Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tenth Plague Revisited on Israel

The golden calf incident in Exodus 32 is another Passover story.

Only this time, the tenth plague and Passover occur in the midst of Israel in the wilderness, and the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient Israelites.

Several connections between the two events:

1. Egypt is referenced seven times in the pericope, and the calf is explicitly meant to represent the "god(s)" who brought Israel out of Egypt. The Israelites are implicitly claiming to be in Egypt (while physically at Sinai, meeting with Yahweh), and they need that "god" to come and go before them.

2. Aaron makes the golden calf and calls for a feast the following day (Ex. 32:5), and this feast includes sacrifices and peace offerings (Ex. 32:6, 8) just as Yahweh had called for the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

3. Just as the Destroyer went through the land of Egypt and struck down the firstborn of Egypt, so Moses calls for the firstborn of Israel (i.e. the Levites, cf. Num. 3:12-13) and they slaughtered three thousand men of Israel that day. This is an implicit deliverance of Israel from all those Israelites who still wanted to follow Egyptian gods.

4. The summary of Exodus 32 is "So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made" (32:35). This is the same word used to describe the tenth plague (Ex. 12:23, 27), and it was only used once elsewhere in the plague narrative (Ex. 7:27). The implication of this summary statement is that the Levites passing through the camp of Israel are the Destroyer, the angel of death. They are the tenth plague revisited on Israel.

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