Acts 7:41 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 7:41, NIV: That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made.

Acts 7:41, ESV: And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

Acts 7:41, KJV: And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

Acts 7:41, NASB: At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

Acts 7:41, NLT: So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made.

Acts 7:41, CSB: They even made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and were celebrating what their hands had made.

What does Acts 7:41 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Stephen is comparing the Jews in Jerusalem who refuse to see the truth about Jesus to the Israelites at Mount Sinai who refused to accept the truth about God.

Weeks after their escape from Egypt, the Israelites had gathered around the base of Mount Sinai and trembled in fear in the presence of the God who had rescued them (Exodus 19:16–19). When Moses spent forty days on the mountaintop receiving the Law from God, however, the people grew restless and demanded Aaron, the man God had chosen to be His high priest, to make an idol. Aaron did so, and the people proclaimed, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" (Exodus 32:4). Aaron built an altar in front of it and declared a feast the next day (Exodus 32:5–6).

The irony is intense. While the Israelites were worshiping the calf, God was giving Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle, the implements for worship, and the sacred articles for the priests who would lead the worship (Exodus 25—31). God even ordained two artists, Oholiab and Bezalel, to make the more intricate pieces by hand (Exodus 31:1–11).

Multiple generations later, the Jews do not worship pagan gods. They do not make idols of living things and claim to revere them (Romans 1:21–23). Instead, they effectively worship the Law, the man who gave them the Law, and the temple. Like the golden calf, the temple was made with human hands, in cooperation with the high priest. As the Israelites had looked back to their past in Egypt for something to worship, so the Jews look back to the golden ideal of worship at the temple. Both groups missed that God was calling them to more: a renewed relationship with Him and a greater faith that would lead to greater freedom.