15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. 16The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. 17When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, ‘There is a noise of war in the camp.’ 18But he said,
‘It is not the sound made by victors,
or the sound made by losers;
it is the sound of revellers that I hear.’
19As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.
21 Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?’ 22And Aaron said, ‘Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. 23They said to me, “Make us gods, who shall go before us; 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.” 24So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off ”; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!’
25 When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), 26then 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. 27He said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbour.” ’ 28The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 29Moses said, ‘Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.’
30 On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ 31So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.’ 33But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.’
Featured Image: Watercolor detail of James Tissot, “The Golden Calf,” (1896-1900). Public Domain.