The Whole Story of the Golden Calf Incident

Life-size basalt statue of the Apis Bull dedicated by Hadrian to Serapis in Alexandria (Egypt), Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt exhibition, Paris (2015)


In one of my previous posts, “How Many Times Did Moses Climb Mount Sinai?” I said I would give a full account of the so-called “Golden Calf incident” later, as the story is not as simple as it seems. This is the post.

I think many people understand the event as follows:

Moses, at the command of YHWH, had climbed mount Sinai, stayed 40 days and nights, and received YHWH’s laws (or Torah) as well as the tablets of stone. In the meantime, the people of Israel committed idolatry by worshiping a golden calf that they made. When Moses found out about it, he threw the stone tablets and broke them out of control, feeling outraged at the scene. So he had to climb the mountain to receive the stone tablets once again to replace the original ones.

Overall, this understanding of the story is not wrong, but this simple version veils some textual inconsistencies and contradictions, which may lead the reader of the Bible to critical theological questions about the Pentateuch or the Bible. Let’s try to disentangle the story on an issue-by-issue basis.

Continue reading “The Whole Story of the Golden Calf Incident”

How Many Times Did Moses Climb Mount Sinai


In the third month, after Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai, in which they received the law of God, including the Decalogue through Moses. Mount Sinai is the place where Moses communicated with God.

I assume that most readers understand the plot of the story quite simply. For example, Moses climbed Mount Sinai as God commanded, and he fasted for forty days and night to receive the law of God and the stone tablets of the Decalogue. But when Moses went down the mountain, he threw the tablets and broke them because he was outraged as he witnessed Isralietes committing idolatry while he was absent. So he had to go up the mountain again to receive new tablets of the Decalogue.

Honestly, this is how I understood the story in the past, but the actual story is far from it. If you don’t read the text as if you are analyzing it, it is almost impossible to follow the storyline, especially Moses’s move precisely.

Continue reading “How Many Times Did Moses Climb Mount Sinai”