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Some think, that the expression in the original, denotes that they were in a dissipated and disorderly state ; abandoning themselves to all kinds of revelling and licentiousness; which would redound to their infamy when the report of it should reach their enemies.
It will probably be no departure from the truth, to consider both these interpretations as correct; for it must have been a deplorably wicked condition into which the Israelites had fallen, to bring down
upon them, in so awful a manner, the Divine vengeance which Moses was called upon to inflict.
Standing in the gate of the camp, he exclaimed, " Who is on the Lord's side ? let him come unto me.”
The sons of Levi, those undoubtedly of them who had taken no part in the worship of the golden calf, immediately gathered round him in obedience to the call. A distressing duty devolved upon them, as the ministers of Divine justice. It must be performed immediately, and without hesitation. Moses issued the command, and they could not refuse to obey it. For it came from the throne of the Almighty, who has a right to inflict punishment upon the wicked in any way, and by any instruments that he may deem best.
Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every
man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.”
The order was instantly executed ; and about three thousand men, the leaders, no doubt, and, chief transgressors, in the offence which had been committed, were slain.
In this transaction the Levites had been told by Moses, that they would consecrate themselves to the Lord. Their ready obedience, revolting as it might be to their natural feelings, would be regarded by God, as a test of their preparation for the sacred office with which they were to be invested, and draw down his blessing in this respect, and in other ways, upon them. It was, indeed, a bloody sacrifice with which to commence, as it were, their priestly functions; but the Divine justice demanded it, and their course of duty was plain before them.
The day was one of lamentation throughout the camp of the Israelites ; many trembling in fearful expectation of the still heavier judgments that might come upon them; not a few bemoaning the
2 loss of their kindred and friends; and here and there some pious worshippers, prostrating them. selves before the offended Majesty of heaven, and praying for the forgiveness of the people, and the restoration of the Divine favor.
On the morrow, Moses expostulated with the whole assembly, convened for the purpose, and set before them the enormity of their guilt, on the part
especially of those who had been directly concerned in the worship of the idol, and of the rest as either conniving at it, or making no efforts to prevent it.
" Ye have sinned a great sin," said he ; now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for
sin.” Moses re-ascended the mountain, and prostrating himself before the Divine presence, poured forth this importunate supplication : "Oh this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin ; and if not, blot
I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written ;" out of the "book of the living," as David terms it. As if he had said-I would rather die with my people than live, and witness the awful destruction, which, in thy anger, thou mayest see fit to bring upon them. The reply was:
" Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. Therefore, now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee : behold mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them;"—thus threatening that, when they should be chastised for future transgressions, this aggravated offence would not be forgotten, but enhance the severity of their punishment. And we are told, that " the Lord plagued the people," on account of this sin, in the subsequent judgments which he sent upon them for
their repeated acts of disobedience.' The Jews, re ferring to these events in a proverb that they have among them, say,
« No affliction has ever happened to Israel, in which there was not some particle of the dust of the golden calf.”
Fear, my young friend, lest God may send his plagues upon you, on account of your past sins ! Sometimes he does this, even in this life, in a very remarkable manner; so that the connection between the sin and the punishment is plain beyond all doubt. The sinner sees it." All around him see it.
Every time that you sin, you expose yourself to the just displeasure of God. You swell the amount of your guilt. Past sins added to the present, will call for the Divine vengeance in an increased degree. At all events, if God spares the sinner in this life, a fearful reckoning will come, at last, for the finally impenitent. Then the Divine Justice will visit all their sins
upon them! Now is the time to escape this awful doom, and to flee for refuge to the Hope which is set before us in the Gospel
Moses is directed to proceed from Sinai. He descends.
The tabernacle of the congregation. God's accompany. ing presence promised.
Before leaving the mount, Moses received a command from God, or perhaps rather a permission, to depart from Sinai, and proceed with the Israelites on their way to the promised land. He was told that Jehovah would send un angel before him, and drive out the heathen; but that he himsclf would not go up, (as he had before done,) by his peculiar presence and visible manifestation of glory, in the midst of them. The reason given for this, was, lest he should consume them in the way, they being so obstinate and rebellious.
Moses was also directed to say to them; "Ye are a stiff-necked people : I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee; therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know," or, (as it might better be rendered,) make known, " what to do unto thee.”
This putting off their ornaments, and perhaps, also, their upper, more beautiful garments, was emblematical of internal mourning for their sins. At the same time, God would notice the state of their