Sunday, October 5, 2014

We'll Meet Again

Golden calf. Golden calf.
Worship of golden calf. Worship of golden calf.
People of God. People of God.
Appointed leader. Appointed leader.

Are they the same subject? The two images are very similar and the subject might be confused, but there are differences worth noting...and similarities worth noting, too.

Nicolas Poussin. The Adoration of the Golden Calf. 1633-1634. Oil on canvas. National Gallery, London.

Jean-Honore Fragonard. Jeroboam Sacrificing to the Idols. 1752. 
Oil on canvas. 48 1/4 x 61 1/2". Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. 

The top image is, indeed the worship of the golden calf from Exodus 32. It contains all the elements we expect from this story: the calf statue, licentious behavior, a desert setting. The lower image also has the calf statue, but it is not depicting the Exodus story. The Fragonard painting illustrates a passage from I Kings 12. 

At that point in Israel's history, Jeroboam, first king of the northern kingdom of Israel breaks the covenant depicted in the Poussin painting. Jeroboam sets up two golden calves, one in Dan and one in Bethel. The statues were erected so the people would not (have to) go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and be tempted to put Rehoboam back on the throne. When the statues were placed, Jeroboam said to the people, "Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt." And he made sacrifices and offerings at one and then the other. That's several of the Sinai commandments broken all at once. 

It's deja vu all over again. 

Check the Art&Faith Matters Facebook page for another take on this text. Click on the link at the bottom of the page. 

For thoughts on the Philippians passage (4:1-9) matched with this lectionary text, click here.

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