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Why did the Hebrews make a golden calf?

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The Golden Calf (Exodus ch.32) was a case of taking the initiative.
It was an egregious error which was quickly and decisively stamped out. And while it was a serious offense, it may be a bit less of a puzzle if we consider the following:
1) It seemed that Moses had died (Rashi commentary, Exodus 32:1); and they wanted something or someone to lead them (Exodus 32:1). They felt that this (seemingly) drastic circumstance justified quickly taking unusual measures.
2) They had a tradition that they would eventually build an edifice to God (Rashi, Exodus 26:15); and, not yet having been commanded as to the details (the Tabernacle), they thought that they might now improvise.
3) The actual intent was not to worship the Golden Calf itself, but to worship the Presence of God (Exodus 32:5) which (they hoped) would dwell upon it.
4) The entire event was instigated by Egyptians (Rashi, Exodus 32:4) who had recently joined among the mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38).
5) Those who sinned were, at most, in the thousands (Exodus 32:28). Not hundreds of thousands.
6) That generation was judged by an exacting standard, precisely because they were on a high level (Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi).
7) In each era, there are different spiritual tests. The (main) test in ancient times was whether people would succumb to the lure of idolatry and its preludes. This powerful lure has since been emasculated (Talmud, Yoma 69b), so it is hard for us now to fully comprehend.
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Archaeologists have discovered that the golden calf (with crescent horns) was a symbol of the moon god, used throughout the ancient Near East. There are two important references in the Old Testament, first when Aaron made the golden calf during the legendary Exodus, second when the king of Israel, Jeroboam, had two golden calves set up, and declared a public holiday, and the people rejoiced.

It is clear, at least from the reference to Jeroboam, that the Israelites worshipped the moon god. Other references demonstrate that this worship was of long standing, not merely a whim of one Israelite king.

The golden calf in Exodus was made while Joshua and Moses were on the mountain for just forty days. There is strong biblical evidence that Joshua was worshipped as a sun god before his story evolved in Hebrew legend to that of a mortal hero. If so, the symbolism of the story is that when the sun god is away (night time) then the people worship the moon god.
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According to the Tanach (Jewish Bible) and Jewish teachings, the Israelites began to worship the golden calf because they began to lose faith in HaShem (The Creator) because Moshe (Moses) was gone for so long.

It is very important to note that the Tanach is very clear that it was only men who worshiped the calf and not a single female participated nor did any male from the tribe of Levi.
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