Is this the Age Of The Golden Calf?

What exactly is the Golden Calf?
I can read wikipedia, I am wondering if we should’t take it as more of a metaphor. I think that the idea of a bunch of people staring at a metal calf on a pedestal is not the most likely account of a worshipping tribe from Egypt in the void between an escaped and a promised God.

The Christ, or khristos, is ‘the anointed one’, or ‘the one who is oiled-up.’ Think of the hue a mediterranean skin takes on when ointments are applied to it.

Half of the Bible is metaphor transformed back into literal meaning–because if it isn’t literal, we can’t KNOW, and if we can’t know, should we be worshiping it or He who was supposed to have spake it?

Pheeeeeew boy…that’s a very large discussion.
Anthropologically, there are volumes written on the golden calves that appear in the texts.

One theory proposed points out that the Northern Kingdom of Israel is cited in multiple accounts as having two golden calves, one at it’s northern border and one at it’s southern border.
These were the sacrificial areas to replace the singular temple that resided in the Southern Kingdom (Judea).
Before the split, people would all venture to the temple, but after the split the Northern Kingdom needed a place and decided to make it split into two areas that made it more convenient in travel and also served to mark the boundaries of the domain.

In this theory, much of the slander regarding golden calves generates from the Southern Kingdom citing Israel as a reference to the Northern Kingdom specifically and not both in lineage, thereby making a large chunk of the Torah a constant ridicule of the Northern Kingdom’s rights and justices; considering them to be wayward, unfaithful, and in constant need of correction of their errors: unlike the lines of Judah and Benjamin that are not mentioned in ridicule, which were conveniently the two total houses that constituted the Southern Kingdom, and also happens to be the region where the largest chunk of what is the Torah originated in textual form from.

Most of the ridicule had to do with a takeover that occurs whereby the royal and due line of Judah loses majority favor among the houses, only maintaining Benjamin with itself - Benjamin itself being the previous ruling House before Judah that Judah previously took majority favor from, but seemingly became very close allies with since then and over time.

That’s the VERY general overview of that posit.
It also happens to be the one that makes the most sense to me, so I agree with it.

Aha… but that does not say anything about the golden calf itself. Should we take this literally as a calf made out of gold?

There’s little anthropological debate regarding whether an object for worship was constructed.
Whether it was:
A) a calf
B) gold

…are two separate points of diverging considerations.

It’s really not unlikely that a literal calf would have been built; as this was a pretty common symbol for sacrificial offerings to YHVH…wait…I need to back up.
Alright, firstly, YHVH, L, B’L, SHRH (rendered in English mostly as, Yahweh, El, Baal, and Asherah) are just four of the examples of gods that were in rotation at one point in the Hebrew history; back during the age prior to monarchical rule was invested in.
This is when family religions were the standard; just like many old cultures (China being among the most famous).

Alright, so, back on track: the calf was a common sacrificial image to many of these gods; most actually.
Now, after the unification towards a more monarchical structure (in whatever order it was effective - I state this because we actually don’t know how the period of monarchical structure really went, yet. It could have been a small and tribal monarchy, or it could have been grand as it is alleged in the Biblical texts - the jury is in charged debate about this right now actually), YHVH seems to have become the winning familial deity, but sacrificial practices appear to have been transferred over in what seems to be a relatively short amount of time (as far as things go in historical lengths).

Now, there are some that don’t really think any calves were literally constructed and posit ideas about the metaphorical representation in some manner from the wide ranging set of theories (there are about as many theories on the metaphorical meaning of the calves as there are alien theories), but the dominant approach of all varying interested anthropological groups is to understand these calves as literal constructs according to customs and practices that were quite the regular adherence up until the fall of the Northern and Southern Kingdom’s both (less in the South is suspected to have taken place considering their Deuteronomic affiliation which openly condemned the acts of such images as any representation of YHVH - the winning god of the monarchical period previously - because of the calves affiliation with many gods for various reasons [usually sacrificial representation] thereby making it … uncontrollably tainted [is one way to express the impression one gets of their perspective]).

The greater divergence is, almost laughably, whether or not they were or were not made of gold.

One perspective points out that gold was really not as common as being able to drop out into random statues as it is shown in the Biblical texts, and that gold jewelry would not be worn by anyone of the Levant Hebraic groups of the time periods in and around the Exodus story time periods.
To this perspective, it would be like coming across a text that reads about a group of Chinese peoples (before the unifications in China) that constructed a giant statue from gold out of gold jewelry that they wore; meanwhile being fully aware that the common life of the region was farming.
It is similar to this with the Levant region.
Modern day “country-side” Afghanistan is relatively decent for a fuzzy snapshot of what you are looking at in the idea.

This perspective also holds some shared members with the group of anthropologists that propose a tribal chieftain society in place of the grand monarchical draft found in Kings in the Biblical texts; likening the great Kings therein to tribal leaders, or not existing at all.

Another group shares the non-gold but still a literal calf perspective, but does not share the tribal chieftain society perspective.
In this view, the monarchical reign would have had precious metals (especially copper) and may have made many items in such metals: some being of gold (the Temple being the most famous).
The Northern Kingdom, therefore, could have literally made two gold calves, yes (so the perspective goes), but the age in question in and around the time period of the Exodus period is thought to have had so little resources to really pull off a full solid gold calf, or even leafed gold.
Further, they point out that the archeological record doesn’t support a grand exodus (the grand exodus is something that is, in my estimate, about 2/3rds not in favor in Lavent anthropology at the current moment), but instead familial clan-tribes and that these groups would not have the resources to build any gold as regardless of the Exodus story being true or not, it took considerable effort that far back to smelt even copper (easily 4 to 6 hours between 2 to 4 men constantly manually blowing through pipes produced enough copper to make one small coin).

However, others are quick to point out that if there were any gold around, that the first place it would be put into use, and time devoted to rendering, would be in religious images. This, so goes the tangented perspective, is simply because gold wasn’t incredibly useful for tools as it was far too soft and in the era of familial clan-tribes there weren’t market trade systems of later development or grand royalties of politics or religion yet.

That all said, under the perspective that Exodus is a redrafted re-telling of an old common story, but this time slapping a twist and slant on top of it to slam down hard on the Northern Kingdom of Israel (which would have already been either in the middle of falling, or had fallen, by the time the text was being written in the rivaling South), the gold question is a rather different question than the Exodus group or clan-tribe group capacity question: could the Northern Kingdom have actually built two gold calves?
The general consensus is that it’s possible, and it could explain why nothing of these noted calves has ever been found as their gold would be seized by their conquerers.
The Northern Kingdom was in more appropriate position to trade than the South geographically, so it’s possible that gold could have been trafficked if needed.

What I can say is that from everything I’ve read, over a length of time, I have been compelled to believe that it is far more likely that these are literal figures of some fashion, gold or not, and that even if the Exodus account is accurate; the Southern Kingdom’s scribes definitely slanted the account to take a moment to jab (once again) at the wayward Northern Kingdom by recasting some small specifics more poignantly towards the Northern Israelites rather than the Southern Judeans.

This, however, should not stop anyone from noticing any metaphorical implications of the golden calf as the Hebrew scribes wrote in layered fashion as to accomplish multiple conveyances of perspective with one telling of one story.
So even if one accepts the Southern-rip-on-Northern theory, the metaphorical meanings can still be understood as rather valid.

Physical objects can gradually, over time, be invested by people with spiritual significance, so that when the object is present, the meaning manifests more easily. So idols, shrines, relics, etc. are tools for inner transformation. The whole anti-idol thing seems to be based on thinking your neighbor is an imbecile.