The Life of This World is but Chattels of Deception #20

Two Tales of the Golden Calf

“And in his absence, the people of Moses[1] made themselves

Out of their jewelry, a statute of a lowing calf,

Did not they see that it did not speak to them

Or guide them in any way?

They chose it and thus became wrong doers,

And when they repented

And saw that they have gone astray,

They said, ‘unless our lord has mercy on us, and forgive us,

We surely will be among the lost’.

The when Moses returned to his people,

Angered and grieved, he said,

‘evil what you have done behind my back, in my absence,

Would you want to hasten the judgment of your Lord?’

And he cast the tablets

And grabbed his brother by his hair pulling him.

Aaron said:’ son of my mother, the people have slighted me

And nearly killed me,

Don’t let the transgressors rejoice over me,

And don’t place me among the wrong doers’

He said, ‘My Lord forgive me and my brother

And admit us into your mercy,

For You are the most merciful.

As for those who took to the calf,

Wrath from their Lord will come upon them

And abasement in the life of this world

Thus, We requite the forgers of lies.

Now, when the anger of Moses abated,

He took up the tablets,

In their transcript were guidance and mercy

For those who are in awe of their Lord.

Then Moses chose seventy people for his appointment

(With his Lord) and when the shiver came upon them, he said:

‘My Lord, if You so willed, You could have destroyed them as well as me

Will You destroy us for what the fools amongst us have done?

It is Your tribulation whereby you misguide whomever You wish

You are the protector so forgive us, and have mercy on us

You are the best at forgiving.’”

Quran 7:45–53

The above story is repeated in several other places of the Quran.

For brevity, I will summarize the story as was told in Exodus. It starts in chapter 32 right after Moses goes up on Mount Sinai for his appointment with his Lord. During his prolonged absence, the people go to Aaron and ask him to make them a god who could lead them. Aaron complies[2]. He collects golden jewelry, melts it and makes a calf out of it. The Israelites immediately proclaimed it to be God who brought them out of Egypt.

The started partying and committing immoral acts. The Lord then informs Moses of what is happening and tells him He will destroy them all. Moses enters into a dialog with his Lord trying to convince him not to destroy the great deed he accomplished by saving the Israelites in the first place. So, God changed His mind and relented. Moses came down angry and threw the tablets, took the calf and melted it and grounded it then threw it into the water. Moses asks his brother of what has happened, and he explains to him how wicked his people were. When Moses saw that the people have been committing adultery — at Aaron’s encouragement[3] so he calls out to all the people who stand on the Lord’s side to join him and all the Levites came. He tells them to pull their swords and kill all others including brothers, neighbors and friends so they killed about three thousand men that day.

It is very puzzling to me on how Moses initially intercedes with his Lord to save his people and essentially to forgive them for their sins, and then turns around to collect the faithful and then kill some three thousand men. I welcome any comment from our Jewish scholars.

[1] In chapter 20 :85, the Quran identifies the culprit who instigated the incident as a Saamritan.

[2] Muslims could not accept the notion that a prophet of God, such as Aaron is, could commit such a horrendous act as to make an idol for his people to worship aside from God.

[3] The author of Exodus does not seem to favor Aaron or accept him as Moses’ right hand man.

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