“Where is Moses?”, “Is Moses dead?”, “Will Moses come back?”, “What has happened to Moses?”
I believe the above were some questions the people asked when they did not see Moses returning after he had left for the summit meeting (pun intended) some weeks earlier. Some became restless and they pressured Aaron into making them some objects of worship. Aaron failed to restrain them, and he made them a gold calf and even an altar for it. The LORD was angry. Moses was also angry to see this happening. When Moses returned to the camp, he gave the order to punish the people. About 3000 were killed that day. The full story is recorded in chapter 32 of Exodus.
Despite his role in this saga, Aaron was spared and even went on to serve as priest. I believe there were 3 contributing factors.
- Matthew Henry, in his commentary, noted that DEU 9:20 shows that Moses had interceded for Aaron.
- So he [Moses] stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him. [Exodus 32:26]
To me, that sounded more like a call for repentance, and Aaron, a son of Levi, was apparently among those who went to Moses. The 3000 were on the other side.
- The LORD showed Aaron mercy and grace.
Likewise, today when we seek forgiveness for our sins, we also need an intercessor (which we already have in Jesus), a desire for repentance on our part, and grace from the LORD.