Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




The Golden Calf

Shortly after the battle with the Amalekites had O been fought, Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, came to the Israelite camp, bringing Moses' wife and sons to him there. He then gave Moses very good advice, and bade him select judges, who would help him to govern his followers.

After parting from Jethro, Moses and his people resumed their journey, and in the third month after their flight from Egypt, they reached the awful wilderness around Mount Sinai. There they lingered at the foot of the mountain, while "Moses went up unto God," and received a solemn promise that if the Israelites would only obey him, he would make of them "a peculiar treasure . . . above all people, . . . a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation."

The elders, in the name of all the people, promised obedience, and after three days of purification "Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire." The people, frightened at this sight, drew back from the mountain in terror, crying, "Let not God speak with us lest we die."

As they were afraid to hear the voice of God themselves, they asked Moses to go up on the mountain, and speak with the Lord. There, on Mount Sinai, Moses received from God the ten commandments, and when he came down he bade the people build an altar, and offered up a solemn sacrifice.

Then, leaving Aaron and another man to govern the people during his absence, Moses went up the mountain once more, where he staid without food for forty days and forty nights. This time he received many directions from God concerning the Tabernacle, or holy tent, and the way in which he wished the people of Israel to worship.

At the end of the forty days, Moses came down the mountain side, carrying two stone tables, upon which God himself had written the ten commandments that he wished his people to keep.

Moses had just come within sight of the camp, when he dashed these tables on the ground at his feet; for there, before him, he saw Aaron and the people worshiping a golden calf, which they had made from the spoil they had carried away from the Egyptians.

Moses was very angry when he saw that the people had already disobeyed Godís first command. He burned the idol, ground its charred remains to powder, cast this into the water, and made the people drink of it. Then, bidding those who were on the Lordís side come over to him, he made them take their swords and kill three thousand of the Israelites who had worshiped the idol.

After bidding the people purify themselves afresh, Moses again went up the mountain, where, by his entreaties, he obtained Godís forgiveness for the erring Israelites. In punishment for their disobedience, God now refused to go before them in person, as he had promised to do if they kept his commands; but he said that he would send his angel instead.

When Moses again came down the mountain, he removed the sacred tent, or tabernacle, to a place outside of the camp. There all the people saw a pillar of cloud descend to its very doors, and heard the Lord speak "unto Moses, face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend."

After a new journey up the mountain, Moses brought down two new tables of stone, upon which the finger of God had traced the ten commandments. He had been close to God, and the heavenly glory made his face shine so brightly that the people dared not look at him until he drew a veil over his head.

The commandments were again recited in presence of the people, who now brought gifts for the tabernacle; and Aaron and his sons were made priests of God. Then Moses offered up a sacrifice, and God showed his acceptance of it by sending down fire from heaven to consume it.