Aaron’s Mistake

And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said To morrow is a feast to the LORD.

Exodus 32:4-5 (KJV)

Gods – Why is this plural? The Israelites knew full well who brought them out of Egypt. They knew it was the Living God – singular. Moses made sure that was clear to everyone, even Pharaoh. So why would Aaron build one golden calf and refer to it in the plural form? Well there’s a few mistakes happening here, not just Aaron’s.

The word in question is Elohim, and is the plural form for “God”. But what’s interesting is that this is the same word God uses throughout the Bible when referring to himself. For example let’s review a verse from Deuteronomy 6, the basis of our monotheistic faith.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God (Elohim) is one LORD:

Deuteronomy 6:4

As can be seen, even though we’re referring to the Single Living God, it is common in Hebrew to use the word Elohim. We also need to understand this word has nothing to do with any trinitarian bias whichever way you may believe. It’s simply the way the language works.

So Aaron uses Elohim in reference to the God that brought the Israelites out from Egypt. This is nothing new and is used quite frequently throughout the Bible. But why did the translators decide that in this instance it should be “gods” instead of “God”? Maybe because he’s referring to the golden calf when speaking these words, so let’s review that for a moment.

Why did they build a golden calf? The Egyptians did have a god that resembled a cow, but the Israelites were keenly aware that this was not the god that brought them out of Egypt. So where did the calf come from?

In Paleo-Hebrew, the letter aleph was originally depicted as a cow’s head.


And this letter is the first letter of the word El which is “God” in the singular. It is the letter the Israelites would most often think of when referring to YHWH – a letter of strength and leadership. Do you see the relation? Aaron’s mistake wasn’t building an idol of other gods, but instead building an image of the One Living God as proven by the very next verse. Aaron establishes a man-made holiday for the LORD. He’s dedicating a day to YHWH. Obviously another mistake. God is up on the mountain dictating His holy days to Moses while Aaron decides to create his own holy day. Without the understanding of the Hebrew culture we tend to read over these details. If Aaron and everyone else was worshipping another god, did you ever wonder why only 3000 were killed that day as punishment? Why wasn’t Aaron killed? This is another topic for another blog post.

Now we understand that Aaron is building an image of the One Living God and dedicating a day to Him. This is Aaron’s mistake. But beyond that, we have a translator’s mistake too. When the culture isn’t understood and the word is mistranslated, accidentally or purposefully, we are mislead. You see, many Christians believe it’s quite harmless to dedicate a day (Christmas) to Yeshua while building a decorative tree in their house. But just like Aaron, they fall short of the mark. Aaron dedicated a special day while partaking in pagan practices (idol building). Many Christians dedicate a special day (Christmas) while partaking in pagan practices (decorating a tree – see Jeremiah 10). Aaron thought that simply applying the title Elohim to the day would make it all right. Christians apply the name of Jesus to the day believing it’s perfectly acceptable. We really haven’t come very far from the wilderness, have we?

Without taking this entire post down another tangent about Christmas, my purpose is to show how important it is to understand the culture of the Hebrew people when reading God’s word. Are you merely reading and skimming over these details, or are you immersing yourself in it? Don’t make the same mistake Aaron did.

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