The Golden Calf
1When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 2Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ 3So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould,32.4 Or fashioned it with a graving-tool; meaning of Heb uncertain and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.’ 6They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
7The LORD said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” ’ 9The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’
11But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ’ 14And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
15Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant32.15 Or treaty, or testimony; Heb eduth in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. 16The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. 17When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, ‘There is a noise of war in the camp.’ 18But he said,
‘It is not the sound made by victors,
or the sound made by losers;
it is the sound of revellers that I hear.’
19As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.
21Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?’ 22And Aaron said, ‘Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. 23They said to me, “Make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 24So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off”; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!’
25When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), 26then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Who is on the LORD's side? Come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27He said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbour.” ’ 28The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 29Moses said, ‘Today you have ordained yourselves32.29 Gk Vg Compare Tg: Heb Today ordain yourselves for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.’
30On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ 31So Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.’ 33But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.’
35Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf—the one that Aaron made.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.