Why Golden Calves?

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  • Why Golden Calves?

    This is something that puzzled me. When Aaron created his idol he did it in the form of a Golden Calf (Exodus 32). This choice seemed random, but when Jeroboam created his idols they were also in the form of golden calves (1 Kings 12:26-30). Was there some reason why both times the idols were made in that form, and why people accepted them so easily? Is there a historical background for it, or was it really just co-incidence?

  • #2
    Originally posted by ChatterBox View Post
    This is something that puzzled me. When Aaron created his idol he did it in the form of a Golden Calf Exodus 32. This choice seemed random, but when Jeroboam created his idols they were also in the form of golden calves 1 Kings 12:26-30. Was there some reason why both times the idols were made in that form, and why people accepted them so easily? Is there a historical background for it, or was it really just co-incidence?
    Bull worship was common in both Egypt and Mesopotamia and took many forms. In Egypt mythology Apis was the sacred bull. Gilgamesh, in Sumerian mythology, defeated Gugalanna the great bull of heaven. In Canaan, and the surrounding area, the symbol often associated with Baal was a bull. Also the god El was associated with a bull. And of course there is the constellation Taurus which was linked to many of these deities.

    So take your pick (and I have not even mentioned Anatolia and perhaps to a lesser extent Greece). The text just does not give us enough information to choose which deity the golden calf is to be linked. Since the bull was so often associated with different deities, and thus was such a common and well known image, the golden calf may have been simply a symbol for the divine.
    Last edited by Origen; 05-24-2017, 06:13 AM.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Origen View Post
      The text just does not give us enough information to choose which deity the golden calf is to be linked.
      Yes it does. When he had built an altar for the calf he said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” The calf was intended to represent the true God. The people weren't breaking the first commandment but the second.
      Clyde Herrin's Blog
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      • #4
        Originally posted by theophilus View Post
        Yes it does. When he had built an altar for the calf he said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” The calf was intended to represent the true God. The people weren't breaking the first commandment but the second.
        There are good reasons for thinking something more is happening.

        First, Aaron states "These are your gods..." not "this" when he built only one calf. The Hebrew demonstrate pronoun is plural (i.e. אֵלֶּה) not singular.

        A second clue is what the Israelites demand: "Up, make us gods who shall go before us." The verb "to go, to walk" (i.e.הלך) is plural and that means the subject must also be plural. Please do not point to the word "elohim" as being plural and thus it must refer to YHWH. It does not. When the word "elohim" is used of YHWH, the name takes singular verbs, adverbs. and adjectives.

        Third, there is abundant archeological evidence from the ancient Near Eastern of pictures, reliefs, and statues of gods riding bulls. For example in Hurrian and Hittite mythologies from eastern Anatolia, the bull god Tilla was the mount of the god sky\storm Teshub.

        Thus given the Hebrew text and the religious cultural I am more than justified in saying: "the text just does not give us enough information to choose which deity the golden calf is to be linked. Since the bull was so often associated with different deities, and thus was such a common and well known image, the golden calf may have been simply a symbol for the divine."
        Last edited by Origen; 05-24-2017, 12:17 PM.
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