Question: How did the Hebrews feel about the golden calf?
Answer: I believe you are referring to the golden calf that the Jews made when Moses was on Mt. Sinai getting the Ten Commandments and other instructions for worship. We find the history in Exodus chapter 32. “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for 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.” And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”
So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.'” So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.’ Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
I believe the people made an idol like they were familiar with from Egypt. This god was one of those gods that had been judged by God when He poured out the ten plagues on Egypt. “The Egyptian Apis and the Phoenician Baal were both pictured as bulls, a common representation among many peoples of that day for fertility and strength.
Whatever the original impulse of the Israelites, the making of the image was the first step on a very slippery path, which led to the eventual identification of Jehovah with the gods of the nations (cf Isa 40; Jer 10) 6 Rose up to play. Idolatry was accompanied by sensual, lewd dances which formed a part of the fertility cult.” (The WYCLIFFE BIBLE COMMENTARY) Think about our lewd “rap music” and lewd dances that go with it today, probably about the same.
Even though the Israelites had seen many miracles of deliverance they soon forget these. You see inner character does not come from external miracles. The religious leaders of Jesus day saw many miracles performed by Jesus and His disciples. They were still unbelieving, just as Pharaoh had been after seeing some of the greatest miracles ever performed on this earth outside of creation and the flood, but Pharaoh and many of his people continued on in unbelief. So too, many of the Hebrews who escaped slavery in Egypt could not escape the slavery of the heart to idol worship.
They left Egypt, but Egypt had not left their hearts. “The Egyptians had a bewildering conglomeration of deities. It is impossible to list all the gods sacred to this people. Every aspect of nature, every object looked at, animate as well as inanimate, was viewed as indwelt by a spirit which could select its own form, occupying the body of a cow, a crocodile, a fish, a human being, a tree, a hawk, etc. In their hieroglyphic inscriptions and their tomb paintings ancient Egyptian artists have left impressions of literally thousands of deities. The Pyramid Texts mention some 200. The Book of the Dead catalogs 1200.” (UNGER’S BIBLE DICTIONARY)
This is not just something of the past, many countries still practice worship of gods of many kinds today, just go to places like India and you will see the gods of Egypt still being worshiped today. The fact of the matter is, anyone who is not worshiping the LORD Jesus Christ is worshiping some sort of “god.” Oh, they might not think of it as a “god,” but in reality it is. Think about it, anything in this life that takes our central interest is a god. What people spend their lives on and money on is their god. Evolution can be a god. Communism can be a god. Money can be a god. Sex and pleasure can be a god. Whatever motivates a person is that person’s god. The Hebrews were no different than any other people on earth in that since.
The Jews that are not worshiping the LORD Jesus Christ have their own idols of one thing or another. If they were truly worshiping the God of the universe they would accept His Son. When Jesus was here He explained this same thing to them like this: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.'” (John 8:42) The Jews will accept an imposter before they receive their true Messiah. Jesus said: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you-Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?'” (John 6:43-47)
People want to see miracles like someone coming from the dead, but the Bible is a miracle book and it talks about the witnesses that saw Jesus come back from the dead, if they do not believe the Bible neither would they believe if someone else came from the dead. (Luke 16:27-31) The Hebrews saw many miracles coming out from Egypt, but they still didn’t all believe.
You see, not much has changed today with the Jews or with us. No, don’t get me wrong, I love the Jews and I believe they are God’s chosen people, but unless they receive their true Messiah they will accept an idol (substitute for the truth–the true God). This condition of the heart is manifested by the things we find pleasure in. So often today it is the things of the world that become our idols. “For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16) And John concludes his book with a warning to Christians as well: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (1 John 5:21)
There is good news for the Jews, I have read the last chapter of the prophecies about their nation, yes, they have failed in the past and they rejected their Messiah and had Him crucified along with the Gentiles who helped. But God the Father allowed this for a purpose, listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah writing hundreds of years before Christ. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every on to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 534-7)
The Jewish people as a nation will one day put away all the idols of their heart and turn to the Lamb of God. “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27; Is. 59:20).
To sum it up, it is not surprising that the Hebrews made a golden calf to worship, because everyone in this world will find someone or something to worship to fill the void in their life if they are not truly worshiping the God of the universe and His Son Jesus Christ. If you are not worshiping Him as your Savior why not start now?
Thanks for the question,
Gary T. Panell
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