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A golden calf and the aftermath: Exodus 32–34

Thanks to the impatience of the Israelites, who could not wait 40 days without constructing an idol in place of God, Moses was forced to plead with God for their very lives, and then go back to God for a second instalment of the ten commandments and regulations.

The ten commandments were written by God on a second set of stone tablets.

A big loss for the Israelites was God’s change of mind about His presence:

33:5 For the Lord had told Moses to tell them, ‘You are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I were to travel with you for even a moment, I would destroy you. Remove your jewellery and fine clothes while I decide what to do with you.’

God still met with Moses, though, in a meeting tent set just outside the camp for that purpose:

33:8-11 Whenever Moses went out to the Tent of Meeting, … the pillar of cloud would come down and hover at its entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses. Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

And God still promised Moses:

33:14 I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.

This personal relationship was crucial to Moses. He asked God to show him His glory to confirm that God still did care for the Israelites:

33:15-16 If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.