Did God punish Aaron for making the golden calf?

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By BibleAsk Team


The story of the golden calf and Aaron’s role in its creation is found in Exodus 32. The incident occurs while Moses is on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God. The Israelites grow impatient in Moses’ absence and ask Aaron to make them a god to worship. Aaron complies by collecting gold from the people and fashioning a golden calf, which the Israelites proceed to worship and offer sacrifices to.

Aaron’s Involvement

Exodus 32:1-4 (NKJV) recounts the events of the golden calf incident:

“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'”

God’s Response

When God sees the idolatry of the Israelites, He is angry and tells Moses that He will destroy the people and make a great nation from Moses instead. However, Moses intercedes on behalf of the people, pleading with God to relent from His anger. Exodus 32:10-14 (NKJV) records Moses’ intercession:

“Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: ‘Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, “He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.” So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.”

Aaron’s Accountability

Aaron faces accountability for his role in the golden calf incident. When Moses returns from the mountain and confronts Aaron about the idolatry, Aaron attempts to justify his actions, but Moses rebukes him. Exodus 32:21-24 (NKJV) records their exchange:

“And Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?’ So Aaron said, ‘Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, “Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” And I said to them, “Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.” So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.'”

Consequences for the People

Despite Moses’ intercession, there are still consequences for the people’s idolatry. Exodus 32:25-29 (NKJV) records the judgment that follows:

“Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.”‘ So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, ‘Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.'”

Aaron’s Fate

Aaron is not spared from accountability for his role in the golden calf incident. Before God punishes the Israelites for their sin, He gives them first a chance to repent and mend their ways. For “Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, ‘Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered around him” (Exodus 32:26). Moses sets himself at “the gate of the camp” and urges the faithful to join him in crushing the rebellion. So, the sons of Levi do according to the word of Moses (verse 28).

Aaron as one of the sons of Levi, immediately and openly sides with God and Moses, His prophet. Aaron repents of his weakness and submission to the demands of the people. Therefore, God forgives him for his sin. This is a testimony that when people forsake their sinful ways, God forgives them and cleanses them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Also, God accepts the intercessions of Moses on behalf of the camp. For Moses says: “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin” (Exodus 32:30). The intercession and mediation of Moses resemble those of Christ our high priest in the heavenly temple on behalf of the sinners (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16).

But Aaron’s compromising spirit brings grief to his heart as it becomes the seed for the later on rebellion of two of his sons and causes their death. Nadab and Abihu bring a strange fire before God (Leviticus 10:1), which is not from the altar of burnt offering (Leviticus 16:12,13) that God had kindled. This is a clear disobedient act from their side and they had no excuse for doing it. “So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (verse 2).

During the wilderness wanderings, although Aaron serves the Lord with all his heart, he dies in the wilderness without entering the promised land for his lack of faith (Numbers 20:28,29).

Conclusion

    In conclusion, although Aaron repents from his sin in making the golden calf, he still faces accountability and rebuke from Moses. The incident serves as a reminder of the dangers of idolatry and the importance of remaining faithful to God’s commands. This story also shows God’s great mercy and forgiveness to those that repent of their sins.

    In His service,
    BibleAsk Team

    Categories God

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