Exodus 32 - the Golden Calf
Read Exodus 32:1–6. In these verses, which of God’s commands do they break? What other aspects from the earlier covenant ceremony are alluded to here? (For help, see Ex. 20:2; 24:3–11.)
In response to the people’s violation, God indicates he will destroy them and start over with Moses (32:7–10), but Moses intercedes and God relents (vv. 11–14). What are the two main reasons Moses gives for why God should relent? What is Moses primarily concerned with in this act of intercession?
Moses and Aaron are sharply contrasted in this chapter. First, whereas Moses led the people in the true covenant ceremony of chapters 19–24, here Aaron leads them in a mutated version, in 32:1–6. Second, Moses is singled out by God as the one to continue the covenant people (32:10), while Aaron is singled out twice as the one who allowed the covenant people to go astray (32:25, 35). Third, while Moses uses fire to destroy Israel’s idol (32:20), Aaron claims that it was the fire that produced the idol (32:24). These contrasts highlight Moses’ faithful role as Israel’s mediator in this chapter. In what ways do Moses’ actions here foreshadow the work of Jesus?
The killing of 3000 people in vv 27-28 is especially troubling to many modern readers. Theologian Douglas Stuart writes:
At first glance it might seem that God was ordering the Levites to kill everyone else, but the wording is actually not intended to imply that. What the Levites were to do was to “go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other,” which means carefully and systematically approaching everyone and finding out whether or not they intend to return to Yahweh, abandoning their idolatry. Those found to be committed to idolatry must be killed. Those sorry for being caught up in it but now actively repenting must be spared.
Even still, we recoil when God’s holiness is expressed in judgment. What does that indicate about us? Do you think it would be better for God to conform to our sensibilities, or for us to conform to his? Why?
In Exodus 32:30-32, Moses tries to make atonement for the sin of the people. How does this story prepare us for the coming of Jesus? (See Romans 3:23-26). Why is the atonement found in Jesus greater than the atonement offered by Moses, or in the Mosaic Law? (See Hebrews 9:11-15)
EASTER OUTREACH: Confirm if your group will host an Easter Egg Hunt on April 13th or 20th and identify one or two of your group members as the point-person(s) to coordinate event details with Lillian Parisher (Point person should email email@example.com by Wednesday, March 20th). Pray for other Christian neighbors who may need to connect with other believers and ask God to help you encourage them.
* Some questions adapted from Exodus: A 12 Week Study by M Newkirk, and New American Commentary: Exodus by Douglas Stuart