When the people saw that Moses was a long time before coming down the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said to him, 'Get to work, make us a god to go at our head; for that Moses, the man who brought us here from Egypt -- we do not know what has become of him.'
Aaron replied, 'Strip off the gold rings in the ears of your wives and your sons and daughters, and bring them to me.'
The people all stripped off the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron.
He received what they gave him, melted it down in a mould and with it made the statue of a calf. 'Israel,' the people shouted, 'here is your God who brought you here from Egypt!'
Observing this, Aaron built an altar before the statue and made this proclamation, 'Tomorrow will be a feast in Yahweh's honour.'
Early next morning they sacrificed burnt offerings and brought communion sacrifices. The people then sat down to eat and drink, and afterwards got up to amuse themselves.
Yahweh then said to Moses, 'Go down at once, for your people whom you brought here from Egypt have become corrupt.
They have quickly left the way which I ordered them to follow. They have cast themselves a metal calf, worshipped it and offered sacrifice to it, shouting, "Israel, here is your God who brought you here from Egypt!" '
Yahweh then said to Moses, 'I know these people; I know how obstinate they are!
So leave me now, so that my anger can blaze at them and I can put an end to them! I shall make a great nation out of you instead.'
Moses tried to pacify Yahweh his God. 'Yahweh,' he said, 'why should your anger blaze at your people, whom you have brought out of Egypt by your great power and mighty hand?
Why should the Egyptians say, "He brought them out with evil intention, to slaughter them in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth?" Give up your burning wrath; relent over this disaster intended for your people.
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom you swore by your very self and made this promise: "I shall make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and this whole country of which I have spoken, I shall give to your descendants, and it will be their heritage for ever." '
Yahweh then relented over the disaster which he had intended to inflict on his people.
Moses turned and came down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, tablets inscribed on both sides, inscribed on the front and on the back.
The tablets were the work of God, and the writing on them was God's writing, engraved on the tablets.
When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, 'There is the sound of battle in the camp!'
But he replied: No song of victory is this sound, no lament for defeat this sound; but answering choruses I hear!
And there, as he approached the camp, he saw the calf and the groups dancing. Moses blazed with anger. He threw down the tablets he was holding, shattering them at the foot of the mountain.
He seized the calf they had made and burned it, grinding it into powder which he scattered on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.
Moses then said to Aaron, 'What have these people done to you for you to have brought so great a sin on them?'
Aaron replied, 'My lord should not be so angry. You yourself know what a bad state these people are in!
They said to me, "Make us a god to go at our head; for that Moses, the man who brought us here from Egypt -- we do not know what has become of him."
I then said to them, "Anyone with gold, strip it off!" They gave it to me. I threw it into the fire and out came this calf!'
When Moses saw that the people were out of hand -- for Aaron had let them get out of hand to the derision of their enemies all round them-
Moses then stood at the gate of the camp and shouted, 'Who is for Yahweh? To me!' And all the Levites rallied round him.
He said to them, 'Yahweh, God of Israel, says this, "Buckle on your sword, each of you, and go up and down the camp from gate to gate, every man of you slaughtering brother, friend and neighbour." '
The Levites did as Moses said, and of the people about three thousand men perished that day.
'Today', Moses said, 'you have consecrated yourselves to Yahweh, one at the cost of his son, another of his brother; and so he bestows a blessing on you today.'
On the following day Moses said to the people, 'You have committed a great sin. But now I shall go up to Yahweh: perhaps I can secure expiation for your sin.'
Moses then went back to Yahweh and said, 'Oh, this people has committed a great sin by making themselves a god of gold.
And yet, if it pleased you to forgive their sin. . .! If not, please blot me out of the book you have written!'
Yahweh said to Moses, 'Those who have sinned against me are the ones I shall blot out of my book.
So now go and lead the people to the place I promised to you. My angel will indeed go at your head but, on the day of punishment, I shall punish them for their sin.'
And Yahweh punished the people for having made the calf, the one Aaron had made.