Israel's Honoring the Golden Calf with Song and Dance (Hat-Hor is recast as the Golden Calf?)
Walter R. Mattfeld
Revision of 05 October 2019
Below, a female harpist, with exposed breast, sitting in a vine/grape arbor, plays music to which a naked man, dances, his genitals (penis and testicals) being prominently displayed as swinging to the rythmn. This painting is on a fragment of leather and was found at the Hathor shrine at Deir el-Bahri in Egypt. (cf. p.133 for the text and Plate 54. Geraldine Pinch. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Oxford. Griffiths Institute. Ashmolean Museum.1993. ISBN 0-900416-55-6). Song and dance and apparently even nudity were aspects of the Hathor cult, she being the goddess of procreation, love and sex. The grapes allude to wine which, with beer was consumed in quantity to achieve drunkeness in Hathor's honor, recalling how Re the sun-god, had thousands of gallons of beer dyed red to resemble blood, which when drunk by Hathor caused her to cease her destruction of mankind upon falling asleep in a drunken stupor. I understand that these motifs entered the Hebrew Bible as Israel honoring the Golden Calf with song, dance, drunkeness and nudity, perhaps recalling events at the Hathor shrines in the southern Sinai and Arabah, places Israel is said to have wandered in. In Egyptian myth Hathor was a cow-sky-goddess who gave birth to the sun each day as the Golden Calf that rode the solar bark or boat across the heavens. Being a goddess of love and of sex, votives of female vulvas and male penises are often encountered at Hat-Hor's shrines.
“Hathor was also worshipped as the goddess of drunkenness…festivals devoted to Hathor incorporated excessive drinking along with music and dance with the intent of pacifying the great goddess…Rituals in Hathor’s honor often incorporated music and dance…two objects most characteristic of and sacred to Hathor were the sistrum, a type of rattle, and the menant necklace, which could be shaken like the sistrum; both were utilized in these dance and music rituals…On the 20th day of the first month, the Egyptians celebrated the festival of Drunkenness in her honor…” (pp. 84-85. “Hathor.” Vol. 2. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Donald B. Redford. Editor in Chief. Oxford University Press. 2001)
My notes: Perhaps Israel’s song and dance, in honor of the Golden Calf is recalling such activity on behalf of Hathor? That is to say, Hathor has perhaps been recast as the Golden Calf? Sistrums and menant necklaces make a lot of noise, and are shaken vigorously by the devotees while singing and dancing at the same time. Quite a ruckus would be raised at the Hathor temple at Serabit el Khadim. Perhaps all this being recast as Moses being upset over the noise from the Israelite camp when he descends Mount Sinai?
The breakage of Hathor’s votives and Moses’ breaking up of the Golden Calf:
“The goddess Hathor was worshipped in the Sinai at Maghara and at Serabit el-Khadem, and in the Arabah at Timnah, where Egyptian turquoise and copper mines were exploited. Temples were erected to her at Serabit el-Khadem and Timnah…According to Petrie, only a third of the faience offerings from Serabit el-Khadem were found intact, the rest were broken into small fragments and scattered over on the rocks (Petrie 1906:139), with the result that only few pieces could be fitted together. The same happened to the Timna temple offerings which likewise were found broken into small fragments. Part of the material is as yet unpublished (Rothenberg 1972:
"The phenomenon of broken votive objects at the two Hathor temples, on the eastern and western sides of the Sinai desert, must be viewed against the background of similar practices in the Egyptian homeland ritual. The evidence of this latter source will be presented below, and conclusions drawn for the Sinai materials accordingly.” (pp. 134-136. Trude Kertesz. "The Breaking of Offerings in the Cult of Hathor." Tel Aviv Journal. Vol. 3. No. 3. 1976. Tel Aviv University. Israel)
Petrie (1906) on broken votives at Serabit el Khadim:
“The greater part of the offerings…had all been broken up, so that not a single whole thing was found. The fragments formed a layer, two or three inches thick all over the sanctuary and portico, and extending outside of the sanctuary on the north side for a distance of some feet (1906:138)” (p. 54. cited by Geraldine Pinch. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Griffith Institute and Ashmolean Museum. Oxford. 1993)
Perhaps the notion that Moses smashed to pieces the Golden Calf is an allusion to the smashed, broken votives found strewn about everywhere at the Hathor temple at Serabit el Khadim?
In 1979 the History Channel (TV) presented a program titled In Search of the Ten Commandments, narrated by Leonard Nimoy of Star-Trek Fame (Doctor Spock). This program introduced a young Israeli scholar, Zvi ilan, a Historical Geographer, at Tel Aviv University in Israel, who announced he had just published a proposal that Mount Sinai might be Jebel Serabit el Khadim and that Hat-Hor, the cow-goddess, worshipped there, might have been recast as the Golden Calf. My research is in agreement with Zvi ilan. Hathor was recast as the Golden Calf, and her devotees honoring her with noisey rattles (sistrums and menant necklaces) and drunken, boistrous song and dance was recast as Israel's song and dance in honoring the Golden Calf.
Zvi ilan's research was published in Bet Mikra: Journal for the Study of the Bible and Its World, pp. 278-282 (5 pages). Published at Jerusalem by the Bialik Institute. This article is accessible on the internet via a membership in JSTOR. It exists only in Hebrew, a map, also in Hebrew, of the Sinai, accompanies the article. Click on the below link for the article in Hebrew:
Dr. Cohen (PhD) on Israel's Erotic Dancing with the Golden Calf:
"What is so wrong with dancing, or more specifically, why is it worse than “just” worshipping the calf? The terminology used in Exodus 32 implies that the Israelites were involved in group sexual promiscuity. Exod. 32:6 notes “they rose to play (לצחק).” The term “play” has clear sexual overtones in Gen. 26:8, where Abimelech sees Isaac “playing” with his wife, Rebecca, and deduces that they must be husband and wife. In short, in v. 19 Moses learns of the party’s erotic nature, something God had not informed him of earlier.
Noting this in combination with Moses’ reaction to the dancing, R. Shimshon Rafael Hirsch suggests that the erotic dancing pushed Moses to destroy the tablets (Exodus 32:19)." (Dr. David Ben-Gad HaCohen. "Dancing Erotically With the Golden Calf and Moses' Decision to Break the Tablets." Posted at The Torah.com, on 11 Feb. 2014)