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32 When Moses didn’t come back down the mountain right away, the people went to Aaron. “Look,” they said, “make us a god to lead us, for this fellow Moses who brought us here from Egypt has disappeared; something must have happened to him.”

2-3 “Give me your gold earrings,” Aaron replied.

So they all did—men and women, boys and girls. Aaron melted the gold, then molded and tooled it into the form of a calf. The people exclaimed, “O Israel, this is the god that brought you out of Egypt!”

When Aaron saw how happy the people were about it, he built an altar before the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a feast to Jehovah!”

So they were up early the next morning and began offering burnt offerings and peace offerings to the calf idol; afterwards they sat down to feast and drink at a wild party, followed by sexual immorality.

Then the Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go on down, for your people that you brought from Egypt have defiled themselves, and have quickly abandoned all my laws. They have molded themselves a calf, and worshiped it, and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of Egypt.’”

Then the Lord said, “I have seen what a stubborn, rebellious lot these people are. 10 Now leave me alone and my anger shall blaze out against them and destroy them all; and I will make you, Moses, into a great nation instead of them.”

11 But Moses begged God not to do it. “Lord,” he pleaded, “why is your anger so hot against your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and mighty miracles? 12 Do you want the Egyptians to say, ‘God tricked them into coming to the mountains so that he could slay them, destroying them from off the face of the earth’? Turn back from your fierce wrath. Turn away from this terrible evil you are planning against your people! 13 Remember your promise to your servants—to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. For you swore by your own self, ‘I will multiply your posterity as the stars of heaven, and I will give them all of this land I have promised to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

14 So the Lord changed his mind and spared them.

15 Then Moses went down the mountain, holding in his hands the Ten Commandments written on both sides of two stone tablets. 16 (God himself had written the commandments on the tablets.)

17 When Joshua heard the noise below them, of all the people shouting, he exclaimed to Moses, “It sounds as if they are preparing for war!”

18 But Moses replied, “No, it’s not a cry of victory or defeat, but singing.”

19 When they came near the camp, Moses saw the calf and the dancing, and in terrible anger he threw the tablets to the ground, and they lay broken at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf and melted it in the fire, and when the metal cooled, he ground it into powder and spread it upon the water and made the people drink it.

21 Then he turned to Aaron. “What in the world did the people do to you,” he demanded, “to make you bring such a terrible sin upon them?”

22 “Don’t get so upset,” Aaron replied. “You know these people and what a wicked bunch they are. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us a god to lead us, for something has happened to this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt.’ 24 Well, I told them, ‘Bring me your gold earrings.’ So they brought them to me and I threw them into the fire, and . . . well . . . this calf came out!”

25 When Moses saw that the people had been committing adultery—at Aaron’s encouragement, and much to the amusement of their enemies— 26 he stood at the camp entrance and shouted, “All of you who are on the Lord’s side, come over here and join me.” And all the Levites came.

27 He told them, “Jehovah the God of Israel says, ‘Get your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other and kill even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.’” 28 So they did, and about three thousand men died that day.

29 Then Moses told the Levites, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers; now he will give you a great blessing.”

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin, but I will return to the Lord on the mountain—perhaps I will be able to obtain his forgiveness for you.”

31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have sinned a great sin and have made themselves gods of gold. 32 Yet now if you will only forgive their sin—and if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”[a]

33 And the Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me will be blotted out of my book. 34 And now go, lead the people to the place I told you about, and I assure you that my Angel shall travel on ahead of you; however, when I come to visit these people, I will punish them for their sins.”

35 And the Lord sent a great plague upon the people because they had worshiped Aaron’s calf.


  1. Exodus 32:32 then blot me out of the book you have written, or “then kill me instead of them.”

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