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and especially by rending their garment as a mark of deep sorrow. It was thus, that Moses intended, by doing what he did, to give the most striking manifestation of the bitter anguish of his spirit. In addition to this, the tables of the law,—the workmanship of the Divine hand, -broken into fragments, was a significant symbol to portray the rash guilt of the Israelites in breaking their covenant with God; their forfeiture of its promised blessings, and exposure to its penalties.
Moses then took the calf, and melting it in the fire, and dividing it probably into small portions, beat them out into very thin plates, like gold leaf. These he ground, or broke, into fine particles like dust or powder; and strewing it upon the surface of the brook which flowed near the camp, made the people drink of the waters.
Nothing could so expressively show the utter contempt in which he held their idol, and his detestation of their wickedness; or be a more striking emblem of the impotency of what they had regarded as the god who could guide and protect them.
It may well be supposed that Moses was especially grieved at the conduct of his brother Aaron. He soon showed this by the inquiry which he made of him. " What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them ?” "Let not the anger of my lord wax hot,” replied
Aaron; "thou knowest the people that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us : for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.”
He tried to gloss over his iniquity, and to speak of it, as if his own agency were hardly concerned in forming the idol. But we are told in Deuteronomy how God regarded his conduct; being very angry, even to the inflicting of death upon him, if Moses had not interceded in his behalf. It was a pitiful excuse ; such as sinners are ever ready to make. How much better ingenuously to confess liis guilt, and seek the forgiveness of God by his own humble entreaties.
To add to his grief, Moses, we are told, that the people were naked; for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame, among their enemies."
We may understand by this, that the Israelites were not merely despoiled of some of their ornaments in order to make the golden calf, but deprived, by their impious act of idolatry, of the Divine protection, and left naked, as it were, and defenceless, should they meet with any sudden and hostile attack.
Some think, that the expression in the original, denotes that they were in a dissipated and disorderly state ; abandoning themselves to all kinds of revelling and licentiousness ; which would redound to their infamy when the report of it should reach their enemies.
It will probably be no departure from the truth, to consider both these interpretations as correct; for it must have been a deplorably wicked condition into which the Israelites had fallen, to bring down upon them, in so awful a manner, the Divine vengeance which Moses was called upon to inflict.
Standing in the gate of the camp, he exclaimed,
Who is on the Lord's side ? let him come unto me."
The sons of Levi, those undoubtedly of them who had taken no part in the worship of the golden calf, immediately gathered round him in obedience to the call. A distressing duty devolved upon them, as the ministers of Divine justice. It must be performed immediately, and without hesitation. Moses issued the command, and they could not refuse to obey it. For it came from the throne of ihe Almighty, who has a right to inflict punishment upon the wicked in any way, and by any instruments that he may deem best.
" Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go
in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every