How does God want Christians to profit concerning worship from Exodus 32:17-20?

We know from 2 Tim. 3:15-17 that God wants Christians to profit from everything that He has inspired in the Bible. How does God want Christians to profit concerning their understanding of proper worship, especially of proper worship music, from the mention of singing and dancing in the following key passage about idolatrous worship:

Exodus 32:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. 18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. 19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. 20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. 

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Ken S's picture

In my opinion, Exodus 32 has everything to do with the object/person of our worship, and has nothing at all to do with music philosophy or practice.

RajeshG's picture

Ken S wrote:

In my opinion, Exodus 32 has everything to do with the object/person of our worship, and has nothing at all to do with music philosophy or practice.

The text specifically calls our attention to music in the passage. We cannot ignore what God has revealed and have a right understanding. Why did God record for us that there was singing on this occasion and what profit are we to derive from that explicit revelation?

TylerR's picture

The profit is that it's bad to worship a pagan deity through singing. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ron Bean's picture

The text specifically calls our attention to music in the passage. 

Are you sure that the text doesn't specifically call our attention to dancing? 

Are you saying that the music was what made Moses angry?

I suppose some might carry this to the logical end that idol worshippers used music (not sure what kind) and danced, therefore music and dancing (sorry King David) are to be rejected as part of worship because of their association.

I'll be following with interest..

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Kevin Miller's picture

It would probably help to bring the King David verses into the picture. Here is II Samuel 6:14-16:

 "And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart."

So this music was characterized by shouting and dancing. From a distance, the trumpet sounds might have been mistaken for the sounds of battle. The difference in the passages is the object of the worship. In Exodus, the object was a false god, In II Samuel 6, David said in verse 21, "Therefore will I play before the Lord."

RajeshG's picture

TylerR wrote:

The profit is that it's bad to worship a pagan deity through singing. 

Close attention to the passage does not support understanding that they were worshiping a pagan deity. Immediately after Aaron had made the calf, they declared that this calf was their god who brought them out of Israel (32:4).

What Aaron said next is a key to a right handling of the account:

Exodus 32:5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.

He did not say that tomorrow is a feast to this pagan deity that I have just made. He said that what would take place the next day would be a feast to Yahweh.

As bad as what Aaron had already done on this occasion was, he had no intention of allowing them to offer sacrifices, sing, and dance in worship to a pagan deity. The passage is an account where Yahweh was worshiped in a false way.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

It would probably help to bring the King David verses into the picture. Here is II Samuel 6:14-16:

 "And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart."

So this music was characterized by shouting and dancing. From a distance, the trumpet sounds might have been mistaken for the sounds of battle. The difference in the passages is the object of the worship. In Exodus, the object was a false god, In II Samuel 6, David said in verse 21, "Therefore will I play before the Lord."

No, the difference in the passages is not the object of the worship. Exodus 32:5 says that what was to take place on that day was a feast to the LORD.

Jay's picture

Considering that God has just expressly told Moses that they should not make any graven images, I think that is the key to the passage.

I will join in the puzzlement about how this passage on idolatry pertains to our discussions a few days ago regarding musical form.  Maybe we should conclude that all musical expression is wrong, just to be on the safe side?

But that directly conflicts with many other Scriptural passages, so that can't be right either. I am also fairly certain that Mount Calvary has a musical component to their services.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

RajeshG's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

The text specifically calls our attention to music in the passage. 

Are you sure that the text doesn't specifically call our attention to dancing? 

Are you saying that the music was what made Moses angry?

I suppose some might carry this to the logical end that idol worshippers used music (not sure what kind) and danced, therefore music and dancing (sorry King David) are to be rejected as part of worship because of their association.

I'll be following with interest..

The text calls attention to the totality of what they did in their ungodly worship of Yahweh, including the singing and the dancing. Moses was not angry merely because the people were innocently dancing in a godly manner. Exodus 15 shows that Moses was present on a premier occasion of corporate worship that included singing and dancing. He would not have had a problem with dancing that was pleasing to God . . .

RajeshG's picture

Jay wrote:

Considering that God has just expressly told Moses that they should not make any graven images, I think that is the key to the passage.

I will join in the puzzlement about how this passage on idolatry pertains to our discussions a few days ago regarding musical form.  Maybe we should conclude that all musical expression is wrong, just to be on the safe side?

But that directly conflicts with many other Scriptural passages, so that can't be right either. I am also fairly certain that Mount Calvary has a musical component to their services.

As is often the case in these discussions, a big part of the problem is that you are very prematurely jumping to contemporary applications. We have hardly even begun to discuss all that the passage and parallel passages reveal.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

 

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

It would probably help to bring the King David verses into the picture. Here is II Samuel 6:14-16:

 "And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart."

So this music was characterized by shouting and dancing. From a distance, the trumpet sounds might have been mistaken for the sounds of battle. The difference in the passages is the object of the worship. In Exodus, the object was a false god, In II Samuel 6, David said in verse 21, "Therefore will I play before the Lord."

 

 

No, the difference in the passages is not the object of the worship. Exodus 32:5 says that what was to take place on that day was a feast to the LORD.

Still, the description of the music and dancing in the II Samuel passage is very similar to the description in Exodus, and God does not condemn David for his singing and dancing in worship to the Lord. In fact, when Michal accused David of dancing inappropriately in front of the maidens, God made Michal barren for the rest of her life. So, obviously, God does not have a problem with music that contains shouting or trumpet sounds or has dancing that goes along with it. Moses destroyed the graven image in Exodus, not any musical instruments, so it seems logical that the graven image was the problem and not the music itself.

dcbii's picture

Note that it's not obvious from the passage that the quality of the music itself was the problem.  According to the passage, Moses' anger did not "wax hot" until he "saw the calf, and the dancing."  You should also note that it wasn't the music that started Moses and Joshua down the mountain -- according to verse 15, they had already started, so maybe they just noticed it as they got closer to the camp.  Maybe at first it wasn't any different than one of them wondering "what on earth is going on here?"

But even if Moses recognized something in the music that bothered him, we don't know what it was.  It could have been that the people had re-purposed an Egyptian song used to worship their gods and changed it to "worship the Lord."  That's problematic, but could be a problem of association more than a problem of "inherently evil" music.  But for all we know they could have taken a song they normally sang to the Lord, and sung it to the calf instead, which would be reasonable given the people were declaring a feast to the Lord.  Maybe Joshua just misinterpreted drum beats (or trumpets as stated above) they heard from afar as something that would have been used in battle, but Moses could hear that it was more musical.  With Moses' education, he might have had a much greater understanding of both.  But the truth is, we don't really know more than what is written in the passage.

In other words, the passage is indeed instructive about false worship (which included music and singing).  It says nothing at all whether the music itself was a problem.  It does reinforce that worshiping God through an idol was false worship, but that could even have used otherwise "good" music.  Again, we don't really know.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Make ... it ... stop ... This merri-go-round keeps spinning, getting nowhere. Perhaps it's time to jump off? 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ron Bean's picture

The main point of this text is the sin of idol worship. Despite Aaron's claim, it is still idol worship. The music and dancing fail to rise to the level of even secondary issues. To make music a primary point is just plain poor exegesis. Even implying that "rose up to play" means playing music leaves me speechless but when one has a hammer........

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

It appears the Israelites were listening to "Oceans," and that was what Moses and Joshua heard on the mountain. Everything goes back to Hillsong ...

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

RajeshG's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

The main point of this text is the sin of idol worship. Despite Aaron's claim, it is still idol worship. The music and dancing fail to rise to the level of even secondary issues. To make music a primary point is just plain poor exegesis. Even implying that "rose up to play" means playing music leaves me speechless but when one has a hammer........

The verb "to play" has to mean something that they were doing after they had eaten the sacrifices that were offered to the idol. If it does not refer to their singing and their dancing, which are the only activities recorded that they did after they ate the sacrifices, you have to explain why not and what it does refer to and you have to show from the passage why what you say it refers to is so.

RajeshG's picture

Jim wrote:

https://apeopleforhisname.org/2016/11/beatboxing-exodus-32-and-the-ccm-d...

Rajesh is clear about CCM and he uses Exodus 32 [I'm glad Rajesh, who has recently joined S/I, is here!!! But it appears he has an agenda. I'm OK with that ... but it should be out front!]

His CCM articles

https://apeopleforhisname.org/category/discipleship/music/ccm/

Hmm. Are you interested in discussing what a specific text of Scripture teaches or do you have some other agenda of your own by posting a response such as this one . . .

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

Still, the description of the music and dancing in the II Samuel passage is very similar to the description in Exodus, and God does not condemn David for his singing and dancing in worship to the Lord. In fact, when Michal accused David of dancing inappropriately in front of the maidens, God made Michal barren for the rest of her life. So, obviously, God does not have a problem with music that contains shouting or trumpet sounds or has dancing that goes along with it. Moses destroyed the graven image in Exodus, not any musical instruments, so it seems logical that the graven image was the problem and not the music itself.

No, the description of the dancing in the 2 Samuel passage is not very similar to the description in Exodus. In Exodus, you have Moses, the leading man of God in his day who has just been in the direct presence of God and is a man who has the Spirit on him, and his anger waxed hot at seeing their dancing. Their dancing was not anything like what David's was.

Also, what basis do you have in the text of Exodus 32 for asserting that the music on this occasion was very similar to the music in the 2 Samuel passage?

Ron Bean's picture

Rajesh said:

The verb "to play" has to mean something that they were doing after they had eaten the sacrifices that were offered to the idol. If it does not refer to their singing and their dancing, which are the only activities recorded that they did after they ate the sacrifices, you have to explain why not and what it does refer to and you have to show from the passage why what you say it refers to is so.

 

Actually it's up to you to prove that it does refer to playing music if you wish to make it a warrant for your claim.

But consider that there seems to be no place in the OT where this word refers to playing music. Also consider that translators have used phrases like "indulge in revelry", "to play shamefully--without moral restraint", "got up to party", and "to scorn, for idolatry is (the) scorning of God". While most translations leave the word as play, your claim that it's to play music needs to be proved!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jay's picture

It appears the Israelites were listening to "Oceans," and that was what Moses and Joshua heard on the mountain. Everything goes back to Hillsong ...

THAT must be why I dislike that band so much!  How much new music can you actually churn out after, what, 6,000 years?

As for "playing", let's see what the Bible Knowledge Commentary has to say:

32:5–6. Aaron then made an altar, and the next day in a festival to the LORD.… the people offered burnt offerings and … fellowship offerings. But then their activities led to revelry (cf. 1 Cor. 10:7; ṣāḥaq suggests immorality). This violated the seventh commandment (Ex. 20:14). Singing and dancing were included (32:18–19) and they were “running wild” (v. 25). Immorality often accompanies idolatry (Rom. 1:22–24)

John D. Hannah, “Exodus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 155.

So yes, the "playing" is clearly a reference to flutes.  Clearly.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

RajeshG's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Actually it's up to you to prove that it does refer to playing music if you wish to make it a warrant for your claim.

But consider that there seems to be no place in the OT where this word refers to playing music. Also consider that translators have used phrases like "indulge in revelry", "to play shamefully--without moral restraint", "got up to party", and "to scorn, for idolatry is (the) scorning of God". While most translations leave the word as play, your claim that it's to play music needs to be proved!

I seem to have missed something. Please quote where in this thread I said that "to play" refers to their playing music.

Ron Bean's picture

You said this:

If it does not refer to their singing and their dancing, which are the only activities recorded that they did after they ate the sacrifices, you have to explain why not and what it does refer to and you have to show from the passage why what you say it refers to is so.

The bold words seem to imply that the playing refers to their singing and dancing unless someone can prove it doesn't. You're the one who has made music a major issue in this passage and the rules of rhetoric are that you prove your claim----not that others have to disprove your claim. 

Of course if you believe their playing does not refer to music----say so.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

RajeshG's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

You said this:

If it does not refer to their singing and their dancing, which are the only activities recorded that they did after they ate the sacrifices, you have to explain why not and what it does refer to and you have to show from the passage why what you say it refers to is so.

The bold words seem to imply that the playing refers to their singing and dancing unless someone can prove it doesn't. You're the one who has made music a major issue in this passage and the rules of rhetoric are that you prove your claim----not that others have to disprove your claim. 

Of course if you believe their playing does not refer to music----say so.

I repeatedly say, "Singing and dancing"  and you repeatedly say that I said "playing music." The two are not synonymous. It is not right for you to say that I said playing music (meaning playing musical instruments) when what I have repeatedly said was singing and dancing.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

No, the description of the dancing in the 2 Samuel passage is not very similar to the description in Exodus. In Exodus, you have Moses, the leading man of God in his day who has just been in the direct presence of God and is a man who has the Spirit on him, and his anger waxed hot at seeing their dancing. Their dancing was not anything like what David's was.

Also, what basis do you have in the text of Exodus 32 for asserting that the music on this occasion was very similar to the music in the 2 Samuel passage?

We don't have video of either the golden calf dancing or of David's dancing, so you can't say that David's was not anything like the previous dancing. We know there was music and we know there were vocalizations that are referred to as shouting in both cases. In your blog, you acknowledged that musical instruments were used in corporate worship of God that included singing and dancing. You referenced a passage in Exodus 15 to compare it to Exodus 32. "Exodus 15 thus establishes an important precedent that the Israelites used musical instruments in corporate worship of God that included both singing and dancing. Because we know that the Israelites had at least timbrels and had used them prior to the GCI in worship that included both singing and dancing, we do not have any biblical basis to hold that the Israelites did not use at least timbrels in the GCI."  https://apeopleforhisname.org/2018/10/is-exodus-32-a-record-of-singing-a...

I'm simply doing the same thing with II Samuel 6 as you did with Exodus 15. I'm not sure why you would say they are not all similar. II Samuel 6 mentions trumpets, so we don't have any Biblical basis to say that the Israelites did not use at least trumpets in the GCI. In fact, three months earlier when they were moving the ark, we read "David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals." (II Samuel 6:5)

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

No, the description of the dancing in the 2 Samuel passage is not very similar to the description in Exodus. In Exodus, you have Moses, the leading man of God in his day who has just been in the direct presence of God and is a man who has the Spirit on him, and his anger waxed hot at seeing their dancing. Their dancing was not anything like what David's was.

Also, what basis do you have in the text of Exodus 32 for asserting that the music on this occasion was very similar to the music in the 2 Samuel passage?

 

We don't have video of either the golden calf dancing or of David's dancing, so you can't say that David's was not anything like the previous dancing. We know there was music and we know there were vocalizations that are referred to as shouting in both cases. In your blog, you acknowledged that musical instruments were used in corporate worship of God that included singing and dancing. You referenced a passage in Exodus 15 to compare it to Exodus 32. "Exodus 15 thus establishes an important precedent that the Israelites used musical instruments in corporate worship of God that included both singing and dancing. Because we know that the Israelites had at least timbrels and had used them prior to the GCI in worship that included both singing and dancing, we do not have any biblical basis to hold that the Israelites did not use at least timbrels in the GCI."  https://apeopleforhisname.org/2018/10/is-exodus-32-a-record-of-singing-a...

 

I'm simply doing the same thing with II Samuel 6 as you did with Exodus 15. I'm not sure why you would say they are not all similar. II Samuel 6 mentions trumpets, so we don't have any Biblical basis to say that the Israelites did not use at least trumpets in the GCI. In fact, three months earlier when they were moving the ark, we read "David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals." (II Samuel 6:5)

I have already explained the sense in which I am saying that they are not at all similar. Let me say it again:

Exodus 32 contains divine revelation of a very intensely negative evaluation of the people's dancing by the leading man of God in his day who had just been in the direct presence of God and who had the Spirit of God on him. 2 Samuel 6 has no such divine revelation of divine disapproval of what took place on that occasion.

There is a key difference between what I did with Exodus 15 and Exodus 32 and what you are trying to do with Exodus 32 and 2 Samuel 6. Exodus 15 preceded what happened in Exodus 32 and directly states that timbrels were used in a context of corporate worship that included both singing and dancing.

2 Samuel 6 is much later than Exodus 32. Had you had an explicit account of the Israelites' using other musical instruments such as trumpets in a context of corporate worship that included singing and dancing and that account took place prior to Exodus 32, you would be arguing in a way that is similar to mine.

As it stands, you are reading back into a much earlier event something that took place much later.

RajeshG's picture

Jay wrote:

As for "playing", let's see what the Bible Knowledge Commentary has to say:

32:5–6. Aaron then made an altar, and the next day in a festival to the LORD.… the people offered burnt offerings and … fellowship offerings. But then their activities led to revelry (cf. 1 Cor. 10:7; ṣāḥaq suggests immorality). This violated the seventh commandment (Ex. 20:14). Singing and dancing were included (32:18–19) and they were “running wild” (v. 25). Immorality often accompanies idolatry (Rom. 1:22–24)

John D. Hannah, “Exodus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 155.

So yes, the "playing" is clearly a reference to flutes.  Clearly.

So because a commentator says that a word suggests something and gives no Bible references to back up what he says it suggests, that makes it so?

TylerR's picture

If it wasn't oceans, was it "In Christ Alone?" 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

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