Exodus 32

The young cow that Aaron made from gold

1 Moses was on the mountain for a very long time. So the Israelites went to Aaron. They said, ‘Get up! Make some gods for us who will lead us. This man, Moses, brought us up out of Egypt. But we do not know where he is now. We do not know what has happened to him.’

2 Then Aaron answered them, ‘Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters. Then bring the rings to me.’ 3 So all the Israelites removed the rings from their ears and they brought them to Aaron.

4 Aaron took the rings and he made a false god from the gold. He used a tool to make the false god in the shape of a young cow. Then the Israelites said, ‘This is your god, Israel. He brought you up out of Egypt!’

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the young cow. He shouted, ‘Tomorrow, there will be a feast to worship the Lord.’ 6 So, on the next day, the Israelites got up early. They offered gifts of dead animals on the altar and they also brought other gifts. After this they sat down to eat a meal and they drank wine. After that, they danced to worship the cow.

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down the mountain. The Israelites that you brought out of Egypt have become bad people. 8 They have turned away from my commands already. They have made for themselves a false god in the shape of a young cow. They have bent their heads to it. They have brought gifts of dead animals to it. They have said, “These are your gods, Israel, who have brought you out of Egypt.” ’

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen these people. They are proud and they do not obey me. 10 Now leave me, so that I can be very angry with them. I will kill them and I will make you into a great nation.’

11 But Moses asked the Lord his God to listen to him. Moses said, ‘Lord, please do not be so angry with your own family! You brought them out of Egypt with strong and powerful authority. 12 The Egyptians will say, “God led the Israelites out of Egypt so that he could kill them. He wanted to kill them in the mountains. He wanted to destroy them completely.” Please stop being angry. Please be sorry for your own people and do not kill them. 13 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Remember the promise that you made to them. You said, “I will give you as many children and grandchildren as there are stars in the sky. I have promised to give this whole country to them. And it will be their country for all time.” ’ 14 Then the Lord was sorry for the people that he had chosen. He did not kill them as he had decided to.

15 Moses turned and he went down the mountain. He carried the two flat stones with God's special commands in his hands. God had written on both sides of the stones. 16 This was God's own work. He himself had written the words on the stones.

17 The Israelites were shouting and Joshua heard the noise. He said to Moses, ‘I can hear the sound of war in the camp!’ 18 But Moses answered, ‘It is not the sound of soldiers who are beating their enemies. It is not the sound of soldiers who run away from their enemies. It is the sound of singers that I can hear.’

19 Then Moses came near to the camp. He saw the young cow and the Israelites who were dancing. He became very angry. He threw the two stones on to the ground. He broke them into pieces where he stood. 20 Then he took the young cow that they had made. He burned it in the fire. He made it into powder and he poured it into the water. Then he commanded the Israelites to drink that water.

21 Moses said to Aaron, ‘You should not have caused these people to do such a bad sin. What did they do to you?’ 22 Aaron answered, ‘Do not be angry, my lord. You know how quickly these people do bad things. 23 They said to me, “Make us some gods that will lead us. This man called Moses brought us out of Egypt. But now we do not know what has happened to him.” 24 So I said to them, “If anyone has any gold rings, he must remove them.” Then they gave the gold to me. I threw it into the fire and this young cow came out of the fire!’

25 All the Israelites were running about. And Moses saw that they were doing bad things in the camp. Aaron had let them do bad things. They would have felt ashamed if their enemies had seen them. 26 So Moses stood at the edge of the camp. He said, ‘Everyone who loves the Lord must come to me.’ Then all the Levites went to Moses.

27 Then Moses said to the Levites, ‘This is the message from the Lord, the God of Israel. “Every man must take his sword in his hand. You must go from one end of the camp to the other. And each man must kill his brother and his friend and his neighbour.” ’ 28 The Levites obeyed the command of Moses and about three thousand Israelites died on that day. 29 Then Moses said to the Levites, ‘The Lord has made you his special people today. He has blessed you today because you have punished your own sons and brothers.’

30 On the next day, Moses said to the Israelites, ‘You have done a very bad thing. But now I will go up to the Lord. Perhaps I can pay the price for your sin.’

31 So Moses returned to the Lord. He said to the Lord, ‘These people have done a very bad thing. They have made gods out of gold for themselves! 32 But now, please forgive them! And if you cannot forgive them, then take my name out of your book.’

33 The Lord answered Moses, ‘I will take out of my book the name of everyone who has sinned against me. 34 Now go! Lead the Israelites to the place that I have spoken about. My angel will go in front of you. But on the right day I will punish them for their sin.’

35 And the Lord punished the Israelites with a bad illness because of what they had done. They had done bad things with the young cow that Aaron had made.