Exodus 32:26
Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD's side? let him come to me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp.—The third and crowning step was now to be taken. Though the idol had been seized and its destruction commenced, though Aaron had been rebuked and put to shame, yet the revel continued. Once launched on an evil course, the bulk of the people persisted in it. Moses felt that God was openly insulted by such conduct, against which death was denounced by the Law (Exodus 22:20), and which might at any moment provoke God to destroy the whole people (Exodus 32:10). He therefore proceeded to suppress the idolatry by a stern act of judicial severity—an execution on a large scale of those taken flagrante delicto. Standing in the gate—i.e., the principal gate—of the camp, he summoned to his aid those who were on the Lord’s side, and gave them orders to go through the camp from end to end, and put to death all whom they found still engaged in the mad revel.

All the sons of Levi.—This must not be understood literally. All the Levites would not have heard the summons of Moses, and some were evidently among those who persisted in idolatry (Exodus 32:27-29). In the language of the sacred writers, “all” constantly means “the greater part.”

Exodus 32:26. Moses stood in the gate of the camp — The place of judgment; and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? — Who abhors this idolatry, and adheres to the true worship of God? The Chaldee interprets it, Who feareth the Lord; let him come to me — Let him take God’s part, and plead his cause against idolatry and idolaters. They had set up the golden calf for their standard, and Moses sets up his in opposition to them. The sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him — This shows that the defection of the people to this idolatrous worship was general, since none but the sons of Levi joined Moses on this occasion: and it is probable, that even they were not all free from the sin.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.The tribe of Levi, Moses' own tribe, now distinguished itself by immediately returning to its allegiance and obeying the call to fight on the side of Yahweh. We need not doubt that the 3,000 who were slain were those who persisted in resisting Moses. The spirit of the narrative forbids us to conceive that the act of the Levites was anything like an indiscriminate massacre. An amnesty had first been offered to all by the words: "Who is on the Lord's side?" Those who were forward to draw the sword were directed not to spare their closest relations or friends; but this must plainly have been with an understood qualification as regards the conduct of those who were to be slain. Had it not been so, they who were on the Lord's side would have had to destroy each other. We need not stumble at the bold, simple way in which the statement is made.26-28. Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said—The camp is supposed to have been protected by a rampart after the attack of the Amalekites.

Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me—The zeal and courage of Moses was astonishing, considering he opposed an intoxicated mob. The people were separated into two divisions, and those who were the boldest and most obstinate in vindicating their idolatry were put to death, while the rest, who withdrew in shame or sorrow, were spared.

He chose the gate of the camp,

1. As the usual place of judicature.

2. That he might withdraw himself from the company of idolaters as far as he might.

3. As a fit place of concourse and resort for those that were on God’s side.

4. To prevent the escape of the greatest delinquents, the rest of the camp being probably surrounded with some trench, or such like thing, else gates had been superfluous and unprofitable.

Who is on the Lord’s side? who will take God’s part, and plead his cause against idolatry and idolaters?

All the sons of Levi, i.e. the most of that tribe, as that universal particle is oft understood; for some of them were destroyed as guilty. Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp,.... In one of the gates of it; for it doubtless had more than one to go in and out of, as is clear from Exodus 32:27 it being probably entrenched all around; here Moses set himself, it being the usual place, as in cities, where the people were summoned together on important occasions, and justice and judgment were administered:

and said, who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me; who is for the worship of the true God, and him only, and against the worship of a gold calf, or any other idol, and is zealous for the glory of God, and the honour of his name:

and all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him; that is, all those that had not given in to the idolatry of the calf; all is put for many. Jarchi infers from hence, that this tribe was wholly free from that sin; but the contrary is most evident, for it appears from the context that many of them were slain for it; yea, as, on the one hand, they were only of the tribe of Levi, who joined themselves to Moses, though there was no doubt many in all the tribes that were not in the idolatry; so, on the other hand, there were none slain, or very few, but of the tribe of Levi, as will appear in the exposition of the following verses, the being principally concerned with Aaron in making the calf; and therefore those of the same tribe that joined them not were the more zealous and studious to purge themselves from the imputation of the crime, by going over to Moses at once, and showing themselves to be on the Lord's side.

Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. Who, &c.] In the Heb., more tersely and forcibly, Who is for Yahweh? To me!

26, 27. Moses decides quickly that prompt measures must be taken.

26–28. The zeal of the sons of Levi for Jehovah. At Moses’ summons, they seize their swords, and slay 3000 of the rebels.Verse 26. - Moses stood in the gate of the camp. We must understand "the principal gate," since the camp had several (ver. 27) Who is on the Lord's side? Let him come to me. Literally, "Who for Jehovah? To me" - but expressed, as the Hebrew idiom allows, in three words, forming an excellent rallying cry. All the sons of Levi - i.e., all who heard the cry. It is evident that there were Levites among the idolaters (vers. 27, 29.) He then proceeded to the destruction of the idol. "He burned it in (with) fire," by which process the wooden centre was calcined, and the golden coating either entirely or partially melted; and what was left by the fire he ground till it was fine, or, as it is expressed in Deuteronomy 9:21, he beat it to pieces, grinding it well (i.e., crushing it with and between stones), till it was as fine as dust.

(Note: There is no necessity to refer to the process of calcining gold, either here or in connection with the destruction of the Asherah by Josiah (2 Kings 23:4, 2 Kings 23:12; 2 Chronicles 34:4, 2 Chronicles 34:7), apart altogether from the question, whether this chemical mode of reducing the precious metals was known at all to Moses and the Israelites.)

The dust, which consisted of particles of charcoal and gold, he then strewed upon the water," or, according to Deuteronomy, "threw it into the brook which flowed down from the mountain, and made the children of Israel drink," i.e., compelled them to drink the dust that had been thrown in along with the water of the brook. The object of this was certainly not to make them ashamed, by showing them the worthlessness of their god, and humiliating them by such treatment as compelling them to swallow their own god (as Knobel supposes). It was intended rather to set forth in a visible manner both the sin and its consequences. The sin was poured as it were into their bowels along with the water, as a symbolical sign that they would have to bear it and atone for it, just as a woman who was suspected of adultery was obliged to drink the curse-water (Numbers 5:24).

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