The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Exodus
Meanwhile, finding that Moses’ return from the mountain was so long delayed, the people remonstrated with Aaron. Bestir thyself, they said; fashion us gods, to be our leaders. We had a man to lead us, this Moses, when we came away from Egypt; but there is no saying what has become of him.
Take out the gold ear-rings, said Aaron, that your wives and sons and daughters wear, and bring them to me.
The people, then, brought him their ear-rings as he had bidden them,
and he melted down what they had given him and cast them into the figure of a calf. And all cried out, Here are thy gods, Israel, the gods that rescued thee from the land of Egypt.
Aaron, finding them so minded, built an altar in front of it, and bade the crier give out that there would be a solemn feast next day in the Lord’s honour.
So when they awoke on the morrow, they offered burnt-sacrifice and welcome-offerings; and with that, the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to take their pleasure.
And now the Lord said to Moses, Away, down with thee; they have fallen into sin, this people thou didst bring out of Egypt with thee.
They have been swift to leave the way thou didst mark out for them, by making a molten calf and falling down to worship it; brought victims to it, and cried out, Here are thy gods, Israel, the gods that rescued thee from the land of Egypt.
And the Lord said to Moses, I know them now for a stiff-necked race;
spare me thy importunacy, let me vent my anger and destroy them; I will make thy posterity into a great nation instead.
But Moses would still plead with the Lord his God; What, Lord, said he, wilt thou vent thy anger on thy people, the people thou didst rescue from Egypt so imperiously, with so strong a hand?
Wilt thou let the Egyptians say it was but a treacherous deliverance; that thou hadst marked them out for death, here in the mountains, and no trace left of them on earth? Oh let the storm of thy anger pass; pardon thy people’s guilt!
Remember thy servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and the oath thou didst swear by thy own name: I will make your posterity countless as the stars in heaven, and give them all this land of which I spoke to you, to be their everlasting home.
So the Lord relented, and spared his people the punishment he had threatened.
With that, Moses came down from the mountain, carrying in his hand the two tablets of the law, with writing on either side,
God’s workmanship; a divine hand had traced the characters they bore.
And now, as the noise of shouting reached him, Josue said to Moses, I hear the cry of battle in the camp.
No, said he, this is no sound of triumph or of rout; it is the sound of singing that I hear.
Then they drew nearer the camp, and he saw the calf standing there, and the dancing. And so angry was he that he threw down the tablets he held, and broke them against the spurs of the mountain;
then he took the calf they had made and threw it on the fire, and beat it into dust; this dust he sprinkled over water, which he made the Israelites drink.
And he asked Aaron, What harm has this people done thee, that thou hast involved them in such guilt?
Do not be angry with me, my lord, said he; thou knowest how the whole bent of this people is towards wrong-doing,
and it was they who said to me, Fashion us gods to be our leaders. We had a man to lead us, this Moses, when we came away from Egypt, but there is no saying now what has become of him.
So I asked them, Which of you has any gold in his possession? And they brought what they had, and gave it to me; I cast it into the fire, and this calf was the issue of it.
Moses saw, too, that the people went all unarmed; Aaron had let them strip, in their shameless debauchery, so that they were defenceless against attack.✻
So he stood there at the gate of the camp, and said, Rally to my side, all that will take the Lord’s part. Then the whole tribe of Levi gathered round them,
and he said, A message to you from the Lord God of Israel. Gird on your swords, and pass to and fro through the middle of the camp, from gate to gate, killing your own brothers, your own friends, your own neighbours.
So the sons of Levi did as Moses bade them, and that day some twenty-three thousand men fell slain.
To-day, said Moses, at war with your own flesh and blood, you have dedicated your hands to the Lord’s service, and earned his blessing.✻
When the morrow came, Moses told the people, You have sinned heinously; I will go up into the Lord’s presence, and see if I can make amends for your guilt.
And so, having recourse to the Lord again, he prayed thus: Thy people have sinned heinously, in making themselves gods of gold. I entreat thee, pardon this offence of theirs;
or else blot out my name too from the record thou hast written.✻
Whoever sins against me, the Lord answered, shall be blotted out from my record.
But do thou march on, and lead this people into the land I told thee of, and my angel shall still go before thee. But when the time comes for vengeance, this sin of theirs shall not be forgotten.
The Lord, then, made the people suffer for their wickedness in the matter of the calf Aaron made for them.✻
The Holy Bible