From Eternity Past


Chapter 28—Israel Worships a Golden Calf

This chapter is based on Exodus 32 to 34.

While Moses was absent, it was a time of waiting and suspense to Israel. The people waited eagerly for his return. Accustomed in Egypt to material representations of deity, it had been hard for them to trust in an invisible being. They had come to rely upon Moses to sustain their faith. Now he was taken from them. Week after week passed, and still he did not return. It seemed to many in the camp that their leader had deserted them or that he had been consumed by the devouring fire. EP 219.1

During this period of waiting, there was time to meditate upon the law of God which they had heard, and to prepare their hearts to receive further revelations that He might make to them. Had they been seeking a clearer understanding of God's requirements and humbling their hearts before Him, they would have been shielded from temptation. But they soon became careless, inattentive, and lawless, especially the “mixed multitude.” They were impatient to be on their way to the land flowing with milk and honey. It was only on condition of obedience that the goodly land was promised them; but they had lost sight of this. Some suggested a return to Egypt; but whether forward to Canaan or backward to Egypt, the masses were determined to wait no longer for Moses. EP 219.2

The “mixed multitude” had been the first to indulge murmuring and impatience and were the leaders in apostasy. Among the objects regarded by the Egyptians as symbols of deity was the ox or calf. At the suggestion of those who had practiced idolatry in Egypt, a calf was now made and worshiped. The people desired some image to represent God and to go before them in the place of Moses. The mighty miracles in Egypt and at the Red Sea were designed to establish faith in God as the invisible, all-powerful Helper of Israel. The desire for some visible manifestation of His presence had been granted in the pillar of cloud and of fire, and in the revealing of His glory upon Mount Sinai. But with the cloud of the Presence still before them, they turned back in their hearts to the idolatry of Egypt. EP 219.3

The judicial authority had been delegated to Aaron, and a vast crowd gathered about his tent. The cloud, they said, now rested permanently upon the mount; it would no longer direct their travels. They must have an image in its place; and if, as had been suggested, they should return to Egypt, they would find favor with the Egyptians by bearing this image before them as their god. (See Appendix, Note 3.) EP 220.1