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In Exodus 32:24 Aaron says to Moses:

So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

it seems reasonable that this is a lie because later it is written:

And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

But, either way, Aaron made the calf, just like I might be said to make a smoothie by throwing a bunch of fruit in a blender. But the scripture doesn't say that Aaron formed the calf. (I'd imagine that would take some imagination, skill and casting and he probably couldn't have done it alone)

So, is there a sense that the calf actually is a diabolical manifestation or is there something hidden in the text that doesn't really need to be said out loud that Aaron was wholly responsible for the crafting of the calf?

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    Perhaps Aaaron has just omitted a stage. He had the gold crammed into a mould and threw that into the fire. Mar 24, 2023 at 13:01

5 Answers 5

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The Pulpit commentary puts this succinctly in its comments on Ex 32:24 -

Verse 24. - There came out this calf. Aaron speaks as if he had prepared no mould, but simply thrown the gold into the hot furnace, from which there issued forth, to his surprise, the golden calf. This was not only a suppressio veri, but a suggestio falsi. Having no even plausible defence to make, he is driven to the weakest of subterfuges.

Thus, Aaron's statement is demonstrably false. The process involved vastly more steps that Aaron's statement of facts such as:

  • caving an original
  • making the outer casts
  • preparing a crucible
  • preparing supports for the equipment to be cast
  • making a furnace
  • sorting the raw materials
  • melting the gold
  • pouring the melt
  • breaking the mold
  • polishing the finished product
  • mounting it on a pedestal
  • etc

There is no question that Aaron lied to divert culpability. Aaron also lied when he said to the people (V4):

He took the gold from their hands, and with an engraving tool he fashioned it into a molten calf. And they said, “These, O Israel, are your gods, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!

According to Deut 9:20, Aaron's many sins, including lying, resulted in God's wrath:

The LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I also prayed for Aaron.

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  • The lie is so obvious that no comment was necessary.
    – EvilSnack
    Mar 25, 2023 at 19:54
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[Exodus 32] clearly explains Aaron (“Aharon”, אַהֲרֹן) was willing to help mold the calf statue, as restated in verse 35 : (הָ-עֵ֔גֶל) “the-calf” (אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אַהֲרֹן) “that Aharon made”.

Did Aaron lie about helping make the calf statue? - No. - Aaron simply casts blame on the (אֵשׁ) “fire” in verse 24 for causing the calf statue’s existence.

“Aaron’s agreeing, not protesting, he helped a potential sin become an actual sin, so that the person’s sin who fashioned the gold into the shape of a calf is attributable to Aaron. Aaron’s contribution in deed was his throwing the gold into the fire. He himself describes the “this calf emerged,” as a direct consequence of his throwing the gold into the fire (verse 24).” - **Sforno**, Commentary on [Shemot 32], https://www.sefaria.org/Exodus.32.1?lang=bi&aliyot=0
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An answer from Jewish tradition in Vayikra Rabbah 10 and repeated by Rashi says that Aaron delayed at every step of the process, hoping that Moses would return before the deed was done. A modern Jewish commentary adds this, in which Aaron did not actually intend to create a Bull-Calf idol. It concludes that Aaron told the truth, from his perspective, about how the idol was created.

Numbly, Aaron offers to melt gold for the rebels and see what happens. Maybe the God of Moses will manifest again. Or maybe there will be a sign. When the fire cools, the amorphous mass of gold looks vaguely like a calf. If he squints, Aaron sees the four legs, the head, the body. The second commandment forbids him from making a metal image from scratch, but this crude calf seems to have coalesced by magic. Someone hands Aaron a stylus, a tool taken from an Egyptian magician the night before the exodus. Aaron discovers he can easily make the mass of gold look even more like a calf. And Aaron’s golden calf works like magic. The people take heart again. Later, when Moses questions Aaron, he tells the truth: “I flung it into the fire, and out came this bull-calf.” It was magic.

Personally I do not find this explanation convincing. For purposes of the OP, however, we can say that it is NOT clear from the text that Aaron was lying.

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Uncertainty surrounds whether Aaron was lying, but if he had committed an unforgivable sin, could he have been anointed as high priest (Exodus 40:13)? Additionally, it is unclear whether God prioritized Aaron's sin of disobedience over his involvement in the creation of the golden calf, as the latter is not mentioned in the account of Aaron's death (Numbers 20:23-24)

23 At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron,

24 “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. (NIV)

The use of a golden calf as an object of worship may have been influenced by the neighboring cultures of the ancient Near East, which also used such images in their religious practices. However, the specific significance and meaning of the golden calf may have varied across different cultures and time periods. Though the golden calf was made, but it was the Lord Aaron worshipped;

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” (Exo 32:5 NIV)

Jeroboam was undoubtedly repeating the same mistake, likely due to their ignorance rather than a deliberate attempt to worship an idol.

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But the scripture doesn't say that Aaron formed the calf. (I'd imagine that would take some imagination, skill and casting and he probably couldn't have done it alone)

Exodus 32:4 says specifically that Aaron

took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool.

(NIV; emphasis added)

That's clearly not a full account of the work that went into the creation of the calf, and it does not necessarily preclude others' participation, but as far as I'm concerned, it does say that Aaron formed it. And in any case, it certainly seems to contradict the story Aaron told to Moses.

So, is there a sense that the calf actually is a diabolical manifestation

I see nothing to suggest any kind of supernatural contribution to the physical formation of the calf. That does seem to be what Aaron was trying to sell Moses on, though.

or is there something hidden in the text that doesn't really need to be said out loud that Aaron was wholly responsible for the crafting of the calf?

As already discussed, the text does attribute to Aaron at least some artisanal work in the creation of the calf. The text suggests to me that he did all the work himself, but I don't think that's central. I take the point of including that detail to be specifically to contrast with Aaron's story to Moses. That is, yes, it is clear that Aaron's story was a lie.

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