deny self as did Christ. We must meet temptations and overcome obstacles, and through toil and suffering, in the name of Jesus, overcome as He overcame. Con 66.1Read in context »