THE STORY OF THE GOLDEN CALF, ISRAELITES, AND FOREIGNERS
Thanks to Sha’ul Bentsion of Sao Paulo, Brazil, whose questions prompted this response from Benny.
Sha’ul notes that the Israelites committed idolatry (in the incident of The Golden Calf), and asks if the Ephraimites ever worshipped a god named Ashima (שִׁימָֽא), or is this a misunderstanding due to the similarity with the word Sheehma.
Sha’ul points out:
[2 Kings 17:31]
Benyamim Tsedaka replies:
The Golden Calf
Probably a few thousand, though not all, of those escaping from Egypt sinned as Golden Calf worshippers. Aaron showed weakness in not standing up to these deviants. He was caught off guard for two reasons. Firstly, Moses was absent. Secondly, immediately after they heard the Ten Commandments, some of the leadership helped Aaron to make the Golden Calf. The group included some of the Levites. According to the Israelite Samaritan Version of the Torah, the very first commandment forbids idolatry. Thousands of Levites then helped Moses to regain control.
The story tells us that it is better to live a simple life in worship of the Almighty than to chase after property and wealth, or to live a life of cheating. יהוה, The Almighty, stands against foreign idols.
Concerning the other question, the similarity in pronunciation and spelling of The Name (Shehmaa) and the idol Ashima are coincidental. They have nothing to do with the Israelites of the Kingdom of Ephraim (Israel) and the historical facts. The foreign minority brought by the Assyrians to the former Kingdom of Israel as administrators had idols. They worshiped these idols as Ashima, Nergal, and others.
At the same time, the majority of the Israelites remaining in the Assyrian colony, the territory of the former Kingdom of Israel, held the complete and original Torah of Moses. They believed in the Almighty, and referred to Him as Shehmaa, thus avoiding calling his name in vain. Shehmaa means The Name. We still uphold this rule today.
Be strong in your choice of belief, and do not hesitate to ask questions, so that I may encourage you and others to make the right choices.
Photography: Ori Orhof
Sha’ul Bentsion: Thank you for this answer. Very well written Benny!
Specifically, I wonder if the episode with the golden calf has anything to do with the ancient middle eastern bull god named El, or his “children” gods in the pagan pantheon? Experts say that ancient Canaanite tribes worsipped El as their principal god, as well as other dieties in the family of El. As you may know, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph), evidently derived from even earlier regional alphabets, is a modified pictorial of a bull’s head. Also, in Genesis, the word El is used several times, with the Tetragrammaton name being used later. This all makes one wonder just how imortant the diety El was to the ancient Israelites, if at all.
These questions and comments point out the value of knowing how the Samaritans, who appear to follow truly ancient beliefs and traditions, understand these matters. Learning from traditions the Samaritans seem to have kept for several thousand years allows great insight into how the contemporaries of Joshua practiced and understood their religion and its history. This opens an interesting window on the far past of all the Abrahamic religions.
Benny, can you comment on your understanding, as a Samaritan, as to whether the golden calf was related to the ancient near-eastern Bull diety? What else’s do your traditions teach about them, if anything?
The Egyptians revered cattle, and did not eat or sacrifice them. The Hebrews did eat cattle, and probably made the golden calf to repudiate the beliefs of the Egyptians. Mooshe took the calf, burned it, and scattered the ashes on a stream flowing from the mountain in Sinai.
Very Interesting! Although not pertaining to the specific topic at hand as found in this article, I feel moved to write to your community. As a Roman Catholic myself, a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe as woven into our theology a closer historical tie with the Judaism of the Sanhedrin (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes). Although, one would be at extreme fault to overlook the importance of Samaritanism in any study of history, and the process of proposed revelation down through the ages. Jesus of Nazareth’s disposition on the disputes pertaining to the Samaritan-Jewish conflict was always shown to have a spirit of unification. I’m sure you’re familiar with the NT passages that refer to Jesus’ dealings with various Samaritans. He came from a Jewish family, but he showed respect and humanity to your people – instead of indignation coming from the warring theological parties of the day. It makes me sad that us Roman Catholics, and Samaritans have always not gotten along throughout the ages with various uprisings, and the suppression of rebellions and the atrocities committed thereof. The Samaritans are such a unique people, with an edifying history. I respect that you’re moral and ritualistic traditions have long remained consistent, in an extremely transient world. I hope your community continues to grow, in the face of adversity. I wish you all a long and blessed life!
And These are the Names (Exo) 20:7
7 “You shall not take the name of (Tetragrammaton) your God in vain, for (Tetragrammaton) will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
If I am not mistaken, the Paleo-Hebrew Tetragrameton is mentioned two times, and not the Paleo-Hebrew for the words “The Name”.
I only have the Jewish version of the Toorah to work with at the moment. The word translated as “take” in English is “nasa” in Hebrew. It means “to lift up”. The translated word “vain” can also be read as “falsely”. Therfore, an alternative translation can read:
7 “You shall not ‘raise up’ the name of (Tetragrammaton) your God ‘falsely’, for (Tetragrammaton) will not hold him guiltless who ‘raises up’ his name in ‘falsely’.”
I would really appreciate your views on how this verse means that we may not say God’s name at all?
And There are the Names (Exo) 3:15 could be seen as God saying we are to mention God’s name in all generations.
“And God furthermore said to Mooshe: This you shall say to the Sons of Israel, (Tetragrammaton), God of your fathers, God of Abraahm, and God of Yesaahq, and God of Yaaqob; has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is My Zay’-ker (Memorial-Name, Memory, Mention, Name, Remembered,Remembrance, Renown) to generation and generation.”
On the one hand we first have God saying that His name must be used in all generations, and on the other hand later God commands not taking/lifting up His Name falsely/in vain.
Commanding that certain fish may not be eaten is not a commandment that all fish may not be eaten; just as not taking God’s name in vain can’t mean not saying the name at all?
What is the Creator’s Name? We are told to call upon Him. How can we do this if it is hidden from us?
So nice to hear from you.
The main names of the almighty are יהוה and אהיה אשר אהיה [Ex. 3:14-15], names that complete one another. The leading name is the first, and the Israelite Samaritans never pronounced it, always substituting the word SHEMAA [=The Name], so as not to name the Almighty in vain. They pronounced the name only once in each prayer, and then only by its characters: י ה ו ה