The incident referred to in Exodus 32:6 occurred when Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God. Meanwhile, down below, the Israelites had grown impatient waiting for Moses to return. They approached Aaron and asked him to make gods for them to worship, since they did not know what had happened to Moses (Exodus 32:1).
Aaron collected all the gold earrings from the people and fashioned a golden calf idol. He built an altar before this idol and made a proclamation – “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” (Exodus 32:5). The people woke up early the next day, offered burnt offerings to the calf idol, and indulged in revelry (Exodus 32:6).
The Hebrew word translated as “revelry” in Exodus 32:6 is “tsachaq”. It means to laugh, mock, play, make sport. Based on the use of this word and the context provided in Exodus 32, the sorts of pagan revelry the Israelites engaged in likely included:
- Singing and dancing around the golden calf idol in a frenzied state.
- Engaging in wild partying, drunkenness, sexual immorality.
- Treating the idol as a god, offering sacrifices and worship to it.
- Allowing their festivities to descend into debauchery and corruption.
Aaron proclaimed this feast as being to Yahweh the God of Israel. However, the revelry was completely pagan in nature, centered around idol worship rather than the true worship of God. The people defiled themselves through their actions (Exodus 32:7).
Later, when Moses came down from the mountain and saw the Israelites engaging in this wild, drunken party, he smashed the tablets containing the Ten Commandments in righteous anger. He also burnt and ground the golden calf to powder, expressing the seriousness of their sin (Exodus 32:19-20).
The breaking of the Ten Commandments signified how the Israelites had broken their covenant with God. The making and worshiping of the golden calf was in direct violation of the first and second commandments given by God (Exodus 20:3-6). Yet the people had so quickly abandoned God’s ways and fallen into sinful, pagan revelry centered around an idol.
In summary, the pagan revelry mentioned in Exodus 32:6 included frenzied singing and dancing around an idol, wild partying, drunkenness and sexual immorality. It was completely opposed to the holy standard established in the Ten Commandments given by God. This incident serves as a warning against how easily God’s people can be led into unrestrained sin and false worship.
Key Elements of the Pagan Revelry
Here are some of the key elements that characterized the pagan revelry that the Israelites indulged in (Exodus 32:6):
- Idolatry – The revelry was centered around the golden calf idol, a false god made by their own hands.
- Drunkenness – There was likely widespread drunkenness involved, as often accompanied idol worship in pagan cultures.
- Sexual immorality – The wild partying probably included sexual acts prohibited by God’s law.
- Singing and dancing – The people sang and danced frenetically around the golden calf.
- Offerings to an idol – They offered burnt offerings meant for God to the golden calf.
- Breaking covenant – Their actions violated the covenant made with God and the Ten Commandments.
- Abandoning God’s ways – The people forsook God’s law so quickly and embraced sin and false worship.
These elements show how far the Israelites had drifted from God’s standards in a short time. What was meant to be a feast to Yahweh became a sordid affair centered on an idol that betrayed their covenant with God.
The Contrast Between Pagan Revelry and True Worship
The pagan revelry described in Exodus 32:6 provides a stark contrast to true, godly worship. Here are some differences between the two:
- The revelry was self-seeking but worship involves focusing on God.
- The revelry was unrestrained but worship requires self-control.
- The revelry promoted sexual immorality while worship upholds purity.
- The revelry involved drunkenness but worship requires soberness and clear minds.
- The revelry was idolatrous while worship is centered on the one true God.
- The revelry broke God’s law but worship upholds God’s standards.
Whereas pagan revelry caters to human lusts and abandons reason, true worship submits to God’s authority and aligns human thinking and conduct with His holy standards. It exercises self-control and restraint, not unbridled excess.
Why the Israelites Fell Into Pagan Revelry So Quickly
This account highlights the tendency of human nature to drift into unrestrained sin quite rapidly when spiritual vigilance is lacking. Here are some possible reasons why the Israelites fell into this sort of pagan revelry so quickly:
- They grew impatient waiting for Moses and demanded visible gods to worship (Exodus 32:1).
- With Moses absent, they had no strong leader to guide them spiritually.
- The people were strongly influenced by Aaron, who catered to their sinful desires.
- Being surrounded by pagan nations, they adopted the idol worship practices of other cultures.
- In their hearts, their commitment to the covenant with God was weak.
- They forgot God’s miracles and did not trust Him fully.
This incident serves as a warning that even those who have seen God’s power and received His laws can easily fall into sin when spiritual vigilance is lacking. Continually nurturing love for God, His word and His ways is essential to remaining faithful to Him.
God’s Response to the Israelites’ Pagan Revelry
The Israelites’ descent into pagan revelry evoked a strong response from God:
- He told Moses their actions were corrupt and they had turned aside quickly from His commandments (Exodus 32:7-8).
- He expressed intent to destroy them and make Moses into a great nation instead (Exodus 32:9-10).
- After Moses interceded for them, God relented from the disaster He planned to bring on them (Exodus 32:11-14).
- Moses burnt and ground the calf idol to powder as an expression of its worthlessness (Exodus 32:20).
- Moses called for those still loyal to God to take action against the revelers, resulting in many slain (Exodus 32:25-29).
- God sent a plague on the people for what they did with the calf Aaron had made (Exodus 32:35).
The severity of God’s response and judgment on their actions highlights how seriously He viewed their descent into false worship and unrestrained revelry. It violated their covenant with Him and rejected His rightful authority over them.
Lessons Christians Can Learn from This Account
This sobering account provides some important lessons for Christians today:
- Even God’s people can easily fall into sin when spiritual vigilance is lacking.
- Idolatry and false worship is strongly condemned by God.
- Guarding our hearts is crucial to remain faithful to God.
- Peer pressure can lead people to turn away from God’s laws.
- Strong, godly leadership makes a difference in keeping people faithful.
- Compromise in worship can have devastating consequences.
This incident serves as a warning for believers not to allow their love for God to grow cold or compromise with the culture around them. Clinging to the Lord, His word and His ways is essential for maintaining pure worship that honors Him.
Indicators of Pagan Revelry Creeping into Christian Practice Today
While full-blown pagan revelry is less common in the church today, Christians must remain vigilant against any attitudes or practices that may reflect its influence. Here are some potential indicators:
- A focus on stirring up emotional experiences rather than truth
- Using entertainment and music styles that promotes sensuality
- Compromising with the values of the surrounding culture
- An emphasis on self-fulfillment rather than serving God and others
- Lack of concern for purity in relationships between men and women
- Numbing the conscience through alcohol or substance abuse
- Obsession with physical health, appearance and self-image
- Treating sacred things lightly rather than with reverence
When these sorts of attitudes creep in, it can open the door to more blatant compromise and descent into unrestrained, idolatrous revelry. Maintaining vigilance requires intentionally nurturing the fear of the Lord, submission to His word, and separation from sinful cultural values that compete with allegiance to Him.
The account in Exodus 32 serves as a somber warning that even those redeemed out of pagan cultures must continually guard their hearts. The pull toward sensuality, self-indulgence and idolatry is powerful. But God calls His people to a high standard of holiness out of reverence for Him. Relying on His grace and rejecting worldly attitudes is key to worshipping Him in spirit and in truth.