[b-hebrew] Lost wax casting Exo 32:4

David N. da Silva huyxh8s02 at sneakemail.com
Fri Aug 20 15:48:23 EDT 2004

Thanks for all the comments.

Lost-wax casting is 6,000 years old, so it was as old when the Elohist wrote, as he is, to us.

Sand casting is more difficult to do, and it does not produce fully rounded shapes - the bronze bull from the "bull site," for example, could not have been produced by pre-industrial sand casting, since it would have required three layers, one to go between the legs.   The great advantage of sand casting, is that it does not destroy the original model, but that would not have been an issue here.

It is possible that the statue was (in the Elohist's mind), a wooden statue plated with gold, and I will look for the U. Cassuto reference.   However there are a few points which seem to me to favor casting over plating.

1) the statue is called maccekah, which is said to come from the root nacak meaning pour.   I'm not the one to judge whether it instead comes from root cakak, cover.   But maccekah is translated molten in many places, in all the translations I looked at.   So if it does mean plated, many verses will be effected.

2) If indeed the Elohist intended an adverse comment on Jeroboam's calves at Bethel and Dan, then I seem to recall they were specifically condemned as molten images, by supporters of Solomon, who used cherubim for a similar purpose.  The cherubim were plated.   So the point  of the condemnation is not clear if maccekah means plated.

3)  When plating is meant, the word tsaphah was used, at least by P.

4) As to the image being burnt (saraph), bricks also do not burn, but saraph is just what is done to bricks.  The passage:

 He took the bullcalf they had made, and burnt in fire and ground to powder and scattered on the surface of water and made the sons of Yisra'el drink.

seems to me consistent with Mosheh throwing the statue on a fire, and grinding up the coals and ashes.


In any case, my main question is whether my proposed translation:

 He worked with a stylus, and encased it, and made a cast bull-calf.  

passes muster with those whose Hebrew is better than mine.   Although the plating theory of maccekah is plausible - and perhaps I believe it myself - given the overwhelming consensus that maccekah means molten or cast, I guess I will stick with that for now.   I gather there is no objection to my use of encased rather than fashioned for tsuwr.

Thanks again for the comments.

David Nunes da Silva


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