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: Moses and Joshua descend. Moses destroys the golden
calf. Three thousand of the idolaters are slain. Moses again ascends the mountain.
As Moses was descending from Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hands, he was met by Joshua, who had remained somewhere on the mountain till that time, and they proceeded together. Approaching the encampment of the Israelites, Joshua heard the noise of the people, who were shouting, and said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp;" thinking, no doubt, that they had been attacked by, some enemy.
" It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery,” replied Moses ; " neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.” And as they drew still nearer the camp, he saw the golden calf, the object of their worship, and the people dancing around it. Filled with a holy indignation at such conduct, he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them in the presence of the Israelites. It may seem to us a strange act; but the Jews, like other nations of the East, were accustomed to show the strength of their feelings in sore such way,
and especially by rending their garment as a mark of deep sorrow. It was thus, that Moses intended, by doing what he did, to give the most striking manifestation of the bitter anguish of his spirit. In addition to this, the tables of the law,--the workmanship of the Divine hand,-broken into fragments, was a significant symbol to portray the rash guilt of the Israelites in breaking their covenant with God; their forfeiture of its promised blessings, and exposure to its penalties.
Moses then took the calf, and melting it in the fire, and dividing it probably into small portions, beat them out into very thin plates, like gold leaf. These he ground, or broke, into fine particles like dust or powder; and strewing it upon the surface of the brook which flowed near the camp, made the people drink of the waters.
Nothing could so expressively show the utter contempt in which he held their idol, and his detestation of their wickedness ; or be a more striking emblem of the impotency of what they had regarded as the god who could guide and protect them.
It may well be supposed that Moses was espe. cially grieved at the conduct of his brother Aaron. He soon showed this by the inquiry which he made of him. " What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them ?"
"Let not the anger of my lord wax hot,” replied
It was a
Aaron ; “thou knowest the people that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us : for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said un ther Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.”
He tried to gloss over his iniquity, and to speak of it, as if his own agency were hardly concerned in forming the idol. But we are told in Deuteronomy how God regarded his conduct; being very angry, even to the inflicting of death upon him, if Moses had not interceded in his behalf. pitiful excuse ; such as sinners are ever ready to make. How much better ingenuously to confess his guilt, and seek the forgiveness of God by his own humble entreaties.
To add to his grief, Moses, we are told, that the people were naked; for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame, among their enemies."
We may understand by this, that the Israelites were not merely despoiled of some of their ornaments in order to make the golden calf, but deprived, by their impious act of idolatry, of the Divine protection, and left naked, as it were, and defenceless, should they meet with any sudden and hostile at: tack.