Sometimes I have a hard time with the Jehovah of the Old Testament. I’m not always sure how much of the anger, retribution, and striking people dead for their sins came from Him, or from the interpretation of His will by the designated prophet.
Take the Golden Calf story in Exodus 32, covered in SS Lesson #14. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the stone tablets in his hands and saw the people singing, dancing, and playing, he had a big fit. He threw the tablets down on the ground and broke them. He burnt the golden calf they had made and killed three thousand men. According to Joseph Smith, there went the ancient Hebrews’ chance to have the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood!
I wonder what would have happened if Moses had been a little less vindictive on God’s behalf. I attempt to explore this scenario in the following poem:
Your Golden Calf — And Mine
With justice stern,
No Moses, I —
Descending from Mt. Sinai to decimate your golden calf.
I’m not a prophet, sir, I laugh!
But… tell me of your God, instead,
This gold you’ve shaped,
Your wine and bread.
How have you built it?
What appeals to you?
What myst’ries it reveals?
Perhaps I’ll tell you of my climb up Sinai,
How I saw divine phalanges shining in the sun,
The glory of an Holy One.
In safe discourse you’ll have me see
The glorious opportunity your idol sends,
To sing, to dance!
While I, thus taught, have equal chance.
This fraternal state we’re in tells you licentiousness and sin
Is not the best way (generally) to show
Unveiled: my God, an image too —
A mirror of my heart,
A true reflection of the judgment there.
If we’ll but fall in prostrate prayer,
Each others’ hearts will bleed to view —
The sacred within me and you.
Do you think it was necessary for the Old Testament Jehovah to strike so many people dead for their sins? The idolaters, the disobedient, the complainers, even the people who dwelt in the land of Canaan before the Israelites? Why was it important then, and why doesn’t God kill the covenant people who are disobedient today? How much of the violence of the Old Testament came from God, and how much can be attributed to the excesses of people who were acting in His name? Did Moses shape a “golden calf” too?