Reading through the Bible: day 40

Gustave Doré, Moses breaking the Tables of the Law

Exodus 32 -34

There’s quite a bit here, so let’s dive in.

The Golden Calf

Here the people ask Aaron to fashion a God for them and he goes along with it. People could say God was a bit harsh for following the their divinely appointed religious leader, but there’s probably a lesson here. Our religious leaders are people, they mess up, a whole bunch. While Aaron was influenced by the crowd, he should have known better, and his response later (that the people are bent on evil) shows this. The people should also have known better, let’s go back to the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20:2 God identifies himself as the one who “brought them out of the land of Egypt,” the same thing Aaron said about the calf. Perhaps someone should have pointed out that this calf wasn’t around back then. We later find the same thing happening in 2 Kings.

Each person is responsible for themselves, and responsible to others as well (more on this in Ezekiel). This is one of the reasons I leave the comments thread open (the other is that I like hearing from you, the reader). Don’t accept everything I say, if you disagree, say something, we can discuss it, perhaps we’re both wrong and we’ll arrive at a better conclusion. I’m by no means a religious leader, but the current president of the General Conference of the Adventist church also believes that we should hold our leaders (that’s him) to the highest level of Biblical truth. If we feel our leaders are getting t wrong, we should say something.

So much of dying

So 3000 people die because god instituted a civil war. There’s no real getting around this one, God ordered it. He then plagues them, but there is no reason to believe it was a deadly plague. So what about those 3000?

We don’t know much about who lived or who died, but we know that God wrath against the breaking of the first and second Commandments was swift and deadly. As Christians, we could say that was a different time and place, and we’d be half right. Since God commanded the response of killings in various ways to breaches of certain laws, we can assume a punishment of death, which is New Testament (cf Romans 6:23). The real difference is that in the Old Testament, where much of the culture was “a shadow of things to come,” the example was set. In the New Testament, we have that example, and although we won’t be administering the death sentence, it will ultimately be administered by God. The Old Testament was harsh in order to give all future humanity (including those living at the time) a chance to see that the Law isn’t negotiable.

Another issue with dead people is God apparently changing his mind. He wants to kill everybody, Moses pleads, so he doesn’t. God had made promises and prophecies for the benefit of the patriarchs, and Moses knew this, but he could still have said, “do them in, I’m with you.” Moses shows compassion on a people who hadn’t been all that nice to him, and he doesn’t follow God down a path he knows to be wrong. It is possible that this was a test of Moses’ resolve for God’s work, and a test of his position as the shepherd to the people.

Can people see God

Exodus 33:20 makes it clear that no one can see God, but we know about Abraham and Jacob seeing God, and Exodus 33:11 tells us that God spoke to Moses face to face.

Obviously there seems to be a problem. God can come in many forms (as a person, as for Abraham, as the “Angel of The Lord,” as a burning bush) and thus it is possible that it is only the form of God in all his blinding glory (as stated in 1 Timothy 6;16) that can’t be seen, and this is possibly what He was referring to in 33:20. So there quite probably isn’t a contradiction, or the author would probably have picked it up – having those verses so close together.

Those Ten Commandments

There are a couple of issues with the Ten Commandments. Firstly, who wrote them? Secondly, what are they?

According to 34:1, God said he’d write them, and according to 34:27,28 it would seem that Moses wrote them.

The second issue is related, so I’ll give it then attempt to answer both. Exodus 34:11-26 gives a list of rules, these are then followed by God commanding Moses to write them and the statement that the Ten Commandments were then written. So the question is, is that list in Exodus 20 the correct list, or are the Ten Commandments to be found in Exodus 34?

Well, the glaringly obvious thing (at least in the NKJV) is the capital letter on He in verse 28, but the KJV seems to have missed that interpretation. God commanded Moses to make tablets for Him to write on. He then gave Moses a list of rules to write down (like don’t boil a kid in it’s mother milk). Moses writes these rules down, and God writes the Ten Commandments from chapter 20 in on the Tablets. Thus the NKJV has the right idea in using the uppercase H. There seems to be no problem yet this issue seems to be somewhat ubiquitous on atheist sites.

Names and characters

God has many names in the Old Testament, and in Exodus 34:14 “His name is Jealous.” As we go through the Bible we will see more and more people whose names reflect their characters, and the importance the Hebrews put on this. When God says His name is Jealous, he’s likely emphasising His character trait that makes him intolerant of His glory being attributed to others. The incident with the golden calf likely prompted this method for stating his feeling for worship of idols and false gods.

What are your thoughts?


Please give the reading through the Bible page a look if you haven’t already, there are some background posts and the index to this reading plan. Share it with others who you think can benefit from Reading the Bible.

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One thought on “Reading through the Bible: day 40”

  1. Many of the prophets both saw and talked with God face to face (Exodus 24:9-11, Exodus 33. Isaiah 6, Job 42:5, Ezekiel 1).

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