The Golden Calf

Walter Kay

I was a young child when I heard about the Israelites dancing about the Golden Calf . It did not make sense then and it does not make sense now that a nation of people could witness the miracles of the Exodus, then almost over night worship a statue of a cow. The village idiot has more sense than that. There must be more to it. This paper is an opinion offering a logical common sense explanation.

King Jeroboam And The Golden Calves

After the death of Solomon, Rehoboam became king in Israel. The people asked for tax relief. The king said, "No" and a tax payer's revolt followed. As a result he lost most of his kingdom to Jeroboam the tax rebel's leader. After this there were two separate nations, one called Israel and the other Judah.

Israel King Jehoboam - The son of Nebat
 (1_Kings_11:26-39), "an Ephrathite,"
Samaria
Judah King Reroboam - The son of Solomon. Jerusalem

 

1 Kings 12:26-33

(26) And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

(27) If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.

(28) Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them,

 "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, 0 Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."

(29) And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

(30) And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

(31) And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.

(32) And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made which he had made.

(33) So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense

That is all the Bible says about this event. However the historian Josephus relates the king's speech in more detail.

Josephus: Book 8, Chapter 8, Section 4:

When therefore Jeroboam had built a palace in the city Shechem, he dwelt there. He also built him another at Penuel, a city so called; and now the Feast of Tabernacles was approaching in a little time, Jeroboam considered, if he should permit the multitude to go to worship God at Jerusalem, and there to celebrate the festival, they would probably repent of what they had done, and be enticed by the temple, and by the worship of God there performed, and would leave him, and return to their first king; and if so, he should run the risk of losing his own life.

So he invented this contrivance: he make two golden heifers, and built two little temples for them, the one in the city Bethel, and the other in Dan, which last was at the fountains of the Lesser Jordan, and he put the heifers into both the little temples, in the aforementioned cities. And when he had called those ten tribes together, over whom he ruled, he make a speech to the people in these words.

"I suppose my countrymen, that you know this, that every place hath God in it; nor is there any one determinate place in which he is, but he everywhere hears and sees those that worship him; on which account I do not think it right for you to go so long a journey to Jerusalem, which is an enemy's city, to worship him. It was a man that built the temple: I have also made two golden heifers, dedicated to the same God; and one of them I have consecrated in the city Bethel, and the other in Dan, to the end that those of you that priests of the high places dwell nearest those cities, may go to them, and worship God there: and I will ordain for you certain priests and Levites from among yourselves, that you may have no want of the tribe of Levi, or of the sons of Aaron; but let him that is desirous among you of being a priest, bring to God a bullock and a ram, which they say Aaron the first priest brought also.

When Jeroboam had said this, he deluded the people, and make them to revolt from the worship of their forefathers, and to transgress their laws. This was the beginning of miseries to the Hebrews, and the cause why they were overcome in war by foreigners, and so fell into captivity.

Notice and think about the points of the king's speech.

Point 1: "I suppose my countrymen, that you know this, that every place hath God in it; nor is there any one determinate place in which he is, but he everywhere hears and sees those that worship him;" Comment: Doesn't that sound exactly like the present day message from today's pulpit. God is everywhere. God loves everyone. God hears the prayers of everyone. (Even the prayers of non-Christians.)
Point 2: "I have also make two golden heifers, dedicated to the same God;" Comment: The King did not call the heifers God, or gods. The King claimed to worship the same God today as he did yesterday. The people and the King did not look upon this activity as a change in worship or a change in religion. It was presented as a solution to a problem. The problem, "our temple is now in occupied enemy territory."  Perhaps the understanding was "I have also make two places of worship, dedicated to the same God;"
Point 3: "I will ordain for you certain priests and Levites from among yourselves, that you may have no want of the tribe of Levi, or of the sons of Aaron; but let him that is desirous among you of being a priest, bring to God a bullock and a ram." Comment: The king licensed the clergy just as the State does today. Anyone who is desirous among you of being a priest can go to city hall and pay the license fee. (The license fee then was a bullock and a ram.)

Verse 31 above, "and made priests of the lowest of the people".

The king rejected the clergy ordained by God and ordained crooks and con-men.

So here we have the people worshiping in the new Northern Kingdom exactly as they did in the Southern Kingdom at Jerusalem and Josephus calls it "a revolt from the worship of their forefathers."

There was little or no difference in doctrine. Just a different temple location and a different class of clergy. But the Bible says, "The King deluded the people." I think we need to understand this situation lest we also be deluded. And this makes the situation worrisome, a deluded person does not know that he is deluded. Are we or have we been likewise deluded?

One question is, why did the king do this? The answer is in verse

(26) "And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:" The King feared the loss of his political power. To keep his political power he ordained a clergy that would support him in rulership over the people.

Doesn't that sound like the present day clergy's interpretation of Romans 13.

Romans 13:1, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

It is called a 501 C-3 church. Today's clergy are licensed by the state and may not speak out for fear of losing tax-exempt status.

Most clergy remain silent on these issues. After all we must have a 'separation of church and state'. And "Christians should stay out of politics". On the issues we have 300,000 silent pulpits.

Was there any 'separation of church and state' at that time? No. There was no separation then. Perhaps we only think that there is a separation today. How can a church incorporated by the state with a pastor licensed by the state be separate from the state? Perhaps it is a case of double-think. ("The ability to hold two conflicting views at the same time." - George Orwell, "Nineteen Eighty-Four")

What is 'serving Baal'?

The Bible is constantly telling us that the people served Baal. What is the Baal religion? Who is Baal? What do the members of the Baal religion believe? When atending church and Bible Studies, I had never received a satisfactory answer to these questions. Here is as good a definition of Baal as any. It came from an article on Baal.

Definition: - Baal

The word Baal as it appears in scripture has a variety of meanings. Originally, it was not a proper noun but eventually it came to be used as such. In its preliminary sense it means master or owner, 'The Lord'. But most often it is used in scripture to refer to a deity or deities. The word Baal is not the name of one god but the name of the presiding deity or deities in any given locality, 'the lords' of that locality.

From that definition, could you point out Baal and his temples here in America? The answer will probably be. "No, I do not see any Baal temples, no Baal priests, etc."

Based on what you have learned in the past, if someone were to ask you to list the doctrines of the Baal religion, what would you say?

You probably would not have much to say at all.

And the next person asked would give a completely different answer.

If the Bible gave a clear answer to this, "Who is Baal and what does the Baal religion believe" question with verses such as this, 'The Baal religion believes it is a woman's right to have an abortion.''

A clear answer such as that would immediately let us know that the God of that Bible does not approve of abortion on demand.

Then we could look about and locate a church or clergyman that taught the Baal doctrine and say with confidence, 'There, that is a Baal Church and that is a Baal priest."

If asked, the Baal priest would reply, "Yes, I serve Baal and that is exactly what we teach and believe."

And you as a Christian would oppose abortion if for no other reason than, "if that's what Baal teaches then it must be wrong and pro-life must be right." But it is not so easy.

To start with the word Baal means 'The Lord', and Christians also call Jesus Christ 'The Lord'.

"behold thy gods O Israel"

King Jeroboam said, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."

At first it seems that King Jeroboam is talking about the golden calves. It seems that he is calling the calves 'gods'. This also happened at the time of the Exodus.

Exodus 32

(4) And he (Aaron) received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

(5) And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord.

It is incomprehensible that either Aaron or King Jeroboam would say such a thing. We have wrongly understood that Aaron said, "This gold calf is thy God, O Israel."  Now notice in Exodus the Bible says 'they said' not 'Aaron said'. Who are 'they'?

Second item to notice, after Aaron had made the gold into a molten calf:

"and they said, these be thy gods, O Israel."

In Exodus Aaron made only one calf. There was only one calf but the word 'gods' is plural. We have always been taught that the calf was the god, but if that is so, then why didn't 'they' say,

"This be thy god, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,"

 rather than

"These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,

Like Happy days are hear again, Moses is gone, we don't know what has become of him and his repressive government,  "These be thy leaders, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."

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