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Reformation Study Bible – Ex 32:4
Ex 32:4

32:4 calf. The bull as a symbol of deity was common in the ancient world. Perhaps a symbol of Apis, the Egyptian fertility bull-god, was meant. Aaron himself may have presented the calf as a symbol of the true God, and he apparently attempted to blunt the apostasy by building an altar and announcing a festival to the Lord (v. 5). Noting that the Hebrew term translated “gods” in vv. 1 and 4 (’elohim) can be rendered as singular or plural, some have argued that the people were worshiping the calf as a symbol of the Lord (they would still have been guilty of idolatry, 20:4 note). But the shout of the people is reported here using the plural verb (“brought . . . out”) with ’elohim. The singular form is always used with this noun when it refers to the true God. The people were turning to the bull-god to lead them, in gross violation of 20:2 (cf. Acts 7:39–41).