|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
32:21-29 Never did any wise man make a more frivolous and foolish excuse than that of Aaron. We must never be drawn into sin by any thing man can say or do to us; for men can but tempt us to sin, they cannot force us. The approach of Moses turned the dancing into trembling. They were exposed to shame by their sin. The course Moses took to roll away this reproach, was, not by concealing the sin, or putting any false colour upon it, but by punishing it. The Levites were to slay the ringleaders in this wickedness; yet none were executed but those who openly stood forth. Those are marked for ruin who persist in sin: those who in the morning were shouting and dancing, before night were dying. Such sudden changes do the judgments of the Lord sometimes make with sinners that are secure and jovial in their sin.
Verse 28. - About three thousand. We cannot gather from this, as some have done, that the Levites who rallied to Moses were only 3,000 - for every Levite was not obliged to kill a man - but only that, when this number was slain, the idolaters desisted from their orgy
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses,.... They girded their swords by their sides, went through the camp, and slew their brethren, companions and neighbours, who were keeping holy day in honour of the idol:
and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men; the Vulgate Latin version reads 23,000, very wrongly; now these being chiefly, if not altogether, of the tribe of Levi, the brethren, companions, and neighbours of the Levites, that were the slayers, together with the after plagues that came upon them, Exodus 32:35 account for the deficiency of males in this tribe, some few months after, when it was numbered; and the number of them from one month old and upwards amounted but to 22,000, which was but a very small one in proportion to the other tribes, who generally, one with another, numbered 40,000 each, and none so few as 30,000 (r); of this tribe Aaron was, and therefore used with severity, because of his concern in this sin; and even though it was the tribe of Moses, it was not spared.
(r) See the Bishop of Clogber's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 360, 362.
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