Make us Gods.] Or rather, make us a God: for so Nehemiah expresses it in the Singular Number, IX 18. and so Elohim is often translated, XX Gen. 13. XXXV. 7, &c. For their meaning was, Make us a sacred Symbol or Sign, as other Nations have, that may represent God in a visible manner to us. So the Jews expound it in Pirke Elieser, c. 45. They said to Aaron, the Egyptians extol their Gods, they sing and chant before them; for they behold them with their eyes. Make us such Gods as theirs are, that we may see them before us. And so R. Jehudah in the Book Cosri, P. I. Sect. 97. THey desired a sensible Object of Divine Worship to be set before them; not with an intention to deny God, who brought them out of Egypt: but that something in the place of God might stand befroe them, when they declared his wonderful Works. Such, no doubt, was their meaning; for they could not be so senseless as to image the true God could be made by a Man; or that an Image could go before them (as it here follows) which may have feet, but cannot walk, as the Psalmists speaks. And therefore Eben-Ezra judiciously interprets it, Some Corporeal Image in which God may reside.
Which shall go before us. ] Conduct us through the Wilderness. God himself in a Pillar of Cloud and Fire, hitherto went before them: but that Cloud now covering the Mount where Moses was, and not stirring at all from thence, they imagined, perhaps that Moses being lost, it would no longer lead them as it had done.
For as for thsi Moses, &c.] THis doth not seem to be the Language of those who had any regard to him.
We wot not what is become of him.] They thought, perhaps, that he was consumed in the Mount, by the Fire which shone from the Face of God, as Jonathan paraphrases it. Greg. Nyssens Reflexion upon this Demand of the People is very natural; That they were like School-boys, who in the absence of their Master, were carried [Gk.], with senseless impetuous Motions into Rudeness and Disorder, p. 183. de Vita Mosis. For there were many among them who were infected with the Egyptian Idolatry, as we learn from XXIV Josh. 14. XX Ezek. 7, 8. XXIII. 3, 8. And therefore hankering after that way of Worship by Images, which they had learnt there, they took this opportunity to desire a visible Representation of God among them, as the Egyptians had. And so St. Stephen looks upon this as a turning back in their hearts unto Egypt, VII Acts 39, &c.
Ver. 2. And Aaron said unto them, break off the golden ear-rings, &c.] This confirms what I said, that there was some debate about this matter, before they spake those words to him v. 1. Up, make us Gods, &c. For it is not credible that Aaron would immediately consent to so foul a Fact as this, without the least Argument against it. Which is so unlikely, that the Jews have devised this Tale; That Hur rebuked them in his Presence, the People fell upon him and killed him: which affrighted Aaron into a speedy Compliance.
The golden ear-rings.] These, it is probable, were some of the Jewels which they borrowed of the Egyptians, XII. 35. and possibly might have worn superstitiously, as observed XXXV Gen. 5. they did very anciently. There are those who think Aaron hoped they would not have easily parted with these; and so their Design might have been broken.
From the ears of your Wives, of your Sons, and your Daughters.] Men wore these Ornaments in the Eastern Countries, as well as Women; as we find in the story of the Ishmaelite and Midianite Souldiers, VIII Judg. 24. and Pliny L. XI. c. 31. In Oriente quidem & viris aurum eo loci, &c. In the East it is esteemed an Ornament for Men to wear Gold in that place; speaking of their Ears. See Bochart. hierozoic. P. I. L. I. c. 34.
Ver. 3. And all the People.] All that were engaged in this Design; who were so many (as I said v. 1.) that the rest it's likely durst not oppose it.
Broke off the golden ear-rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.] So zealous is Superstition; which prevails over Pride and Covetousness.
Ver. 4 And he received them at their hands.] They seem to have presented them as an Offering, towards the making of a Representation of God; wherein every one of them might have an Interest: and accordingly Aaron accepted them.
And fashioned it with a graving tool.] The Hebrew word [Heb.] (which we translate graving Tool) is used for a writing Pen, VIII Isa. 1. and for a crisping Pin, which Women used about their Hair, III Isa. 22. And therefore Interpreters take it here for an Instrument of Engraving. And some think that Aaron made such marks with it in this Calf, as there were in the Egyptian Apis: which was a Cow that had a Spot on her right side like a Crescent (as some Writers say, though Herodotus say otherwise, and the marks are variously reported. See Pignorius in his Mensa Isiaca, p. 18, &c.) and a square white spot in the forehead. But others think it more likely, that the Calf coming rought out of the Mould, Aaron only polished it with a proper Tool. For though Apis was in great honour among the Egyptians, yet it was a living Cow, and not the Image of one, which they had in such Veneration. Therefore Mr. Selden (in his Syntagma I. de Diis Syris, c. 4.) takes it to be probable, that htis golden Calf, or Ox, or Bullock (for so the Psalmist differently calls it, CVI. 19, 20.) was made in imitation of that golden Ox that represented Osiris; which was very famous among the Egyptians. Who had a mighty Veneration for the River Nile, called in Hebrew Sichor (from whence came Siris) and for teh Dog-star (called Siris likewise) at whose rising that River began to swell; and for the Sun (which was principally meant by this Name) to whom both the Bull at Heliopolis, and the Ox at Memphis were Consecrated, as Macrobius tells us L. I. Saturnal, c. 21. But though all this be very ingenious, yet the truth of it may be well questioned, as I shall show presently; when I have noted that this Translation, fashioned it with a graving Tool, is not so agreeable to what here follows, as another which the Hebrew words will as well bear.
After he had made it a molten Calf.] The words in the Hebrew are, and he made it, &c. we translate them after, &c. to make this agree with what goes before accordign to our Translation, he fashioned it with a graving Tool: which may as litterally be translated he bound them up in a bag. For we find the word jatzar, which we here translate fashioned, to have the signification also of binding or tying up: and cheret in the Plural Number to signifie a bag, 2 Kings V. 23. And thus the Prophet Isaiah (as Bochart observes) describes the making of Images, XLVI. 6. they lavish Gold out of the Bag, and they make it a God. Which agrees with what is here said of Aaron, He received the Ear-rings, and put them into a Bag, and then having made a Mold, cast them into it, and made a golden Calf. See v. 24.
A molten Calf.] So he calls it, because it was no bigger than a Calf, though the Head was like an Ox: and therefore, as I observed before, so called by the Psalmist. What moved Aaron to represent God in this figure, is hard to resolve. Most think he imitated the Egyptians, among whom he had long lived: which seems not to me at all likely, since he had seen the Judgment that God executed against all their Gods, XII. 12. yet so great a Man as J. Gerh. Vossius hath taken a great deal of pains to prove, that Joseph was adored by them under the Name of Apis and Serapis: and that his Symbol was an Ox. This he hath laboured to support by many ingenious Conjectures. But it is not likely, if he were thus publickly honoured as a God, that a Kind should arise who knew not Joseph; i.e. had not regard to him, I Exod. 8. and another succeed him, who endeavoured to ruin all his Kindred. The Worship of Serapis also was not so ancient; for Herodotus saith not a word of it, nor any Body else till the time of Alexander the Great; and many Authors say it was brought into Egypt out of Pontus by Ptolomy: See Bachartus in his Hierozoic. P. I. p. 338. And though Apis was more ancient, yet not of such antiquity as Moses, as a very learned person of our own (Dr. Tenison, now Arch-bishop of Canterbury) hath shown in his Book of Idolatry, Chap. VI. Part 4, 5, &c. And as for Osiris, both Plutarch and Strabo say he was the same with Apis: which was not then known, as I have said, in Egypt, no more than Typhus or Typhon, whom Philo thinks to be here intended; but was certainly a later Invention, and as Bochartus imagines, represented Moses himself, though very much disguised.
Cuperus indeed hath made it probably (in his Harpocrates, p. 83, &c.) that there was a Serapis worhsipped in Egypt, before that brought out of Pntus: But whether it be so or no, I do not take it to be at all material, because it is not likely that Aaron would make such a Repreesentation of Divinity, asa was in use among them from whose Slavery God had lately deliver'd them. For how could he think the LORD, to whom he proclaimed a Feast, would be pleased to be represented by any of thos Idols, on whom, as I said before, he had executed Judgment, at their departure out of Egypt? Or what reson is there to think the israelites themselves could be inclined to think their God to be like any thing, which that People worshipped, who abhorred the Sacrifices which the God of Israel required? Their Conjecture seems to me far more likely, who think that Aaron, in making this Calf, took his pattern from some part of the SCHECHINAH which appeared to him and the Elders of Israel (when they eat before God, XXIV. 10.) attended with the Angels: Some of which called Cerubim, they think appeared with the faces of Oxen. But as there is no mention in that place of Cherubims, nor of the Angels appearing in any shape whatsoever; and Moses expresly saith, the Israelites saw no manner of Similitude on the day when the LORD spake to them in Horeb, IV Deut. 15 (and therefore Aaron and the Elders, in all probability saw none afterward) so I think there is no evidence that the heavenly Ministers at any time Appeared in this shape, till the SCHECHINAH departed from the Temple, in the days of Ezekiel. See XXV. 18, 20.
After all this considered, Aaron seems to me to have chosen an Ox to be the Symbol of the Divine Presence, in hope the People would never be so sottish as to worship it; but only be put in mind by it of the Divine Power, whichwas hereby repersented. For an Oxes head was anciently an Emblem of Strength, and Horns a common sign of Kingly Power. So they were among the Phonicians (as Pignorius observes in his Mensa Isiaca, p. 15. out of Eusebius his Praepar. Evang. L. I. cap. ult.) and among the Egyptians (as Diodorus Siculus relates L. I.) and among the Romans, as appears by that fmaous story of Genucius Cipus (in Val. Maximus L. V. c. 6) who when he was Praetor had Horns come out of his Head on a sudden, as he was going out of the City to the Wars: whereupon he was told, Regem eum fore, si in Urbem revertisset, That he should be a King, if he returned into the City. And something like it is related by Julius Capitolinus concerning Clodius Albinus, at whose Birht a Cow broguht forth a Calf with purple Horns, which they lookt upon as signum Imperij, a Toekn of Empire. Which mad ethe ancient Fathers, perhaps, when they spake of this Calf, or Ox of Aarons, mention only its Head. For so doth Tertullian (L.ad versus Judaeos c. I.) cum processisset eis bubulum caput: and St. Cyprian, Lactantius, St. Hierom, St. Ambrose, and others: Not because they thought Aaron made only the Head; but because this was the principal part whereby God was represented.
"And they said.] The People cried out aloud.
These be thy Gods, O Israel.] Or, as Nehemiah expresses it, IX.18. This is thy God, &c. the Image or Symbol of the Divine Majesty: or as Abulensis interprets it, His Divine Vertue resideth in this golden Body. The Plural Numer is commonly used for the Singular, especially when God is spoken of, as I observed beofre, XX Gen. 13. XXXV. 7. 2 Sam. VII. 23.
Which brought thee up out of the Land of Egypt.] This shows they lookt upon this Ox, only as a Representation of the Almighty LORD their God; for it being but newly made, they could not imagine they were brought by it from the Egyptian Slavery, but by his Power, which perhaps they fancied now resided in it.
Ver. 5. And when Aaron saw it, he built an Altar before it.] As at the Peoples request he made it , so he seeing them receive it with such applause, presently Consecraeted it by building an Altar, offering Sacrifices, and keeping a solemn Feast in its honour.
And Aaron made proclamation.] Caused it to be publickly proclaimed throughout the Host, that every one. might have norice os the Solemnity.
And said, to morrow is a Feast.] Which was a partof Worship ordained by his Authority.
To the L O R D.] Not to this Ox, but to the Creator of the World, whom they worshipped in this Image. Notwithstanding which, this was no better than an Idol , VII Act: 41. and they gross Idolaters, CVI Psalm. 19, 20. I Cor. X. 7. Some think indeed, that Moses being gone, and, as they imagined , either burnt up or famished, they desired this Representation of God to go before them and direct them, as a kind of Teraphim: but God allowed no such visible sign to be made of his Presence with them, which he knew would in a short time have their Adoration.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Simon Patrick on Exodus 32:1-4
Simon Patrick on Exodus 32:1-4:
at 3:33 PM