Verses of Exodus 32


Exodus 32:19 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)


Exo 32:19-20. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing. And Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

IT is painful to reflect how transient is the effect of the most laborious ministry, and in how many instances hopeful appearances of piety come to nought. If ever man was faithful, it was Moses; of whom God himself says, “He was faithful in all his house.” And if ever there was reason to expect that the work of conversion had taken place upon many hundreds of thousands of people, it was when Israel were singing praises to their God on occasion of their deliverance at the Red Sea. It might well be supposed, that their gratitude to God on that occasion, deepened by the awe impressed upon their minds at the thunders of Mount Sinai, would never be forgotten. But, behold! Moses, summoned as he was by God into the holy mount, in order that he might receive from Jehovah a written copy of that Law which had been just proclaimed, had not been absent from the people forty days, before they all concurred in desiring Aaron to make for them a god whom they might worship, and who should go before them in their way to the promised land: and even Aaron himself became an active confederate in this horrible apostasy. As for Moses, they seem to have lost all respect for him, as well as all becoming reverence for Jehovah, whose minister he was. Of this, God apprised Moses; and at last sent him down in haste to the people, that he might see with his own eyes what impiety they were committing. Moses, therefore, hastened down from the mount: and, filled with indignation against them for their wickedness, he testified his displeasure in the way recorded in our text.
Let us consider,


The grounds of his indignation—

The worshipping of the golden calf was a sin of most extraordinary enormity—
[Such interpositions in their behalf had that people seen, as never had been witnessed by any other people under heaven. And they were still within sight of that burning mount where Jehovah himself, their great Deliverer, yet vouchsafed to them his visible presence. They had but just before, too, received an express command to make no symbol of the Deity [Note: Exo 20:4.], nor to keep in existence any of the gods of the heathen, but to “destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire;” and not so much as to “desire the silver or gold that was on them, or to take it unto them, lest they should be snared therein; but they were utterly to detest and abhor it, as an accursed thing [Note: Deu 7:5; Deu 7:25-26.].” Yet, behold! within less than forty days, they desire Aaron to make them a golden image, similar, probably, to what they had seen in Egypt [Note: Eze 20:8.] ; and they take the ear-rings from their sons and from their daughters for the purpose of forming it; and, having formed it, they offer sacrifices to it, and ascribe to it the honour of all their past deliverances, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt [Note: ver, 1–8.].”

This was plain and unequivocal idolatry. Perhaps they might be ready to deny this charge, just as the Papists have since done; and to say, that they only looked to the calf as a symbol, to remind them of the Deity, to whom alone they had respect in all the worship that they paid. They might say, that they could not be supposed to ascribe their deliverance to that, which but a few days before was in their own ears, and had no collective existence till it was cast into a mould and made a calf. But God declares it to have been idolatry, as all the worship paid to images and crucifixes by the Church of Rome also is; as the Apostle, in reference to this very transaction, says; “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them: as it is written, The people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play [Note: Compare with 1Co 10:7.].” Here, then, was ample occasion for the hot displeasure of Moses.]

And is there no similar evil prevalent amongst us?
[As Protestants, we have discarded the idolatrous practices of the Church of Rome. But we may “set up idols in our hearts [Note: Eze 14:3.],” as well as in our houses: we may have the love of money there; and that is expressly designated by the opprobrious name of idolatry: “Covetousness,” says the Apostle, “is idolatry [Note: Col 3:5.].” We may be addicted to sensual appetites: and then we make, as we are told, “a god of our belly [Note: Php 3:19.].” “The loving and serving of the creature more than the Creator [Note: Rom 1:23.],” in whatever way we do it, is the very essence of idolatry; and “provokes the Lord to jealousy [Note: 1Co 10:22.],” as much without an external symbol, as with one. God says, “My son, give me thy heart:” and if that be withheld from him, he is justly filled with indignation against us.

Let me, then, bring home this matter more closely to your hearts and consciences. The Israelites professed to celebrate their redemption from Egypt: and having presented their sacrifices of burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, “they sat down to eat and to drink (of the portion of the peace-offerings which was allowed to them, and rose up to play.” And, when Moses came down from the mount, he heard, whilst yet at some distance, their carnal revelry: which they judged a becoming mode of honouring their great Deliverer. Now at this season [Note: Sermon for Christmas.] we profess to commemorate the Redemption, not of a single nation, but of the whole world: and not by power only, but by price, even the precious blood of God’s only dear Son: we commemorate, I say, the Incarnation of the Son of God, for the deliverance of our souls from sin and Satan, death and hell. And in what way do we commemorate it? Is not this season even proverbially devoted to carnal mirth? We present our offerings, if I may so say, on the day appointed; and throughout the whole season, with the exception of two or three hours, “we sit down to eat and to drink, and rise up to play.” Such is our religion, precisely like that of those impious idolaters. To the honour of the Levites, it must be acknowledged that they did form an exception to this national transgression. Would to God the like could be said of our Levites! or even of our Aarons! But, with us, Levites and Aarons too are found, for the most part, sanctioning, by their presence and example, these sad enormities; as if Christ had come for no better purpose than to give us a more ample occasion for carnal indulgence.

Judge ye, then, whether God may not well be filled with indignation against us, as he was against his less enlightened and less indebted people of that day?]
Having seen the grounds of Moses’ indignation, let us proceed to mark,


His expressions of it—


He broke before their eyes the tables of the Law, which God had committed to him—

[Was this done in a paroxysm of rage? No: [Note: The manner in which Moses, forty years afterwards, relates it, sufficiently proves this. See Deu 9:16-17.] it was a significant action, declaring, in effect, to the whole people, that they had made void all their solemn engagements with the Deity [Note: Deu 5:27.] ; and that therefore the covenant he had made with them, of which. “these tables were a testimony [Note: 5.],” was utterly annulled.

And are not all the provisions of the Gospel, too, made void by wilful and deliberate sin? They are: and all hope in the Gospel, whilst our hearts are alienated from God, and fixed on earthly vanities, is nothing but delusion. Our Lord has faithfully warned us, that it is in vain for us to “cry, Lord! Lord! if we do not the things which he says:” and that however we may debate the matter with him in the last day, saying, “Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? he will reply, I never knew you: depart from me, ye who work iniquity [Note: Mat 7:21-23.].” Whoever then ye be, who, instead of delighting yourselves in God, are addicted to carnal mirth, I break the tables of the covenant before your faces this day; and declare, that “whoso doeth not righteousness, is not of God;” but that, on the contrary, “whosoever committeth sin, is of the devil [Note: l Joh 3:6; Joh 3:8-9.].” It is needful that we declare this faithfully: for, whilst dancing about your golden calf, you conclude that all is well, and little think in what light your conduct is viewed by a holy and jealous God. And to learn it, first, when your Lord shall descend from His holy mount to judge the world, will be too late: for, as the Levites passed through the camp, and avenged the cause of God on the offenders without favouring even their nearest relatives, so will the angels at that day inexorably and irresistibly execute on all the violators of God’s covenant the judgments denounced against them [Note: Compare Isa 37:36 with Mat 13:41-42.]. Let all, then, bear in mind, that “God is a jealous God;” and that” he will neither give, nor suffer us to give, his glory to another.”]


He ground the calf to powder, and constrained the people to swallow it with their drink—

[We need not look for any recondite mystery in this, because the obvious effect of the act itself was sufficiently instructive. No greater indignity could be offered to this worthless idol, than that which he devised; nor any more humiliating punishment be inflicted upon the people, than to compel them to swallow their god, and to “cast him out into the draught” with their common food.

And shall not we, also, be made ashamed of the gods that we have chosen? Yes: if we will choose “vanity, we must have vanity for our recompence.” Do I say, We must? Let me rather change the word, and say, “We hare: for I may ask of all the votaries of earthly gain or pleasure, “What fruit have ye ever had of those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? What have ye done, but “filled your belly with the east wind?” I must warn you, then, that ye shall all “eat of the fruit of your own ways,” and “be filled with your own devices.” The day is quickly coming, when you shall be as much ashamed of those things which you now regard with idolatrous affection, as ever the Israelites were of their golden calf: yea, and when you yourselves also “shall wake to shame and everlasting contempt [Note: Dan 12:2.].”]

From this subject we may fitly learn,

The danger of sanctioning the evils around us—

[Aaron should have rejected with abhorrence the measure proposed to him: but he acquiesced, and even made himself a ringleader in this vile apostasy. With such a sanction as his, it is not to be wondered at if the people went forward with unsuspecting alacrity, and sacrificed with readiness their most valuable ornaments for the furtherance of their plans. But who does not see how aggravated his guilt was, in comparison of theirs? He, from his nearer intercourse with God, had far greater information than they; and, from the high office which he sustained, he was bound to use his influence for the suppression of evil, and the enforcing of God’s commands. The same I must say of all who are possessed of influence amongst ourselves. Whether it be magisterial or ministerial influence that we possess, or only that which is connected with our respective situations in life, we are bound to exert it for God; and, if we neglect to do so, the blood of those who perish through our neglect may well be required at our hands.
I know that we have excuses without number to offer in our behalf; just as Aaron had when reproved for his conduct on this occasion. But, behold, what a pitiful figure he made, when attempting to justify himself before his reprover! “Let not the anger of my Lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.” (This was a reason why he should have withstood them, and not a reason for concurring with them.) Again, “The people said to me, Make us gods who shall go before us. Then I said to them, Whosoever hath any gold, let him break it off. So they gave it me: and I cast it into the fire; and there came out this calf [Note: 1–24.]:”—came out accidentally, I suppose, and without any mould prepared for the formation of it! What a tissue of folly and of falsehood! See to what a state this man was reduced, even he who was so eloquent, that he was appointed to “be a mouth to Moses.” But thus it will be with sinners in the last day, with Aarons as well as others; (for official dignity is of no account in the sight of God;) or rather, their mouths will be shut through their utter incapacity to offer the smallest vindication of their folly [Note: Mat 22:12.]. Remember this, Brethren; and “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them [Note: Eph 5:11.].”]


In what way we should be affected with them—

[See what a contrast there was between the conduct of Moses and of Aaron on this occasion! Whilst Aaron was uniting with the people in their transgression, Moses was filled with indignation against the sin, and with pity for the sinners. His indignation we have seen: and no sooner had he expressed it in the way that became him, than he returned to God, to implore mercy in their behalf. Forty days and forty nights had he already fasted: and he went up to the mount and fasted forty more days and forty nights, wrestling with God in fervent intercession, if that by any means he might prevail to obtain pardon for their sin [Note: Deu 9:18-19.]. Here was a man of God indeed! This, then, is the way in which we should act in reference to the sins around us. We should weep over them before God: yea, “rivers of tears should run down our eyes, because men keep not God’s law.” Such men as he are blessings to the world: for, as “God hearkened unto him at that time also [Note: Deu 9:18-19.],” so will he do to us, if we “stand in the gap before him, to avert his wrath” from an ungodly world [Note: Psa 106:23.]. Little did that people think to whom the preservation of their lives was owing: and little do an ungrateful world know to whom they are indebted for the forbearance that is yet daily exercised towards them [Note: Mat 24:22.]. But let it be sufficient for us, that God knows and approves our labours of love; and that, whether we prevail for others or not, our prayers shall surely return into our own bosom, to the everlasting benefit of our own souls.] with Eze 22:30.

Verses of Exodus 32


Consult other comments:

Exodus 32:19 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 32:19 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Exodus 32:19 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Exodus 32:19 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Exodus 32:19 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Exodus 32:19 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Exodus 32:19 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Exodus 32:19 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Exodus 32:19 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Exodus 32:19 - Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Exodus 32:19 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

Exodus 32:19 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Exodus 32:19 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Exodus 32:19 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Exodus 32:19 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Exodus 32:19 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Exodus 32:19 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)