What is a…
golden calf

Worship of the golden calf. Illustration from a Bible card published in 1901 by the Providence Lithograph Company. Public Domain.

Golden calves are mentioned in Exodus 32:4, 8; Deuteronomy 9:16; 1 Kings 12:28; and Neh. 9:18.

This was a gold scuplture of a calf which the idolatrous Israelites formed at Sinai. This symbol was apparently copied from the pagan religion of the Egyptians. It was destroyed at the command of Moses (Exodus 32:20).

Some suggest that the golden calf which Aaron made (Exodus 32:4) was possibly a copy of the god Moloch rather than of the god Apis, the sacred ox or bull calf of Egypt. However, it is more than likely that the 2 gods are basically different versions of the same Satanically-inspired false god.

The Jews showed all through their later history a tendency toward the Babylonian and Canaanitish idolatry rather than toward that of Egypt.

Return to golden calf idolatry

Later, wicked kings of Israel substituted worship of the one true God with pagan idolatry. Aften living in Egypt, Jeroboam returned to the land Israel and made 2 golden calves. At a great introduction ceremony followed by a heathen feast, he made this blasphemous declaration to the people,

“Behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” —1 Kings 12:28 NASB

These are almost the exact blasphemous words that Aaron said to the people at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:4, 8).

The Egyptians of the Memphis region worshipped Apis (aka Hapis or Hapi-ankh) who was represented as a bull (or bull calf) and is perhaps the oldest pagan God of Egypt.
Photo by Gryffindor at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. CC BY 2.5
Apis idol of limestone
This ancient Egyptian idol, with a broken sun disk between its horns, is made of limestone and was originally decorated with painted—possibly including golden colors. It dates to the 30th Dynasty and is displayed in the Louvre Museum.

Ages after this, Jeroboam, king of Israel, set up two idol calves, one at Dan, and the other at Bethel, that he might thus prevent the ten tribes from resorting to Jerusalem for worship (1 Kings 12:28). These calves continued to be a snare to the people till the time of their captivity.

The calf at Dan was carried away in the reign of Pekah by Tiglath-pileser, and that at Bethel ten years later, in the reign of Hoshea, by Shalmaneser (2 Kings 15:29; 17:33). This sin of Jeroboam is almost always mentioned along with his name (2 Kings 15:28, etc.).

Article Version: December 22, 2017

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