What sort of "revelry" did they indulge in while Moses was up on the mountain getting the 10 Commandments? (Exodus 32:6)

And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

The MT for this verse is

וישכימו ממחרת ויעלו עלת ויגשו שלמים וישב העם לאכל ושתו ויקמו לצחק

  • Recommend not to close. The question is what is meant by לצחק in this verse and how do we know.
    – user17080
    Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 21:49
  • Please indicate which translation you are using.
    – user17080
    Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 21:51
  • I forgot now, but here it is from the NIV (New International Version): 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 12:41

2 Answers 2


According to both Jewish and Christian sources, they committed idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10:7

And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” NKJV, 1982

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan

And on the day following, they arose, and sacrificed burnt-offerings; and the people sat around to eat and to drink, and rose up to disport themselves with strange service.

ואקדימו מיומא חרא ואסיקו עלוון וקריבו ניכסין ואסחר עמא למיכול ולמישתי וקמו להון למגחכא בפולחנא נוכריא


Etheridge, John Wesley. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch: With the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum from the Chaldee. London: Longman, 1862.

  • A closer translation of בפולחנא נוכריא would be "foreign rituals" rather than "strange service". בפולחנא נוכריא or עבודה זרה in Hebrew is a euphemism for idolatry in general. The use of "strange" here could mislead if misunderstood as "weird" rather than as "other" or "foreign" as in "Howdy stranger".
    – user17080
    Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 21:45
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim—It’s Etheridge’s translation, not mine. Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 22:39

From classic.net.bible.org I find this: Exodus 32:6 NET © So they got up early on the next day and offered up burnt offerings and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eatemphasized text and drink, 1 and they rose up to play. 2

1 tn The second infinitive is an infinitive absolute. The first is an infinitive construct with a lamed (ל) preposition, expressing the purpose of their sitting down. The infinitive absolute that follows cannot take the preposition, but with the conjunction follows the force of the form before it (see GKC 340 §113.e). 2 tn The form is לְצַחֵק (lÿtsakheq), a Piel infinitive construct, giving the purpose of their rising up after the festal meal. On the surface it would seem that with the festival there would be singing and dancing, so that the people were celebrating even though they did not know the reason. W. C. Kaiser says the word means “drunken immoral orgies and sexual play” (“Exodus,” EBC 2:478). That is quite an assumption for this word, but is reflected in some recent English versions (e.g., NCV “got up and sinned sexually”; TEV “an orgy of drinking and sex”). The word means “to play, trifle.” It can have other meanings, depending on its contexts. It is used of Lot when he warned his sons-in-law and appeared as one who “mocked” them; it is also used of Ishmael “playing” with Isaac, which Paul interprets as mocking; it is used of Isaac “playing” with his wife in a manner that revealed to Abimelech that they were not brother and sister, and it is used by Potiphar’s wife to say that her husband brought this slave Joseph in to “mock” them. The most that can be gathered from these is that it is playful teasing, serious mocking, or playful caresses. It might fit with wild orgies, but there is no indication of that in this passage, and the word does not mean it. The fact that they were festive and playing before an idol was sufficient.

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