Q. After God reveals himself to Moses and the Israelites in
A. According to the account in the Pentateuch, the Israelites did indeed witness the sound-and-light show, experiencing all of the special effects first-hand, and they did in fact hear God’s voice as he spoke the Ten Words to Moses (
We are told explicitly that the entire people were on hand for this event (
Further, the very first words that they heard God say to Moses contained the prohibition of worshiping images (
From these and related passages, we see that the authors have gone to great lengths to inform us that the Israelites’ demand for an image to worship, Aaron’s cooperation in manufacturing it, and the ensuing worship of the calf on the part of the entire community were acts of sinful disobedience, criminal wrongdoing pure and simple (
The weak attempts made by both Aaron and the people to defend their actions (
One of the aims of this narrative, according to many scholars, is to condemn as thoroughly illegitimate the calf worship that existed in the Northern Kingdom during the centuries of its independent existence. This is accomplished by means of a tale relating that the sinfulness of this cultic practice was established for all time, and its repercussions experienced, at the very moment that the covenant was made and the laws were given.