Ugh! This story just continues to get more and more unbelievable. If there is an invincible god that can bring the most powerful nation in the world to its knees and drown entire armies on a whim, you don’t go out of your way to piss him off! And yet, that is precisely what we see from the Israelites. It’s reasons like this that makes you wonder why God chose the offspring of Isaac to be his chosen people!
Though, this may not actually be as bad as pop culture makes it out to be. While the movie has Israelites trying to create a new god, the bible doesn’t specifically say that. It can be argued that the they were simply making a manifestation of Yahweh. This is understandable, since it’s difficult to have faith in a faceless entity living in the clouds. If this is the case, the golden calf is not meant to be a new god, but a -symbol- of their god. One could easily draw an allusion to the Christian cross, paintings of God, or any other physical manifestation of a holy symbol. Also, most believers tend to merge the two ascents up the mountain into a single story, by doing this, it means that Moses has yet to return to the camp with the Ten Commandments, which means that God has not yet informed them that idolatry is wrong, which means it’s once again God’s fault for not getting his commandments to his people soon enough.
Note that in the movie, Aaron is depicted as being forced to build and worship the golden calf, but in the bible, Aaron is the one who tells the Israelites to give him their gold and has the idea for the calf. This means Aaron is entirely instrumental in their blasphemy, so I’m sure he’ll turn out to be a wonderful high priest of Yahweh! However, people point to the wording of Exodus 32:4, where Aaron says, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt (NIV)” Because he says “gods”, they interpret this to mean that Aaron is being derisive, implying that the golden calf is a false god. However, this hinges on the translation of the word “gods”.
The original word is elohim, the same word used to identify Yahweh in many places throughout the bible. However, elohim is a plurale tantum, meaning it’s always plural. “Scissors” is an English equivalent. With plurale tantum words you must explicitly include a quantity in the sentence to avoid confusion. “I bought a pair of scissors,” and, “I bought five pairs of scissors,” are noticeably different, but, “I bought scissors,” confusingly matches both cases. Applying this to Exodus 32:4, we must look for words that imply plurality if we want to translate to “gods”, but as far as I can tell, there are only singular words in the passage, so the proper translation should be “god”. However, most translations of the bible use “gods,” and these professionals know their Biblical Hebrew better than I. Then again, the New American Standard Bible does translate to “god”. Could this be a case of the translators putting Aaron’s reputation above honesty? I’d like to see their justification.