The Golden Calf


Scripture Reference: Exodus 20:21; 31:18-32:35

Story Overview: After receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses returned to Mount Sinai and spent a further forty days. God revealed more detailed laws and inscribed the commandments on stone tablets. The people, meanwhile, became anxious that Moses was gone so long. Ignoring the commandments about worshiping the Lord God only, they begged Aaron to make gods for them. He collected their gold jewellery and made a golden calf. When Moses came down from the mountain he found the whole camp partying around the idol. God wanted to destroy the people but Moses begged for mercy. Moses threw down the stone tablets and broke them. He ground up the golden calf and put the powder into the drinking water and had the people drink it. He rebuked Aaron and he had 3000 of the idolaters executed.

Suggested Emphasis:Obedience means doing things God’s way and not our own.

Background Study
Way to Introduce the Story
The Story
Review Questions
Craft and Activity Ideas
Online Resources


Background Study:
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Way to Introduce the Story:
Bring two instant pudding packets and ingredients to class today (or some other simple recipe). Have one of the students read the instructions (or you read them aloud if you have non-readers) as you follow the instructions. The first time you make the pudding follow the recipe exactly and set the mix aside. The second time you make it tell the class that you are going to do it “your way”. Put in some silly ingredients that you know will now work (soft drink instead of milk for instance). Now compare the two results. “Children, the people who made this packet of mix knew the proper ingredients to use. When I did it their way I made some very nice pudding. The one where I did it my way did not turn out very well, did it? God knows how we should behave. He knows the best way. When we follow the bible and do what it says then we are doing things God’s way. Everything will be fine. If we don’t obey God and just do things the way we want to do them then our lives will be like this pudding. It will not be a good life! The children of Israel knew what the Ten Commandments were. They knew they should do things God’s way but they chose to try things their own way.”
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The Story:
After Moses told the people all of the Commandments that God had given them, he went back up onto the mountain to hear more instructions from the Lord. While Moses listened, the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone.

For weeks Moses had been away from his people. Soon they began to wonder where he was. They knew Moses had gone up on the mountain to talk to God but why had he been gone so long? Maybe he would never come down!

“Why should we worry about him? Let’s make a god we can see to worship,” the people began to say. “That’s what the Egyptians did. Let’s get Aaron to make us a god!”

Aaron believed in the Lord but he thought he could change God’s commands. He thought the people could worship God by using an idol. Aaron told the people to bring their gold earrings to him. Aaron made a gold idol in the shape of a calf. This was one of the kinds of idols they remembered from Egypt. Then Aaron built an altar and said that the next day there would be a festival to the Lord.

Aaron and the people were disobeying God. The second commandment was that they should not make any idols. Even though they said that they were worshipping God, they were not doing it God’s way! They were trying to worship God the way they wanted to. It did not matter to them what God wanted.

Even though the Lord was speaking to Moses way up on the mountain, He knew exactly what the people were doing down below. The Lord was angry and told Moses that He wanted to destroy the people.

“Oh, Lord, please forgive your people!” Moses begged. Finally God told Moses to go down to the people. He would not destroy them.

When Moses arrived in the camp he found the people partying around the idol. Moses was so angry that he threw down the stone tablets and broke them. He was very disappointed in the people. He was the leader and he knew that they must be punished. He ground up the golden calf and put the powder into the drinking water and made the people drink it.

He told Aaron that he was very wrong and that he had disobeyed God. Even then, many of the people still chose to continue their wild party instead of listening to the words of the Lord. Moses told the people they would have to choose whether or not they were going to obey God.

Many of the people were very sorry. They knew that they had not obeyed God. They had tried to do things their own way instead of God’s way. After this, those who had disobeyed were punished by God. They got sick with a plague.
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Review Questions:

  1. Why did Moses stay on the mountain so long? God spoke to him and wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets.
  2. What did the Israelites ask Aaron to make for them? An idol
  3. What was the idol made out of and what shape was it? It was a gold calf
  4. What is the second commandment? Do not make idols
  5. What did Moses do to the gold calf? He ground it into dust and made the people drink it.
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Craft and Activity ideas for the class:

  • Continue to learn the Ten commandments.
  • Again use books about Egypt to find pictures of some of the idols that they worshipped.
  • An idol is something we think is more important than God. Make a collage of some things that are idols today. Write the second commandment on the poster.
  • Discuss why God does not want us to use idols to worship Him (there could be many answers to this).
  • Compare God and man. Discuss why God should be the one to set the rules.
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Online Resources:

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