Besides being an idol, it seems that there must have been some special significance to the “molten calf” that Aaron made and fashioned. What was it? And why when it was a “calf” did the people say “These be thy gods, O Israel,” speaking of it in the plural?
1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 32:1–4)
What we need to know first about the “molten calf” is that it was actually an idol associated with Assyria’s god, and not so much an Egyptian idol as is some times thought.
We can see this in a few different ways, but for right now the easiest is to take note of what is said later on in Psalm 106.
19 They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.
20 Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. (Psalm 106:19–20)
The “calf” therefore was the calf of “an ox.” And the fact is that the image of Assyria’s god has been that of an ox right from the beginning. Hence the “molten calf” was an idol directly associated with Assyria.
Now this makes the “molten calf” to be highly significant, especially in view of what Assyria is to Satan. For Assyria is key to his plans for retaining possession of the earth, as well as key when it comes to him succeeding with the outworking of his plan of evil on this earth. Consequently this made Israel’s sin in connection with the “molten calf” to be “so great a sin” and the “great sin” that Moses said it was.
For very simply put the fact of the matter is this: Once Aaron had (1) received the gold from the people and “had made it a molten calf”; and (2) had “fashioned it with a graving tool” into “the similitude of an ox”; and (3) the people said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt”; Israel actually began the process of becoming Satan’s spiritual captives all over again. But what’s more, they also began the process whereby Satan could work to lawfully take them captive as a nation, (along with their promised land), and in doing so work to neutralize God’s use of them to repossess the earth and establish His kingdom on it.
Wherefore the “molten calf” was not just any old idol. But since it was directly associated with Assyria’s god, it was directly connected to the Adversary himself. And so when Israel assigned their deliverance from Egypt to it, they more or less extended their hand to the Adversary and entered into fellowship with him.
Now it is because “the molten image” was a “calf,” and it came forth from the fire, that the people said, “These be thy gods, O Israel,” speaking of it in the plural.
For being the “calf” of an ox it was deemed to have been given birth in their midst by its ‘parent ox,’ i.e. the god of Assyria. Hence in recognizing both the “calf” and its parent god, the people said “These be thy gods, O Israel.”
Moreover with it being a “calf” that the parent god had given birth to in their midst, it was deemed not only to have led Israel out from their servitude and sojourning in Egypt, but it was also deemed that it would now lead them to the land of the god of their fathers who had originally begat them.
Now in view of all of this, see if you can figure out some other things about the “molten calf.” For example: (1) Why did Moses destroy it in the manner described in Exodus 32:20? And (2) Why later on in Israel’s history did Jeroboam make “two calves of gold,” as is related in I Kings 12? (Hint: Take note of where he put them.) And (3) In Nehemiah 9:18 when the Levites recount the time when Israel originally made the “molten calf,” why do they change the word “gods” to “God” and say that the people said, “This is thy God (singular and capitalized) that brought thee up out of Egypt”?
– K.R. Blades