Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Molten Calf

Exodus 32 talks about the so called Molten Calf. Let's take a look:

Exodus 32:4
‎4 ‏וַיִּקַּ֣ח מִיָּדָ֗ם וַיָּ֤צַר אֹתוֹ֙ בַּחֶ֔רֶט וַֽיַּעֲשֵׂ֖הוּ עֵ֣גֶל מַסֵּכָ֑ה וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ אֵ֤לֶּה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֶעֱל֖וּךָ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ 
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
I've discussed in details this story on my NIP page and My Methods page. However, I wanted to add a few illustrations to further my point and to provide an easy way to understand Torah text.

As you can see from the above verse, the traditional interpretation of the word עגל is "calf".

However comparative analysis of the verses of Ex 32:8, Ex 32:19, Ex 32:20, Ex 32:24, Ex 32:35, Lev 9:2-3, Lev 9:8, Deut 9:16, Deut 9:21 reveal that the proper translation of this word should be close to the English word "round". So Hebrews in the desert made something like this (a sphere): 

Or perhaps it was resembling a torus. Like this: 

Either way, as you can see from the images above, the object the Hebrews build was "round" in shape and not an actual representation of an animal (a calf). 

Most likely it was due to the fact that Aaron and the rest of the Hebrews heard the Decalogue at Mt. Sinai and they new very well that they could not make any representation of an animal (as per the Second Commandment - Thou shall not have other gods before me...). So they have decided to sort of "cheat" God by using an abstract figure, such as the sphere, to worship as an idol.

UPDATE 09/09/2014: After reviewing my assumptions I have realized that I may be mistaken and it might have been indeed a "calf" and not a circle/sphere. More research is needed to answer this question.

Also, the word "עגל" is used in Genesis 45:19, 21, 27, 46:5, Numbers 7:3, 6, 7:7, 7:8 to refer to the "carts".

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