golden calf

woodcut of 'Moses and the Golden Calf', by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld; from 'Das Buch der Bücher in Bilden'Article

Image of God made by Aaron at the foot of Mount Sinai, pursuant to the request of the Hebrews wearied by the protracted stay of Moses on the mountain (Exodus 32). It consisted probably of a wooden frame with plates of gold obtained from melting the jewelry worn by the Hebrews. Judging from the Hebrew word employed, its appearance was not so much that of a calf as of a young bull, connoting strength and vigor and symbolizing the principle of fertility. In the minds of the people the golden calf was not to be the formal object of their worship, but a representation of Yahweh, as is clear from Aaron’s attributing to God the deliverance from Egypt, and proclaiming a feast to Yahweh. Any divine representation, however, contravened the prohibition to make any kind of images of God (Exodus 20); and particularly was the bovine figure objectionable, as the worship of that symbol was associated traditionally with scenes of obscenity. That is exactly what happened in this instance. After the secession of the ten northern tribes, Jeroboam, with a view to turn his new subjects away from the temple of Jerusalem, and at the same time to cater to their naturalistic propensities, set up golden calves at Dan and Bethel (3 Kings 12). These apparently must be looked upon, like Aaron’s golden calf, as representations of Yahweh. The worship carried out at their sanctuaries was likewise strongly tainted with immoral practices.

MLA Citation

  • “golden calf“. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 August 2018. Web. 19 January 2019. <>