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Jewish World

Moses & God: The Confusion of Identity

“Come, make us a god who will go before us!” With these words the children of Israel appealed to Moses’ older brother Aaron when it appeared that Moses had got lost on the mountain.

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The people demanded of Aaron a god to replace Moses. Even though in some translations we find the word “gods,” in the Hebrew Bible text the word is Elohim (אלהים). It is the same word for the one true God, as is found in the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.” Or did “gods” create the heavens and the earth? No!

“…as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32:1) Eight chapters previously, God had invited Moses to meet with Him on Mount Sinai. “I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” (Exodus 24:12) However, Moses’ return is delayed, and the people become impatient.

In the midst of the desert, without Moses, the people of Israel feel helpless and abandoned. In order to understand the background of this narrative we need to first realize how the people of Israel regarded Moses. In the eyes…

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