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The Golden Calf & Aaron's Sin

Did God Blot Aaron's Name From His Book?

Bob's Bible Study
Series New International Version

Created July 1997

Before we begin this study let us review the two parallel accounts: Exodus 32:1-35 and Deuteronomy 9:8-21.

Exodus 32:1-35 (Note: For several days now, Moses has been up on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments.)

1. When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." 2. Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." 3. So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." 5. When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD." 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.

7. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' 9. "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. 10. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."

11. But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. "O LORD," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12. Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'" 14. Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

15. Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17. When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, "There is the sound of war in the camp." 18. Moses replied: "It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear."

19. When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. 21. He said to Aaron, "What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?" 22. "Do not be angry, my lord," Aaron answered. "You know how prone these people are to evil. 23. They said to me, 'Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.' 24. 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!" 25. Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.

26. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me." And all the Levites rallied to him. 27. Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.'" 28. The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29. Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day."

30. The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." 31. So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32. But now, please forgive their sin-- but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." 33. The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin." 35. And the LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

Deuteronomy 9:8-21

8. At Horeb you aroused the LORD's wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you.

9. When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water. 10. The LORD gave me two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments the LORD proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly.

11. At the end of the forty days and forty nights, the LORD gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant. 12. Then the LORD told me, "Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made a cast idol for themselves." 13. And the LORD said to me, "I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! 14. Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they."

15. So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands. 16. When I looked, I saw that you had sinned against the LORD your God; you had made for yourselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you.

17. So I took the two tablets and threw them out of my hands, breaking them to pieces before your eyes.

18. Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD's sight and so provoking him to anger. 19. I feared the anger and wrath of the LORD, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the LORD listened to me. 20. And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too. 21. Also I took that sinful thing of yours, the calf you had made, and burned it in the fire. Then I crushed it and ground it to powder as fine as dust and threw the dust into a stream that flowed down the mountain.

Now let's look at some of my notes.

Moses describes God's countenance, because of the peoples' idolatry, as “fierce anger” (Exodus 32:12), and, “anger and wrath” (Deuteronomy 9:19). God became so angry, He instructed Moses, “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation”1 (Exodus 32:10). In Deuteronomy, Moses records, “let me alone, that I may destroy them (The King James Verdion add the phrase: "and blot their name"2) from under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 9:14)

Scofield's note (The New Scofield Reference Bible, C.I. Scofield, D.D., c 1967, New York, Oxford University Press, page 114.) on God's threat of destruction reads like this:

(Exodus 32:10) God was testing Moses by offering to replace Israel with a new nation descending from Moses. Theologically, a test of this kind must be considered in light of the sovereign will of God that underlies all human decision. For Moses, this test was real, even though the proposed destruction of Israel was not in God's plan, as shown by the Abrahamic Covenant and such promises as Genesis 49:10 to Judah. Likewise Christ in the Gospels offered Himself as king to Israel even though His rejection and His death on the cross, according to "God's set purpose and foreknowledge" (Acts 2:23), had to precede the glorious kingdom.

During this study, I will assume that on those occasions the Scriptures mention “blotting out names from His Book” that this is referring to God's blotting out names from His Book of Life. (Revelation 20:12, among others)

And so we introduce our study today. In a discussion I was having with a young man at work, he mentioned, that God blotted Aaron’s name out of the Book of Life. He referred to Deuteronomy’s account for a Scripture reference. Please take some time to read over the following notes. Even if he and I do not agree, I have enjoyed this study, and consider the boy to be a good Christian young friend.

For the moment, it seems God was wanting to destroy all the Hebrew people including Aaron and rebuild a nation from Moses. And, because He is God, He could have done this very thing.

Believing this declaration from God to be for real, Moses did not "Let God alone" as God had instructed him! For fear of "the anger and wrath of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 9:19), Moses quickly acts on behalf of his people. He "sought the favor of the Lord" (Exodus 32:11) in intercessory prayer. "I fell prostrate before the Lord; ... I ate no bread and drank no water" (Deuteronomy 9:18)./p>

Moses' steps include:

1. Re-focusing. In Exodus 32:26, he asked, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me."

2. Purification. Three thousand were slain (Exodus 32:27-28).

3. Consecration. Exodus 32:29, "Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day." While consecration is used along with purification in verses 28 & 29, consecration will have a much deeper meaning when the tabernacle, its contents, Aaron and his sons are consecrated (see Exodus 40:9-16 & Leviticus 8). Some scholars suggest that the consecration of Aaron, his sons, the tabernacle and its contents occurred later that year.

4. Intercession. In his interceding for his people, Moses pleads to God that He will turn away from His fierce wrath (Exodus 32:12). See Exodus 32:30-35 and Deuteronomy 9:18-20. Exodus 32:14 reads, "Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened." So, God changed His mind and did not destroy all the people, only 3.000. In Deuteronomy 11, God promises several blessings to the Hebrew people if they would but obey Him. These blessings were renewed although God had stated earlier to Moses "whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book" (Exodus 32:33). Forgiveness is evident here.

Actually, God had no need to change His mind. In His infinite wisdom, He knew all along what He would do in regards to the Hebrew people, Aaron, and Moses. His plan for the Hebrew people prevented their complete destruction, as mentioned in Scofield's note (footnote #1).

5. Restoration. Exodus 33:1-6, the "land flowing with milk and honey" (verse 3) are remembered. God remembered His promise to Abraham regarding the land of promise (verse 1).

From the verses in Exodus 32:14 and 33:1-6, the threat of destroying the Hebrews and blotting them out of the book was apparently forgotten. They were disciplined and placed again on their journey. Aaron was not among those slain. It would be approximately 40 additional years before Aaron would die. Thompson's Chain Reference Bible dates the golden calf worship 1491, and Aaron's death 1453, (Frank Charles Thompson, D.D., E.D., copyright 1964, B. B. Kirkbride Company, Inc.)

Further evidence of Aaron's forgiveness of the golden calf incident. Aaron was instituted as the High Priest over the Tabernacle. His sons were to serve as priests under him (Leviticus 8). Additionally, Aaron’s rod was one of the three items to be placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. (For the listing of the items placed inside the Ark, see Hebrews 9:4. For the story of Aaron’s rod, see Numbers 17:1- 11. As you may recall, “Aaron’s rod” had “budded to prove that Aaron was God’s chosen.” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, page 98, Herbert Lockyer, Sr., Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, copyright 1986. Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible dates the budding of Aaron’s rod 1471 B.C., approximately twenty years after the golden calf incident.

Also consider the Aaronic benediction in Numbers 6:22-27. “The LORD said to Moses, Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace. So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

All of these events occurred some time after the golden calf incident. And, to me, they show a wonderful picture of God’s forgiveness.

Additionally, consider the following Scripture reference. Ps 106:19-23; 19. At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal. 20. They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass. 21. They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, 22. miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23. So he (God) said he would destroy them (“them” included Aaron)--had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.

Other Occurrences of the usage of "blotting out names"

In Deuteronomy 29, Moses presents the people before the Lord to enter into His covenant (verses 1, 2, 9, 10, 14, 15). To emphasize God's great wrath on the one who flatters himself in his wickedness, Moses says, "The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. (Deuteronomy 29:20)

When studying and understanding the Scriptures, the Bible student should be watchful as to who is speaking and what is said. In Deuteronomy 9:14; 29:20; and 2 Kings 14:27, it is said that "the Lord will blot out his (or their) name(s) from under heaven." It is not said in these verses that God will blot out their names from His book, as in the believer's removal from the promise of Heaven. It is said that their names will be blotted out "from under heaven", as in their physical removal from this earth, their destruction. This, God did to three thousand that day (Exodus 32:27-28).

It is Moses, in his prayer of intercession, who says, God if you do not forgive them, "But now, please forgive their sin-- but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." (Exodus 32:32). The Lord does reply, "The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book." (verse 33). Still, the record shows He forgave (Exodus 32:14; Deuteronomy 9:19, 20), rather than blot their names out of His book. Making the people drink the water where Moses scattered the gold dust (Exodus 32:20), slaying the three thousand (verses 32:27-28), and sending a plague upon the people (verse 35) were the only acts of punishment recorded as a result of this sin. The nations continual cycle of falling into idolatry eventually led to Babylonian captivity (Acts 7:43, and others)

What God desires to do to the repentant person is to blot out his iniquity! See Psalms 51:1, 9. Should He blot out of His book all who have sinned against Him, no one in the Bible would remain in the Book except Jesus Christ! And we certainly would not remain in the Book, either! See Psalms 14:1, 3; Romans 3:10-12, 23; Hebrews 9:22; Romans 6:23.

A final occurrence of the phrase "blotting names out": He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Revelations 3:5).

And who are those who "overcome?" Consider these closing references:

I John 5:4-5 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

I John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Rev 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Certainly the believer can have the assurance that our names will not be blotted out because of our sins. But because we have committed our life to Christ is not a license for reckless living. See Romans 6:1-13.

1. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2. By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3. Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4. We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5. If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. 6. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - 7. because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

8. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. 9. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. 10. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.

11. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 17. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to live; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.

Because we are saved, we learn to yield ourselves to God. Also see Romans 12:1-2. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

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May God speak to your heart! Bob Conar