Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Year: Ex 32-34 for Jan 26

Exodus 32 is one of the most dramatic, in the sense of tension-filled, chapters in the Bible.

Does anything in Aaron's past, or for that matter, in the past of the Israelites, prepare us for 32:1-6? Aaron, no, but the people, yes, back to 15:24-25, if you stick to just times after the redemption of the people from Egypt. Before that, Moses also grumbles (5:22-23).

The sequence of this event in the narrative is significant. The readers have (just) been told in beautiful detail about the priesthood of Aaron and his sons. Now this same Aaron is seen as a weak and pliable (32:2-4), a people-pleaser, idol-maker, liar about God Himself (32:5), and a rationalizer regarding his sin (32:24). There couldn't be a more dramatic picture contrast between Aaron wearing his garments for glory and beauty, and having a breastplate over his heart with the names of the sons of Israel on it, and Aaron with the sons of Israel in 32:1-6.

The dialog between Moses and God in 32:9-14 would be even more dramatic if we hadn't read a similar dialog between Abraham and Moses in Gen 18:22-33. Here, the dialog between Moses and God goes a step further than Abraham's questions. Some people might say that 32:9ff is a way of expressing, in narrative literary form, the inner logic of one side of an issue (32:9-10), followed by the inner logic of another side, and that the statement that the Lord changes His mind describes, in narrative form, one of the major priveleges of being in covenant with God: He listens to Moses, in this case. He listened to Abraham.

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