The Golden Calf

To Remember: We must never give up on God


  • Idol: anything we worship or treat as more important than God

  • Worship: to serve, to treat as special, to give honor to

  • Patience: waiting without complaining or giving up hope

Lesson   Exodus 20:22-25, Exodus 32-34

  • After making their covenant (promises), Moses taught the people what God wanted. This included instructions on worshipping God.

    • God said the Israelites were to create and altar of stones not shaped or decorated by men. They were only to use stone. They were not even supposed to smooth the stone. They were not to create anything that looked like men or animals or plants.

    • The Israelites worshipped God His way, renewing their promise with sacrifices.

  • God called Moses back up to the mountain to give him the law in physical form. Moses was gone 40 days and 40 nights. That's almost six weeks. (Mention what day it will be 40 days from now).

    • The Israelites got worried about Moses. They decided they did not think he was coming back. They were afraid they would have no leader.

      • Discussion point / Activity: spread out on the table 40 small items or pieces of paper. Explain that each item is a day. Pick up the pieces one at a time while you talk. Discuss how the Israelites had waited 400 years to be freed from Egypt. Sarah waited 100 years for her first son. Joseph was an old man before he was reunited with his family. God always keeps His promises, but He does it on His own time. We must not get tired of waiting for God to work. We can hope in the fact that He always keeps His promises, and will never abandon us.

    • Rather than use what they knew about God to give them hope, the Israelites thought about what the Egyptians would do. The Egyptians had hundreds of statues of creatures that they worshipped like gods. So the people asked Aaron to make them a "god".

      • Discussion point / Craft: Can people MAKE gods? If you make something, will it live? Will it be more powerful than you? make golden calves from modeling clay. Discuss how silly it is for us to worship something we made with our own hands.

  • Moses bingo and concentration game printable

  • Aaron crafted a golden calf, which the Israelites then claimed had delivered them from Egypt. Had this calf even been around then? No. Were they obeying God's law at this point? No.
    • Worse then this, once they made the idol, the Israelites began imitating the way the Egyptians worshipped, with parties, and drinking and feasting. Was this how God wanted to be worshipped? No. They were behaving as they wanted, copying other nations. They had forgotten what they had promised God they would obey in just six weeks.

  • Did God know what was going on? Yes. God told Moses the people were sinning. He wanted to destroy them and start all over with just Moses. But Moses didn't want God's reputation among the nations to suffer. He pleaded with God to forgive the people. And God changed His mind.

    • When Moses went down to the people, with the law on two tablets of stone, he heard the singing and saw the carved calf they were honoring. He was so angry he broke the tablets.

    • He approached Aaron about what happened. Aaron claimed the calf appeared by itself when they threw gold in the fire. Is that possible? No. Aaron was trying to escape responsibility for what he had done.

    • Moses demanded that the people choose between God and the idol. The people who stood against God were killed. The idol was crushed into powder (have students destroy their clay "idols") and Moses made the people drink it. Gold is pretty to look at, but is very bitter to drink.

  • God told Moses to cut two stone tablets like the first and to bring them back to the mountain. Moses spent another forty days and forty nights, and did not eat or drink the whole time. God put Moses in charge of administering the law.

True or False

1. The people knew how God wanted them to worship Him.           T
2. The people had promised they would obey God.                       T
3. Moses was gone for over a year.                                             F
4. The golden calf appeared by itself from the fire.                       F
5. Breaking promises to God bring bitter results.                           T

Memory Work:

Exodus 20:23 "You must not worship idols made of gold."

Colossians 3:5 "Put to death, therefore...greed, which is idolatry."

Review Questions for gameboard

 linguistic questions

1. What does worship mean?
2. What is an idol?
3. God told the Israelites to build an _________ of  uncut stones.

  activity questions

1. Quickly draw a picture of a calf.
2. Act Out: You are an Israelite drinking the bitter water.

  emotion questions

1. How did the Israelites feel when Moses was gone so long?
2. How did Moses feel when he saw what they had done?
3. How do you think God felt when the people gave up on Him?

application questions

1. How do we act when we are patient?
2. What things do some people put before God?
3. Do we know how God wants us to worship him?

fact questions

1. How long was Moses gone from camp?
2. What did the people use to make the idol?
3. Who arranged to have it built for them?

review questions

1. Why did the people turn to Aaron?
2. What was the golden calf capable of?
3. Why did the people want an idol?