Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, 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.4. Israel ‘s Sin and Rebellion
1. The people in rebellion (Exodus 32:1-6)
2. Jehovah threatens his wrath (Exodus 32:7-10)
3. Moses beseeches Jehovah (Exodus 32:11-14)
4. Moses descends and in the camp (Exodus 32:15-29)
5. Moses’ offer and failure (Exodus 32:30-35)
This chapter records the breaking of the covenant by Israel ‘s sin, rebellion against Jehovah, and idolatry. Here we find man’s heart fully uncovered, that wicked heart of unbelief. What manifestations of God’s power they had seen! Their eyes beheld the dreadful judgments which fell upon the land of Egypt and wiped out the Egyptian hosts. They were guided by the visible sign of Jehovah’s presence. He had given them manna, yea, they were eating that bread the very day on which they rebelled. The smitten rock had yielded water. God had entered into covenant with them. And now when Moses delayed, they requested of Aaron, “Up, make us gods.” God was not mentioned at all by the rebellious mass. It seemed Moses and not God was the object of their faith. The heathen had gone that way and “changed the glory of the Uncoorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things” (Romans 1:23). The favored nation shows that their heart is as corrupt as the heart of the Gentiles, who know not God. They plunged into the degradation of idolatry. The unseen One, the One who had honored Abraham’s faith, who spake to the fathers, was rejected by them, and they preferred a golden calf fashioned with a graving tool. And Aaron plays the leading part in this awful scene of degradation and wickedness. He announces a feast unto the Lord, after he had made the golden calf from the golden ear-rings (copied, no doubt, after the Egyptian idol Apis; see Psalm 106:19-20). Then the people “rose up to play”; wild dances, licentious and filled with the abominations of the heathen, the flesh let loose, is what followed. The people were naked (verse 25).
Alas! the same has been repeated on “Christian” ground. The ritualistic, religious worship, appealing to the senses, filled with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit dishonoring counterfeits, the inventions of the “religious nature” of man under satanic control, is nothing but idolatry. It rejects the invisible One, who demands our faith and trust, and puts something else in His place. That is idolatry. All God’s true people are in danger of that sin in the most subtle forms. Whenever we lean on the arm of flesh and not exclusively upon the “I Am,” our gracious Lord, then we are guilty of the same sin. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1John 5:21).
As Moses went up, so our great High Priest has gone to the Father. We see Him not, but we know He is there and will come back again. May we live by faith during His absence and be kept from idols.
Then Jehovah told Moses what was going on in the camp. Note that He said to Moses, “thy people which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt .” The Lord puts them, so to speak, upon Moses and commits them into his hands. Moses only needed to say the word and the rebellious nation would have been consumed and Moses and his offspring would become a new beginning. It was a test of Moses, but Jehovah knew beforehand what His servant would do. Beautiful is Moses’ intercession. He uses the same words the Lord had used. “Thy people which Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt .” The Lord had put them into Moses’ hands; Moses puts them back upon the Lord. How wonderful was Moses’ intercession in their behalf. He reminds Him of His promises and the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Israel (avoiding the word Jacob). His intercession is typical of our great intercessor before the throne.
The covenant was broken and the first tables of stone were broken. The golden calf was burnt and ground to powder. This was cast into the water (the brook, Deuteronomy 9:21), and the children of Israel had to drink it. They had to drink their own shame; a humiliating experience. Aaron is questioned first, and he adds a new sin to the one already committed. (Compare verse 24 with verse 4). The sons of Levi gathered themselves to Moses. They, too, had shared in the rebellion, but were now the first to confess and take their stand with the Lord. Judgment follows and three thousand fell by the sword. They did not spare their nearest relations (Deuteronomy 33:9). Besides this, the people were plagued (32:35). Moses returned to the Lord. But he failed in his proposition. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give unto God a ransom for him” (Psalm 49:7). Yet Moses’ willingness to be blotted out of the Book foreshadows Him who alone could do the atoning work. He offered himself without spot unto God, (Hebrews 9:14) and gave His life a ransom for many. He died for that nation (John 11:51-52).