“Unit 11: Day 3, Exodus 32,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 11: Day 3,” Old Testament Study Guide
While Moses was on Mount Sinai speaking with the Lord, the children of Israel made a golden calf and began worshipping it. The Lord told Moses that those who didn’t repent would be destroyed. Moses descended the mountain and destroyed the stone tablets he had received from the Lord as well as the golden calf. Three thousand rebellious Israelites were also killed. Moses acted as a mediator between the Lord and the people.
After the Lord called Moses to deliver the Israelites from bondage, the Israelites had several experiences that demonstrated the Lord’s power and His love for them, such as the plagues on the Egyptians, the parting of the Red Sea, and the protective pillar of fire.
What effect do you think these experiences should have had on the Israelites’ desire to serve and worship God?
Moses had spent 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai, and the people began to wonder what had happened to him. Read Exodus 32:1–6, looking for what the Israelites did in Moses’s absence. It may be helpful to know that the phrase “rose up to play” in verse 6 implies that they became unruly, riotous, and immoral.
During this time, what did the children of Israel choose to worship instead of the Lord?
Read Exodus 32:7–8, and ponder why you think the Israelites “turned aside quickly” and began worshipping a golden calf when they did not see Moses coming down from the mountain.
Consider the following insight:
“Growing impatient and hopeless concerning Moses’ return, the Israelites desired divine images to ‘go before’ them (Ex. 32:1). The idea of a calf may have arisen from their memory of some gods in Egypt, such as the Hathor cow and the Apis bull. Ironically, after Aaron had fashioned the ‘molten calf’ (Ex. 32:3–4), he sought to preserve the idea that it was a ‘feast to the Lord’ (Ex. 32:5) that they would celebrate by their offerings, their eating and drinking, and their ‘play’ before the calf. …
“They corrupted (Heb., lit., ‘debased’) themselves through idolatrous worship, whereas worship of the true God would exalt them. Similar effects come still from certain worldly acts, in contrast to the value from true heavenly ordinances.
“The Israelites did not make the golden calf in ignorance but in ‘mischief’ (Ex. 32:22), for they had been taught the Ten Commandments and had promised to do ‘all the words which the Lord hath said’ (Ex. 20; 24:3–4)” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament , 119).
Even though the Israelites had recently made a covenant to keep the Lord’s commandments, they soon violated that covenant by disobeying the commandments and focusing their worshipful attention and devotion on something other than the Lord—usually the Egyptian gods. For Moses, it was a far greater challenge to get Egypt out of Israel than it was to get Israel out of Egypt.
According to verse 7, what was the result of the Israelites turning aside quickly from the Lord? (The phrase “corrupted themselves” implies moral decay and ruin.) An important principle we learn from these verses is by turning aside from the Lord and His commandments, we corrupt ourselves. You might consider writing this truth in the margin of your scriptures next to Exodus 32:7–8.
For us, turning aside from the Lord can include worshipping something besides Him. Consider ways in which you have seen others turn aside from the Lord. Take a moment to ponder what influences in your own life try to move you away from God or draw your attention and devotion toward something other than Him.
President Spencer W. Kimball warned of what can sometimes draw people’s attention and devotion away from God:
“Modern idols or false gods can take such forms as clothes, homes, businesses, machines, automobiles, pleasure boats, and numerous other material deflectors from the path to godhood. What difference does it make that the item concerned is not shaped like an idol? …
“Intangible things make just as ready gods. Degrees and letters and titles can become idols. …
“Many worship the hunt, the fishing trip, the vacation, the weekend picnics and outings. Others have as their idols the games of sport, baseball, football, the bullfight, or golf. These pursuits more often than not interfere with the worship of the Lord and with giving service to the building up of the kingdom of God. To the participants this emphasis may not seem serious, yet it indicates where their allegiance and loyalty are.
“Still another image men worship is that of power and prestige. Many will trample underfoot the spiritual and often ethical values in their climb to success” (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 40–41).
- Complete the following assignments in your scripture study journal:
In addition to what President Kimball mentioned, what do many people today turn their attention and devotion toward instead of the Savior? List a few examples.
Select two of the items President Kimball mentioned or that you listed and explain how those things or activities could interfere with your worship of the Lord.
- Take a moment to ponder where you may be directing your attention and devotion. In your scripture study journal, record your thoughts about what you can do to not allow what President Kimball called “deflectors from the path to godhood” to distract you and how you can better focus your life on the Savior.
In the blank space on line 9 of the “Moses’s and Israel’s Experiences with Jehovah at Mount Sinai” diagram in the Exodus 17–19 lesson (Unit 10: Day 3), write: Israel breaks the covenant.
Exodus 32:9–14 contains the record of a conversation between the Lord and Moses about the rebellious Israelites. These verses can be confusing because of what they say about the Lord. Read Exodus 32:14, looking for words or phrases that may cause confusion about the character of God.
The Prophet Joseph Smith changed this verse in his inspired translation of the Bible to read as follows: “And the Lord said unto Moses, If they will repent of the evil which they have done, I will spare them, and turn away my fierce wrath; but, behold, thou shalt execute judgment upon all that will not repent of this evil this day. Therefore, see thou do this thing that I have commanded thee, or I will execute all that which I had thought to do unto my people” (Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 32:14 [in the Bible appendix]).
The Lord does not repent; He has no need to. The change made to Exodus 32:14 in the Joseph Smith Translation is in harmony with that doctrine. Further, this change by the Prophet corresponds to the original Hebrew, which conveys the idea of being sorry or of consoling oneself, indicating the Lord was frustrated with these people, but He did not need to repent of any wrongdoing.
In the verse above, mark the answers to the following questions:
According to the additional information given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, what did the children of Israel need to do?
What did Moses need to do?
What was the consequence for the Israelites if they chose to repent?
What was the consequence if they did not choose to repent?
The example of Aaron serves as a good illustration of God’s willingness to forgive the repentant. Aaron’s involvement with the golden calf was very serious, yet, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “The mercy of God is so personalized. Aaron’s behavior in the golden calf episode was not his finest hour, yet later a priesthood was named after him. … There are so many ways in which God demonstrates His long-suffering, mercy, and generosity, often by providing us with the necessary experiences of record, opportunities to learn fundamental spiritual truths for ourselves” (Whom the Lord Loveth: The Journey of Discipleship , 79).
Read Exodus 32:15–20, looking for what Moses did because the Israelites had turned aside from the Lord so quickly and worshipped the golden calf.
What happened to the stone tablets that Moses had brought down from Mount Sinai?
What did Moses do with the golden calf?
What were those who wanted to be on the Lord’s side supposed to do?
Consider writing the following principle in the margin next to verse 26: As we stand with the Lord’s prophet, we show that we are on the Lord’s side.
Why might standing next to the prophet Moses have indicated that the Levites were on the Lord’s side? Why is it important to show that we are on the Lord’s side?
- Imagine you are one of the Levites who chose to stand with Moses and you have a friend who has chosen not to follow Moses. Using what you know about following the prophets and Jesus Christ, write your friend a letter in your scripture study journal, explaining why it is important to demonstrate to the Lord and others that we are on the Lord’s side. Include possible blessings we may receive from hearkening to the words of the prophets.
Take a minute to ponder whether there is anything you feel you can do to better stand with the Lord’s prophet. If so, make a goal to do it.
Read Exodus 32:27–29 to learn what happened to those who continued to rebel against the Lord and not stand with Moses.
The Lord told Moses that he would be “in the similitude” of the Savior (see Moses 1:6), which means that Moses would do things that would resemble things the Savior would do. What Moses did can teach us more about the Savior. As you read the remainder of Exodus 32, think about how Moses might resemble the Savior.
Read Exodus 32:30–32, looking for what Moses offered to do for the people’s sin. (Moses was acting as a mediator—someone who works to bring two opposing people or groups to an agreement.)
Why do you think Moses would offer to suffer for the Israelites’ sin when he was innocent? How is this similar to what Jesus Christ offered to do for all of Heavenly Father’s children? Consider writing the following truth next to verse 30: Jesus Christ is our Mediator with the Father.
In the blank space on line 10 of the “Moses’s and Israel’s Experiences with Jehovah at Mount Sinai” diagram, write: Moses pleads for the people.
Read Exodus 32:33, looking for how the Lord responded to Moses’s offer in behalf of the people.
What did the Lord tell Moses about those who sinned against Him?
When we repent, the Savior’s Atonement blots out, or erases, our sins and heals us of their effects. When we choose not to repent, we remain unworthy to dwell with God. Consider writing the following doctrine in your scriptures next to verse 33: Jesus Christ took our sins upon Him.
- If you have a hymnbook, open it to “I Stand All Amazed” (Hymns, no. 193) and silently read the words of this hymn. If you cannot read the words to the hymn, ponder how great the Savior’s love must be that He was willing to suffer for your sins. After you have read through this hymn or pondered on the Savior’s love, write in your scripture study journal your feelings about what Jesus Christ has done for you.
In Exodus 32:34–35 we learn that while many of the people chose to repent and turn back to the Lord after worshipping the golden calf, they still had to endure many of the consequences of their actions.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Exodus 32 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: