Exodus 32:4 (NLT) “He (Aaron) took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf…”
While Moses remained (for 40 days) on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the people below feared he may have died, so they defaulted to idolatry. Egypt had many pagan practices that they were familiar with, and they were just beginning to be acquainted with how to worship Jehovah God. Moses had not yet brought them the commandments which began with “You shall have no other gods before me.” In Egypt, they had grown accustomed to visual representations of gods and had the habit of merging their beliefs with those of the people around them (which was a practice that would plague them during the kingdom years to come). In their growing fear of being left alone in the wilderness without Moses, they became an unruly crowd demanding Aaron to create something and the bull was a symbol of strength and fertility. What do we default to when God seems to be absent and fears overtake us, when we feel isolated and vulnerable? Wait patiently for the Lord (Psalm 37:7; 40:1).