Study the Torah with Academic Scholarship

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

Golden Calf

The Decalogue’s Opening Laws, Written in Response to the Golden Calf

Originally, the golden calf story was just one among many incidents in which the Israelites sin and antagonize YHWH in the wilderness. Later scribes expanded the story as a critique of northern worship sites and also added the Decalogue, with the first few laws being composed as a point-by-point response to Israel’s sin.

Dr.

Gili Kugler

,

,

The Golden Calf: Bull-El Worship

Northern Israel worshipped El/YHWH in the form of a golden bull. The Bible mocks this graven representation of the divinity by describing it as a calf.

Prof.

Rami Arav

,

,

Rachel’s Teraphim: A Critique of the Northern Kingdom

Rachel steals teraphim from her father Laban; Michal uses them to save her husband David from her father Saul; Micah includes them in the shrine he builds on his property. What are they and how do they function in these stories?

Prof.

Erin D. Darby

,

,

The Golden Calf: A Post-Exilic Message of Forgiveness

Jeroboam makes two golden calves, and sets them up at Dan and Bethel. Post-exilic biblical scribes revised this archetypal act of apostasy by introducing a new version of the same sin set in a more ancient period: Aaron's Golden Calf at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Prof.

Nathan MacDonald

,

,

The Statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream and the Golden Calf

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue made of four metals in Daniel 2 was composed using Persian and Greek historiographic imagery. The crushing of the statue by a stone mountain alludes to the story of the golden calf, and is a message of hope to the Judeans that God will eventually crush their Greek oppressors.

Dr.

Naama Golan

,

,

Atoning for the Golden Calf with the Kapporet

Atop the kappōret, the ark’s cover, sat the golden cherubim, which framed the empty space (tokh) where God would speak with Moses. Drawing on the connection between the word kappōret and the root כ.פ.ר (“atone”), and noting how the golden calf episode interrupts the Tabernacle account, the rabbis suggest that the ark cover served as a means of atoning for the Israelites’ collective sin.

Prof.

Rachel Adelman

,

,

What Was the Sin of the Golden Calf?

Many scholars, traditional and academic, believe it was worship of another god, the first commandment in the Decalogue, but what Aaron actually claims about the calf points to a different collection of laws.

Prof.

Joel Baden

,

,

Reading the Golden Calves of Sinai and Northern Israel in Context

The story of the Golden Calf overtly describes a religious sin in the wilderness generation, but aspects of the story also evoke the (later) behavior of King Jeroboam I of Israel. Ancient readers would have understood these resonances as having political ramifications.

Prof.

Frederick E. Greenspahn

,

,

Attaining and Forfeiting Adam’s Immortality at Sinai

The golden calf is a Jewish version of the “fall” of Adam and Eve in Christian tradition.

Prof.

Joel Kaminsky

,

,

Moses Shatters the Tablets – in Anger

The Talmud has God congratulating Moses for shattering the Tablets, however, a midrash criticizes him for venting his angerquoting the verse, “Anger resides in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). Was his act commendable or lamentable? 

Rabbi

Uzi Weingarten

,

,

The Golden Calf: Comparing the Two Versions

Exodus versus Deuteronomy

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

,

,

Who Were the Levites?

The Torah describes the Levites as a landless Israelite tribe who inherited their position by responding to Moses’ call to take vengeance against sinning Israelites. This account masks a more complicated historical process.

Prof.

Mark Leuchter

,

,

Dancing Erotically with the Golden Calf

And Moses’ decision to break the tablets

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

,

,

Highlighting Juxtaposition in the Torah

The well-known rabbinic principle of אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה (there is no chronological order in the Torah) is often understood to be a hermeneutical solution to a textual, peshat problem. The principle, however, should be understood as midrashic, formulated to highlight other reasons for which biblical accounts could have been juxtaposed.

Dr.

Isaac Gottlieb

,

,

What Did God Write on the Tablets of Stone?

“YHWH said to Moses: ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay there so that I might give you the tablets of stone and the teaching and the commandment that I have written to teach them.’”—Exodus 24:12

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

,

,

No items found.