Lesson: The Giving of the Law and the Golden Calf

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How can we make sure we don’t have idols in our life? Includes a lesson, playacting activity, and game.

Intro Activity: Peer Pressure Playacting

Have students form groups of three. Give them a few minutes to think of how to act out a scene in which one or two of them pressure the other(s) to do something wrong. Then, all the groups perform their scene for the class.

You can allow them to think of their own scenarios or give them cue cards to base their scene on. Ideas include Smoking, Drinking, Doing drugs, Stealing, Lying, Making fun of someone, Cheating, Cursing, Telling a Dirty Joke, and Watching a TV Show they Shouldn’t.


(Summarize Exodus 19-34:7 , using the following story and asking the included questions as you read.)

After God brought Moses and the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, God told Moses to come up on Mount Sinai with Him so that He could give Moses the laws that the people were supposed to follow. No one else was allowed to come up on the mountain or else they would die. The people saw God coming down like a fire on the mountain. There was a lot of smoke and the mountain shook like there was an earthquake. And the people heard God’s voice, sounding like thunder, but they couldn’t understand what He was saying. Only Moses could understand what God was saying.

Moses was up on the mountain for forty days and forty nights, not eating or drinking anything, but just listening to God give him the laws that the people were supposed to follow. God gave Moses two stone tablets and wrote the Ten Commandments on them with His own finger.

At the end of the forty days, it was time for Moses to come back down the mountain. God said, “Moses, I am very angry with the Israelites because they have done something very wrong. They have made an idol while you were up here on the mountain and they are pretending that the idol is Me.”

What is an idol? (An idol is a statue that people pray to and worship.)

Why do you think God doesn’t want people to make a statue of Him? (No one knows what God looks like. And God is too great to make a statue of. Any statue we make of God wouldn’t be good enough. It could never show how special God is.)

And God said, “Moses, because the Israelites are worshipping and praying to the idol they made and pretending that the idol is Me, I am going to kill all the Israelites as a punishment.”

But Moses said, “No, God, don’t do it, please. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and how You promised to give their grandchildren the whole land of Canaan. You can’t kill their grandchildren, the Israelites, or else You would be breaking Your promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Then, God told Moses that He would not kill all of the Israelites. Moses went down the mountain and saw the idol that the people had made. It was a golden calf, a baby cow made out of gold. Moses was so mad that the people were worshipping and praying to the idol instead of God that he threw down the stone tablets God had given him with the Ten Commandments written on them.

He grabbed his brother, Aaron the priest, and said, “Why did you make this idol?”

Aaron said, “You were up on the mountain so long, we didn’t know what happened to you. The people told me to make an idol, and I did. They gave me some of their gold earrings, and I made it into this golden calf.”

Why did Aaron make the idol? (The people told him to.)

Do you think we should listen to people when they tell us to do the wrong things? (No.)

Then, Moses took the golden calf idol and melted it in the fire. He took the ashes and put it in the water, and made the people drink it to show them the idol is not the real God since it can be broken.

Then, Moses yelled, “Whoever is on God’s side, come to me!”

All of the Levites, the priests and the priests’ helpers, came to him. Moses said, “This is the punishment for worshipping the idol. All of you take your sword and kill the Israelites for their punishment.”

The Levites attacked the Israelites who wanted to keep worshipping the idol instead of God and they killed about three thousand people.

The next day, Moses prayed to God again and asked God to forgive the Israelites for making the idol. God said, “I will forgive them, but first, I am going to punish them more so that they know not to worship idols ever again.” Then, God made a lot of the Israelites get sick and die. After that, the punishment was over.

God gave Moses two more stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them because Moses broke the first two when he threw them down. And God said, “I love My people and I will forgive them whenever they do something wrong, but I will also punish them when they do something wrong so that they know not to do it again.”

Game: The Punishment Grid

Make a grid on the floor with half the number of columns as students you have in your class. There should be ten rows. Form the students into two teams and have the students stand beside their teammates on each side of the grid. Each student starts behind one column on the grid.

As you ask questions, students will move forward on the grid until the two teams meet in the middle. You’ll ask a question, and if students think the answer is true, they’ll raise their hand. If they think the answer is false, they’ll keep their hands down. If they get the answer right, they move up one square. If they get the answer wrong, they move back to their previous square.

When the students meet, the team with the most right answers chases the other. They are the Levites chasing the Israelites after the incident with the golden calf. The round is over when the Levites tag all the Israelites.

Play again, continuing down the list of questions and then asking some of the trickier questions over. If both teams do equally well, rule that the winners from the last round are now the Israelites, and the opposite team is the Levites.

Ask the following questions and give a brief explanation of the right answer afterward.


  1. An idol is a statue made to look like God.
  2. It’s okay to do something wrong if everyone else really wants you to do it.
  3. It’s okay to make a statue of God because God likes statues.
  4. Aaron didn’t have a choice to make the idol. He had to do it.
  5. We can make statues of Jesus, but not God.
  6. God punishes people because He doesn’t like them.
  7. Everyone knows what God looks like.
  8. Something isn’t wrong if everyone else is doing it.
  9. God likes it when we make idols of Him because they help us worship Him better.
  10. We can make statues of regular people in the Bible.

Closing Prayer

Father, You are a good God. We know that You only punish us to teach us what is right. Help us to follow You in everything we do. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

This lesson is included in my book, Slaves to Conquerors: Children’s Sunday School Lessons for Exodus – Joshua.

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