Exodus 32:17 “…There is a noise of war in the camp”
Obviously he could hear the commotion of their celebration. Commentary suggests the layout of the mountain and the plain below would have obscured Joshua’s view until he and Moses came further down the mountain.
19 “…he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain”
Commentaries agreed that this was symbolic of the breaking of the covenant by the Israelites. God would maintain His part of the deal, but they would bear the consequences of not keeping their part. God always has His remnant.
20 “…burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder…”
Have seen some debate in the past as to whether the idol was covered with gold or completely of gold. Reference to a molten calf tends to lean toward the latter while the idea of burning it with fire sounds like part of it was made of consumables. However, most commentaries suggest the idea was it was made completely of gold and was melted down as being burned in the fire. Once reduced to small pieces it was then ground into powder.
21 “…What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”
That was the big question. How could Aaron have allowed this to happen, much less participated in it as he did?
22-24 “…You know the people, that they are set on evil…I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out”
He blames it on the people and lies about what happens to remove himself from responsibility. The story he tells is almost as if he’s trying to say it was supernatural in the way it occurred. One commentary said he would have been better off to say nothing than the foolishness he came up with.
26 “…all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him”
Not all had participated in the sinful behavior.
27 “…go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor”
Destroy all those who participated in the sin. Due to the way it’s presented, we lose the time element. With the size of the people, some of the celebrating could have still been going on. The people Moses instructed may have found some in the middle of committing the sin and killed them. As only 3,000 were killed, it appears total participation was probably smaller than expected and many probably chose to repent immediately. One commentary suggested we shouldn’t look at the boldness of the command of Moses for the people to kill wildly, but only those who refused to abandon their sin.
32 “…but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book…”
Moses was willing to give his life for the people. Contrast with his feelings sometimes of being totally burdened with them.
33 “…Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book”
God said no, He would only blot out those who sinned against Him. Brings up an interesting question. We have a reference to the book of the living. Perhaps the same as the Lamb’s book of life referenced in Revelation. It also strengthens my idea about when people’s names are listed there. If at the beginning, then they would be blotted out if they never trusted God, and this passage fits nicely. If at the point of salvation, then there wouldn’t be a name to blot out beforehand.
34 “…I will visit punishment upon them for their sin”
God reassures He would continue to lead the people with Moses at the head. But He would at some point punish the people for their sin. Verse 35 appears to cover that. Not sure if it was soon or many days later. Commentaries don’t say specifically. They lean toward the idea that God meant He would bring consequences for their sin, including the wandering in the wilderness for forty years.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.