32 When the people realized Moses was taking a long time to return from his trek up the mountain, they got together and approached Aaron.
People: We have no idea what happened to this fellow Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt.[a] He left you in charge, so get up and make us gods who will lead us from here.
Aaron: 2 I want you to bring me the gold earrings your wives, sons, and daughters are wearing.
3 So everyone took out their gold earrings and handed them over to Aaron. 4 He collected the gold they brought and used a tool to fashion an idol in the shape of a calf. When the people saw the calf Aaron made, they were elated.
People (seeing the calf): Israel, these are your gods—the ones who led you out of the land of Egypt.
5 When Aaron saw how the people responded, he built an altar in front of the golden calf.
Aaron: We are going to have a feast to the Eternal tomorrow.
6 Everyone woke up before dawn the next day and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar. When the food was ready, they sat down to eat and drink and then rose up to dance and play.[b]
7 Meanwhile, on the mountain, the Eternal One spoke to Moses.
This is truly a dark moment for Israel. Moses left Aaron and Hur in charge 40 days ago, and both men are beginning to feel the strain. The people are stuck in the desert, and they are growing increasingly impatient without Moses and direction from God. So the people begin to question, and eventually they demand a physical representation of God like the ones their neighbors have. Aaron complies. With Moses and God occupied, the people begin breaking the Ten Directives, one after another: worshiping other gods, making idols, invoking God’s name for their own selfish purposes, and committing other indecent acts. The people of God fall quickly, and they fall hard. For a brief period, their very survival is in doubt.
Eternal One: Go back down the mountain immediately, because your people whom you led out of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have quickly abandoned the way of life I require of them. They have fashioned a calf out of gold, bowed down to it, and offered it sacrifices. They are even crediting My work to that detestable idol, saying, “Israel, these are your gods—the ones who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
9 I know these people, and they are unbelievably stubborn. 10 Leave Me alone so that My anger can flare up and destroy them. Then I will start over and continue My plans without them and make a great nation out of you.
Moses (begging): 11 Eternal One, why are You so angry? Why does Your anger flare up against the people You led out of Egypt with so much power and a strong hand? 12 Do You really want the Egyptians to say: “You deceived them and led them into the mountains in order to kill them and to wipe their memory from the earth”? I beg you to curb Your anger, and change your mind. Don’t harm Your people. 13 Remember the sacred promise You made to Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. You swore, “I will make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky, and I will give them all of this land as I promised. It will be their everlasting inheritance.”
14 So the Eternal relented and decided not to destroy the people as He had threatened to do.
15 Moses left God’s presence and went back down the mountain. In his hands, he carried the two stone tablets of witness, inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were God’s handiwork, and the writing on the tablets was written by God Himself.
17 As they neared the camp, Joshua heard all the commotion and the people shouting.
Joshua (to Moses): It sounds like a battle going on down at the camp.
Moses: 18 It is not the sound of victory, and it’s not the sound of defeat, but I do hear singing and celebration.
19 As soon as Moses arrived at the camp, he saw the calf and the revelry around it. His anger flared, and he hurled down the stone tablets and they shattered at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took down the calf they had made and burned it. He ground it down to a powder, scattered it over the water, and then he forced the Israelites to drink it.
Moses (to Aaron): 21 How could you lead these people into such a heinous sin? What did they do to you?
Aaron: 22 Control your anger, my master. You know these people. You know how evil they can be. 23 They told me, “We have no idea what happened to this fellow Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt. He left you in charge, so get up and make us some gods to lead us from here.” 24 So I told them, “If you are wearing any gold, take it off.” So they gave me all their gold and I just tossed it into the fire, and out came this calf!
25 When Moses saw that the people had lost all control because Aaron had let them get that way, and he realized their wild behavior had become a mockery in the sight of their enemies, 26 he stood at the camp’s entrance and shouted to them.
Moses: If you are on the side of the Eternal One, stand over here with me!
All of the Levites gathered around him.
Moses (to the Levites): 27 This is the message of the Eternal One, Israel’s True God: “Every one of you strap on your sword and move throughout the entire camp. Kill your brother, friend, and neighbor.”
28 The Levites did exactly as Moses told them to do, and about 3,000 men were killed that day.
Moses (to the Levites): 29 Dedicate your lives to the Eternal today—for every one of you has moved against sons and brothers. Because of your devotion to God, you have earned His blessing today.
30 On the very next day, Moses addressed the people.
Moses: You are guilty of a great sin. Now I am going back to the Eternal One, and I hope to make atonement for your wickedness.
31 Moses then went back up the mountain to the Eternal.
Moses: These people are guilty of a great sin against You. They fashioned gods out of gold for themselves. 32 If You will only forgive their sin, but if You do not, then erase me from the book You have written.
Eternal One: 33 I will erase from My book the name of everyone who has sinned against Me. 34 It’s time to go and leave this mountain. Lead the people to the place I told you. Look, My messenger will guide you there. When the time comes, I will punish them for what they have done.
35 Then the Eternal One sent a plague on all the people because they had bowed down and sacrificed to the calf Aaron had made.
33 Eternal One (instructing Moses): The time has now arrived. Leave, and take all the people you have led out of Egypt with you. Go to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom I said, “I will give this land to your future generations.” 2 I will send a messenger to guide you, and I will force out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3 Travel to the land that flows with milk and honey, the land of your inheritance. However, because you are such an incredibly stubborn people, I will not be going with you. Otherwise, I would completely destroy you during the journey.
4 When everyone heard the dreadful news, they began to grieve and stopped wearing their jewelry to remind them of the calf made from their gold earrings. 5 You see the Eternal One had instructed Moses, “Give the Israelites this message: ‘You are such an incredibly stubborn people, therefore I am not going to travel with you. If I allowed Myself to travel with you for only a moment, I would completely destroy you. Stop wearing your jewelry so I can figure out what to do with you.’” 6 So the Israelites took off all of their jewelry from the time they left Mount Horeb.
7 Moses used to take a tent[c] and put it up far away from the camp. He referred to it as the meeting tent. Everyone who sought the Eternal One would go out to the meeting tent, which was located well outside the camp. 8 When the people heard that Moses was going out to the tent, they would get up and stand at the entrance of their own tents and watch him until he had gone inside. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the cloud pillar descended to the tent’s entrance, and the Eternal would talk with Moses. 10 When people witnessed the cloud pillar standing at the meeting tent’s entrance, they would stand and bow in worship at the entrance of their own tents. 11 The Eternal spoke with Moses face-to-face, just as a friend speaks to another friend. After they were done, Moses would come back to camp but his young assistant Joshua (Nun’s son) would remain behind.
The golden-calf incident creates a deep rift between God and His people. For their safety, God refuses to travel with them to the land of promise; instead, He sends His messenger to guide them. The people’s response to God’s threatened absence is to mourn and refuse to wear their jewelry and fine clothes. The meeting tent and the congregation tent reflect this rift too. The congregation tent is to be God’s unique dwelling with His people, so it is located right in the middle of the camp. But now there is another tent, the meeting tent set up a long way from camp, far from the contagion of evil spreading there. From time to time, God and Moses meet there to talk; and Joshua stands watch over this intimate encounter, for only Joshua and Moses are not imperiled when the rest of Israel violates God’s directive and worships the golden calf. Moses speaks with God and does his best to get God back on good terms with His covenant people.
Moses (to the Lord): 12 Look, You tell me, “Lead these people!” but You haven’t yet told me whom You will send to accompany me. Yet You tell me, “I know you by name, and you have gained My trust and blessing.” 13 If I have gained Your trust and blessing, reveal Your way to me so that I can truly know You, and so that I may gain Your favor. Remember that this nation is Your covenant people.
Eternal One: 14 My presence will travel with you, and I will give you rest.
Moses: 15 If Your presence doesn’t travel with me, then don’t lead us away from here. 16 How will the people know that I have gained Your trust and blessing if You do not travel with us? Isn’t it the very fact that Your presence travels with us that distinguishes us from every other people on earth?
Eternal One: 17 I will do what you have said because you have gained My trust and blessing, and I know you by name.
Moses: 18 If Your presence will go with us, then let me see Your glory!
Eternal One: 19 I will cause all My goodness to pass before you, and I will declare My name, the Eternal One, before you. I will show mercy to whomever I choose to show mercy, and I will demonstrate compassion on whomever I choose to have compassion.[d] 20 You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live. 21 Look, there is a place next to Me on the rock where you may stand. 22 While My glory is passing by you, I will place you in a large crevice of the rock and hide you beneath My hand until I have completely passed by. 23 Then I will remove My hand, and you will see only My back. But you won’t be able to see My face.
69 As all this was going on in Caiaphas’s chamber, Peter was sitting in the courtyard with some servants. One of the servant girls came up to him.
Servant Girl: You were with Jesus the Galilean, weren’t you?
70 And just as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied it before everyone.
Peter: Not me! I don’t know what you’re talking about.
71 He went out to stand by the gate. And as he walked past, another servant girl recognized him.
Another Servant Girl (speaking to those standing around): That man over there—he was here with Jesus the Nazarene!
72 Again, just as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied it, swearing an oath.
Peter: I don’t know Him!
73 Peter then went to chat with a few of the servants. A little while later, some other servants approached him:
Other Servants: Look, we know that you must be one of Jesus’ followers. You speak like you are from the same area as His followers. You’ve got that tell-tale Galilean accent.
74 Cursing and swearing, Peter denied Him again.
Peter: I do not know Him!
As the exclamation left his mouth, a cock crowed. 75 And Peter remembered. He remembered that Jesus had looked at him with something like pity and said, “This very night, before the cock crows in the morning, you will deny Me three times.” And Peter went outside, sat down on the ground, and wept.
27 Eventually the chief priests and the elders looked around and saw that it was morning. They convened a council meeting whose sole purpose was to hand down Jesus’ death sentence. 2 They tied Jesus up, took Him away, and handed Him over to the governor of Judea, a man called Pilate.
3 Judas—the one who had betrayed Him with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver—saw that Jesus had been condemned, and suddenly Judas regretted what he had done. He took the silver back to the chief priests and elders and tried to return it to them.
Judas Iscariot: 4 I can’t keep this money! I’ve sinned! I’ve betrayed an innocent man! His blood will be on my hands.
The priests and elders want nothing to do with Judas, and they refuse to take his money.
Chief Priests and Elders: We’re through with you, friend. The state of your soul is really none of our affair.
5 Judas threw down the money in the temple, went off, and hanged himself.
6 The chief priests looked at the silver coins and picked them up.
Chief Priests and Elders: You know, according to the law, we can’t put blood money in the temple treasury.
7 After some deliberation, they took the money and bought a plot of land called Potter’s Field; they would use it to bury foreigners, suicides, and others who were unfit for a full Jewish burial. 8 (To this day, the field is called Blood Field, because it was bought with blood money.) 9 And when the priests bought Potter’s Field, they unwittingly fulfilled a prophecy made long ago by the prophet Jeremiah: “They took 30 pieces of silver, the price set on the head of the man by the children of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the Potter’s Field as the Eternal One instructed.”[a]
11 Jesus was standing before the governor, Pilate.
Pilate: Are You the King of the Jews?
Jesus: So you say.
12 The chief priests and the elders stood and poured out their accusations: that Jesus was a traitor, a seditious rebel, a crazy, a would-be Savior, and a would-be king. Jesus stood in the stream of accusations, but He did not respond.
Pilate: 13 Do You hear these accusations they are making against You?
14 Still Jesus said nothing, which Pilate found rather astounding—no protests, no defense, nothing.
1 Release your heart’s joy in sweet music to the Eternal.
When the upright passionately sing glory-filled songs to Him, everything is in its right place.
2 Worship the Eternal with your instruments, strings offering their praise;
write awe-filled songs to Him on the 10-stringed harp.
3 Sing to Him a new song;
play each the best way you can,
and don’t be afraid to be bold with your joyful feelings.
4 For the word of the Eternal is perfect and true;
His actions are always faithful and right.
5 He loves virtue and equity;
the Eternal’s love fills the whole earth.
6 The unfathomable cosmos came into being at the word of the Eternal’s imagination, a solitary voice in endless darkness.
The breath of His mouth whispered the sea of stars into existence.
7 He gathers every drop of every ocean as in a jar,
securing the ocean depths as His watery treasure.
8 Let all people stand in awe of the Eternal;
let every man, woman, and child live in wonder of Him.
9 For He spoke, and all things came into being.
A single command from His lips, and all creation obeyed and stood its ground.
10 The Eternal cripples the schemes of the other nations;
He impedes the plans of rival peoples.
11 The Eternal’s purposes will last to the end of time;
the thoughts of His heart will awaken and stir all generations.
33 Pay attention to my guidance, dare to be wise,
and don’t disregard my teachings.
34 The one who listens to me,
who carefully seeks me in everyday things
and delays action until my way is apparent, that one will find true happiness.
35 For when he recognizes and follows me, he finds a peaceful and satisfying life
and receives favor from the Eternal.
36 But heed my warning: the one who goes against me will only hurt himself,
for all who despise me are playing with fire and courting death.