Th the aftermath of the Golden Calf there were two rounds of executions: the massacre of 3000 fellow Jews and the Heavenly plague:

"וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְנֵי־לֵוִי כִּדְבַר מֹשֶׁה וַיִּפֹּל מִן־הָעָם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא כִּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אַלְפֵי אִישׁ׃...
"וַיִּגֹּף ה' אֶת־הָעָם עַל אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ אֶת־הָעֵגֶל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אַהֲרֹן׃"
The Levites did as Moses had bidden, and some three thousand of the people fell that day... Then the LORD sent a plague upon the people, for what they did with the calf that Aaron made." Exodus.32.35

Who was executed with the plague (Rashi - Heavenly death) and for what?

  • This is a hard one to answer as the episode is difficult to quantify. See Ramban sefaria.org/… and others who pick up on the theme that the Torah expressly doesn't mention how many died (or not that much else for that matter)
    – Dov
    Sep 2, 2021 at 16:48
  • I understand it as referring to the 3000 people killed above (נגף doesn't have to mean plague, as in Ex 21:22, Lev 26:17, Num 14:42, Judg 20:35, Sam 1:4:2, etc.).
    – magicker72
    Sep 3, 2021 at 0:08

2 Answers 2


Rashi explains the three categories of punishments.

Ki Sisa 32:20

Then he took the calf they had made, burned it in fire, ground it to fine powder, scattered [it] upon the surface of the water, and gave [it to] the children of Israel to drink.


and gave [it to] the children of Israel to drink: He intended to test them like women suspected of adultery [are tested, as prescribed in Num. 5:11-31] (A.Z. 44a). Three [different] death penalties were meted out there: (1) If there were witnesses [to the worship] and warning [had been issued to the sinners, they were punished] by the sword, according to the law (Deut. 13:13-18) that applies to the people of a city that has been led astray who are many [people involved]. (2) [Those who practiced idolatry with] witnesses but without warning [died] from a plague, as it is said: “Then the Lord struck the people with a plague” (verse 35). (3) [Those who practiced idolatry both] without witnesses and without warning [died] from dropsy, for the water tested them and their stomachs swelled up (Yoma 66b).


See my answer to your related question. According to one opinion, they were the ones who worshipped the Calf and were observed by witnesses, but weren't warned; according to the other, they were the ones who were happy about what was going on, but didn't actually worship or adore the Calf.

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