free hit counter
free web counter

.To return to work page.


Executions at the golden calf

Query for the Month


November 2010

Next up-date: December 1st 2010 (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!

Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download for free and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light through Darkness" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read! 

(when you get to the site just click "cancel" and it will let you in.  Then click "order" to obtain a copy. )

In the meantime, try this site.    And here's one where you can read it online.


Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.

Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.


Exodus 32:

26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the LORD'S side?  Let him come to me”. 

And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour”.   

28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 29 For Moses had said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that He may bestow upon you a blessing this day”.    

Why did God use men with swords to execute judgment at the golden calf incident?    



On the surface this query seems to be a very difficult one when viewed in the light of God’s character, for it is a very harsh judgment.  But that is only if we glance at it. If we look more carefully at every word before and after our query texts, we shall get an entirely different view.

First of all, Moses was VERY angry when he came down the mountain and found the people worshipping in the pagan way.  His actions were not those of a rational or loving person.  “And it came to pass, as soon as he came near to the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' ANGER WAXED HOT, and he cast the tables out of his hands [those which God had made and written on!], and broke them beneath the mount.  And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strowed [spread] it upon the water, and MADE THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL DRINK OF IT”.  Exodus 32:19-20.

With that in mind let’s look at what happened.  First he separated the people into three groups when he called out and asked who was on the LORD’s side.  All the guilty, but repentant ones, soon gathered to him, and then it was found that there was a family most of whom had not joined in the festivities.  They were the majority of the tribe of Levi, his own tribe and, being innocent, they did not need to repent. The whole tribe was not guiltless, of course, because Aaron the Levite had led the worship!  However, he and most of those of his tribe who had joined in the festivities were now repentant and stood among that group.

There was however, another sizeable group of men and women, some of whom were Levites, who still thought that they had done a reasonable thing in the circumstances (Moses had disappeared for six weeks), and they wanted to see a god who would sustain them.  They refused to show any contrition for their actions.  

Then it was that Moses claimed that the LORD had commanded the abstaining ones of Levi to kill their sons, their daughters and their friends and neighbours!! More than that, he claimed that this would be an act of consecration which the LORD would bless mightily!!!  He said, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion [wife?], and every man his neighbour”.  This from a God who loves His enemies?  (Matthew 5:44-46.)

Moses claimed this; – but he put his own words into the LORD’s mouth, for this was not true.  So why did he say it? The record is true – it is the statement which is not! (We need to realise that prophets of God are also humans, and as such, sometimes they speak for themselves, and sometimes they speak without thinking.)

It is true that while he was on the mountain with the LORD he had been told about the behaviour of the people, and while close to the LORD he demonstrated a true Christian spirit.

***************(Begin Quote)

Exodus 32:

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get you down; for YOUR people, which YOU brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf [a picture of strength], and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, ‘These be your gods [there were others also, but the young bull was the greatest – see footnote], O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt’.

9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked [proud] people: 10 now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of YOU a great nation”.

***************(End Quote)

Moses had disregarded God’s command to “let Me alone” and stood his ground and argued to His face that He could not do that, for it would not be righteous.  He even told his God to repent of such a thought!  He knew that God is only righteous and NEVER sinful.  (The thought of being made a great nation must have been tempting, but he put it aside and remonstrated with the LORD.)

***************(Begin Quote)

Exodus 32:

11  And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, why does Your wrath wax hot against YOUR people, which YOU [not me] have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

12 “Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?’ Turn from Your fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Your people. [Moses considered such an act would be EVIL!!]

13 [Moses continued] “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You sware by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give to your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever’.”

14 And the LORD repented of the evil which He thought to do to His people.

***************(End Quote)  

Of course, God does not repent as men do, but He did appear to change His mind.  In reality, He never would have done it, for the Ten Commandments are a picture of His character and He cannot kill.  It was all a public test to see how Moses felt, so that the angels who were standing around the LORD could hear his words. Were they surprised when a short time later Moses claimed that God wanted the guilty ones dead!  And that by the hand of their own fathers and brothers!  And even more surprised when others joined him!

But the “innocent” Levites were just as angry as Moses, full of “righteous indignation” (so they supposed), and were as willing to break the Commandments as he had been!  How many in their tribe?  In Numbers chapter one the tribes are shown as having between 32,200 and 70,000 fighting men in their families (the average was about 50,200 of a total of 603, 550), so the group of Levi, who were not numbered at that time, must have been quite large as they stood before Moses. 

It was the “innocent” ones of that number who slaughtered 3,000 unrepentant worshippers of another god!  (Where was the freedom of choice He has given?)

“And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men [plus women and children].  For Moses had said, ‘Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son [and daughter], and upon his brother; that He may bestow upon you a blessing this day’.”  Exodus 32:28-29.

Can you imagine the scene?  Furious men rushing about the camp, from tent to tent, with drawn swords seeking out those they suspected of being idolaters (for how could they know for sure?), and killing them without mercy, and in many cases, without resistance from women and children!  For in those days it was not just the men who were judged guilty, but all their family as well.  

Many years later Joshua demonstrated this very well.

***************(Begin Quote)

Joshua 7:

24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, AND HIS SONS, AND HIS DAUGHTERS, AND HIS OXEN, AND HIS ASSES, AND HIS SHEEP, AND HIS TENT, AND ALL THAT HE HAD: and they brought them to the valley of Achor. 

25 And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us?  THE LORD SHALL TROUBLE YOU THIS DAY”.  And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

***************(End Quote)

But the truth was that Achan had “troubled US”.

It was in this way, at the hands of very angry men, that God was made out to be a monster who punished those who turned away from Him.  But the unrepentant ones had really “troubled” Moses and his tribe!  (Was he influenced by the thought of their becoming a “great nation”?)

We do know that later, while explaining to the people how and where they should worship in the Promised Land, he also mentioned their condition at the time of the calf incident  – they had been doing whatever every man thought was right in his own eyes.

He said,

***************(Begin Quote)

Deuteronomy 12:

1 These are the statutes and judgments, which you shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of your fathers gives you to possess it, all the days that you live upon the earth. 

2 You shall utterly destroy ALL THE PLACES, wherein the nations which you shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: 3 and you shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and you shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place [there is no mention of them harming the people].   

4 You shall not do so [worship like them] to the LORD your God. 

5 But to the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, even to His habitation shall you seek, and there you shall come: 6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings [of dedication], and your sacrifices [for sins], and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: 7 and there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, wherein the LORD your God has blessed you.

8 You shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.

***************(End Quote) 

Moreover, later when David wanted to build a temple for the LORD, he was refused.  He explained why to his son one day, “And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the LORD my God: but the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed blood abundantly, and have made great wars: you shall not build a house to My name [character], because you have shed much blood upon the earth in My sight.  Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days.  He shall build a house for My name; and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever”.  1 Chronicles 22:7-10.

So God COULD NOT consecrate the Levites because of this bloody deed! 

In the first place, the Ten Commandments which were written on the tables Moses had just smashed forbade any believer to kill – for there it was written, “Thou shalt not kill”.  Exodus 20:13.  In the second, to hurt and destroy is the work of a devil. 

So why did God consecrate the tribe of Levi a little while later?

This is what He did:

***************(Begin Quote)

Numbers 1:

48 For the LORD had spoken to Moses, saying, 49 Only you shall not number the [fighting age men of the] tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel: 50 but you shall appoint the Levites over the Tabernacle of Testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear [carry] the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister to it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle . . .   

Chapter 3:

9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons [who were the priests]: they are wholly given to him out of the children of Israel [as workers in and around the tabernacle] . . .

11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 and I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that opens the matrix [the womb] among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be Mine;

13 because all the firstborn are Mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed to Me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: Mine shall they be: I am the LORD.

***************(End Quote)  

It was centuries later, when He was chastising the priesthood just before the first advent of Christ, that the LORD mentioned why He had done this.  

***************(Begin Quote)

Malachi 2:

4   And you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant might be with Levi, says the LORD of hosts.  5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them [long life and peace] to him for the fear wherewith he feared Me, and was afraid before My name.

 [All priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests – only the descendants of Aaron.]

6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with Me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity . . .

***************(End Quote)

He mentions that the tribe of Levi had “feared” before Him, “iniquity was not found” in their speech, and that they walked “in peace and equity” with Him and “turned many” into the ways of righteousness. 

When did this happen? 

Before He consecrated them!

They were not consecrated for their act of wickedness and murder, but for their repentance!  When their blood-lust wore off and they realised what they had done, they repented bitterly and like many before and after them, they humbled themselves before the LORD.  It was in this condition that they received the blessing.

Like Saul, the fire-breathing Jew, the agent of Satan, who when he met Jesus became Paul the evangelist, the agent of God, they turned from their old way and became models of righteousness to their fellows. 

So the LORD was able to bring a good thing out of an evil one!



If we read the Scriptures in the light of the saving and loving character of God, we will not be led astray into thinking that He sometimes acts in the ways of men.  With that understanding we will always be able to “rightly divide” the word of God.  2 Timothy 2:15.


Note 1:

 ***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 7:

38 This is he [Moses], that was in the church in the wilderness with the Angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively [living] oracles [the Ten Commandments] to give to us: 39 to whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, “Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him”.   41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the [whole] host of heaven [sun, moon and stars]; as it is written in the book of the prophets, “O you house of Israel, have you offered to Me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? 43 Yes, you took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which you made to worship them . . .”   [Amos 5:25-26.]  Back

***************(End Quote)


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.

Next query. To be discussed from December 1st 2010,

Where and why has the custom of “saying” grace arisen?  I cannot find any such thing in the Bible.


Like to E-mail me and give me your thoughts on this subject?

Send in your thought on this current query.

or to add your comment to the next one.

Pose a query for us to look at



To return to Homepage.

Look in the Spiritual "Dictionary"