Exodus 20:4-5, One Calf Or Two? Part II of II

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image .. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.

//Yesterday, I introduced two places in scripture where golden calves (young bulls) were set up for cultic worship in Israel. One was by the first Hebrew priest, Aaron, and the other was by king Jeroboam. Both announced that “these are the gods which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”

Before continuing the story, let’s be clear about something. What Aaron did, and what Jeroboam did, is in direct conflict with the Ten Commandments. See today’s verse. Thou shalt not make golden calves and worship them.

After the northern kingdom of Israel split off from the southern kingdom of Judah, Jeroboam became the first northern king. It was then, in the tenth century BC, that he set up the golden bulls for worship. The reason he gave was that it’s inconvenient for northerners to travel down to Jerusalem to worship. So, he says, you can worship one of the bulls instead.

But all of this happened before the story of Moses and Aaron was written! The story of the golden calf created by Aaron was penned in response to Jeroboam’s cultic centers! E’s author, perceiving King Jeroboam as a threat, effectively defamed him by portraying his golden calves as a most grievous sin, by having Aaron do exactly the same thing, and then condemning Aaron for his action.

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