Exodus 32:27
And he said to them, Thus said the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.
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(27) Thus saith the Lord God.—Moses felt that he was divinely commissioned to perform this act of severity. The lives of all who had committed the idolatry were justly forfeit. Trial was unnecessary where the offence was being openly committed before the eyes of all. Such dancing and such shouting could not possibly be Jehovah-worship. It was by its very character idolatrous.

Go in and out from gate to gate . . . i.e., “pass through the whole camp from end to end, visit all parts of it, and wherever you see the rites continuing, smite with the sword—smite, and spare not.”

Slay every man his brother.—Comp. Exodus 32:26. The Levites who had rallied to the call of Moses might find their own brothers or their own sons among the idolaters. If they did, they were still to smite, though the offender was their near relative.

Exodus 32:27. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel — What Moses now did was not done merely in the heat of a pious zeal, but by a divine influence and direction; and therefore can be no warrant to others to imitate his example, who cannot pretend to the same authority, and who are placed in circumstances entirely different from those in which he and the Israelites were placed. Slay every man his brother, and every man his companion — Moses being, under God, their chief ruler, at God’s command, passed this extraordinary sentence upon the offenders, without the common process in courts of judicature, requiring the sons of Levi to go armed into the camp, and cut off the most notorious and obstinate offenders, without regard to kindred, friendship, or any other distinction whatever. And there was no fear of their killing the innocent in this case, because Moses had called to himself all that were on God’s side. These, either by resorting to him, or by retiring to their tents, were separated from the guilty, who were impudently walking about in the camp, trusting to their numbers. It may be observed further here, that, besides the authority of the command of Moses to the Levites, a peculiar impulse from God must have actuated them in this business, otherwise it is very improbable that they should have obeyed so readily, or have dared to attack so many; and a peculiar consciousness of guilt and terror must have fallen on the people, to have caused such a multitude to submit to be slain without making any resistance.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.

The meaning is, slay every principal offender whom you meet with, without any indulgence or exception, though brother, or companion, or neighbour. There was no fear of killing the innocent in this case, because,

1. The people were generally guilty.

2. Moses had called to himself all that were on God’s side, who thereby where separated from the guilty.

3. The innocent might easily be discerned from the transgressors, either by the personal knowledge which the Levites or others had of the most forward idolaters, or by their abiding in their tents as ashamed and grieving for their sin, whilst the transgressors were impudently walking about in the camp, as trusting to their numbers; or by the direction of God’s providence, if not by some visible token. And he said unto them, thus saith the Lord God of Israel,.... The following orders are given by Moses, not of himself the chief magistrate, and as the effect of heat and passion, but there were from the Lord, who was Israel's God and King; he had them expressly from him, or by an impulse on his spirit, or in such a way and manner that he knew it was of God, and this was his will:

put every man his sword by his side; girt there, ready to be drawn upon order:

and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp; not into the tents, where good men might be bemoaning the sin committed, but throughout the streets, where many were loitering, it being a holy day with the idolaters:

and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour; who were idolaters; none were to be spared on account of relation, friendship, and acquaintance.

And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and {l} slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

(l) This fact did so please God, that he turned the curse of Jacob against Levi to a blessing, De 33:9.

27. Thus saith, &c.] as Exodus 5:1, Joshua 7:13, 1 Samuel 10:18 al. Moses speaks as a prophet. Cf. on Exodus 4:22.Verse 27. - Go in and out from gate to gate, etc., - i.e., "pass through the whole camp - visit every part of it - and, where you see the licentious rites continuing, use your swords - do not spare, though the man be a brother, or a companion, or a neighbour - strike nevertheless, and bring the revel to an end." After the calf had been destroyed, Moses called Aaron to account. "What has this people done to thee ("done" in a bad sense, as in Genesis 27:45; Exodus 13:11), that thou hast brought a great sin upon it?" Even if Aaron had merely acted from weakness in carrying out the will of the people, he was the most to blame, for not having resisted the urgent entreaty of the people firmly and with strong faith, and even at the cost of his life. Consequently he could think of nothing better than the pitiful subterfuge, "Be not angry, my lord (he addresses Moses in this way on account of his office, and because of his anger, cf. Numbers 12:11): thou knowest the people, that it is in wickedness" (cf. 1 John 5:19), and the admission that he had been overcome by the urgency of the people, and had thrown the gold they handed him into the fire, and that this calf had come out (Exodus 32:22-24), as if the image had come out of its own accord, without his intention or will. This excuse was so contemptible that Moses did not think it worthy of a reply, at the same time, as he told the people afterwards (Deuteronomy 9:20), he averted the great wrath of the Lord from him through his intercession.
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