20 At Horeb they made themselves a calf:
and bowed down in worship to an image.
21 And so they exchanged the glory of God:
for the likeness of an ox that eats hay.
22 They forgot God who was their saviour:
that had done such great things in Egypt,
23 Who had worked his wonders in the land of Ham:
and his terrible deeds at the Red Sea.
24 Therefore he thought to destroy them:
had not Moses his servant stood before him in the breach,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Last year's tantalising excerpt from Avivah Zornberg:
"The problem of idolatry, then, becomes a problem of dependence, in which both the divine power and human power are travestied. The terror of Sinai, the consuming fire on the mountain, was the terror of the face-to-face relation of God and the human. ("Face to face, God spoke to you" [Deut 5:4] In order to sustain such a relation, it is, as C.S. Lewis suggests, necessary to have a face. The implications of this will be the subject of our exploration of the Golden Calf episode.
At this point, however, we may say both that the face is the most exposed, public portion of the self and that it bears a unique trace of inwardness. The ordeal of the face is that it must meet the gaze of other faces without betraying the truth of its own gaze. The Golden Calf narrative begins with an act of seeing ("And the people saw that Moses was delayed…") and ends with an act of seeing ("The Israelites saw that the skin of Moses' face was radiant" [34:30]). Between these two moments, the potential of faces meeting, of seeing and not seeing, is the complex theme of the narrative of idolatry."
Avivah Zornberg 2001 The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus 404 Image/Doubleday New York