When Moses declared that those who were with God should come to him, how could it be that A) No-one except the Levites joined him and B) Absolutely all the Levites joined him? Only the Levites remained on the side of God?

Even though we're influenced by what our peers think, we still have our own individual thoughts and actions. How could it be so clear cut that absolutely all the Levites joined Moses and none of the Israelites did?

Have their been any well known rabbinical discussions about this point?

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    Who said that no one else joined him? The verse only states that all the "children of Levi" joined, as that would be particularly notable. Oddly enough, this would seem to include Aharon and his sons as executioners. Possible parallel to Pinchas later on? Nothing precludes individuals such as Yehoshua (who almost CERTAINLY joined in) for coming to Moshe. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 20:20
  • Of course Joshua was with Moses. He climbed down with him from the mountain. The order of events is that Moses asked for those who are with The Lord to come to him. The Levites come and he says "unto them" (the Levites) that God told them to execute their brothers. Right after it says the sons of Levi did this thing, and no-one else is mentioned as doing this thing. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 20:37
  • True, but by your logic not even Yehoshua "did this thing." So Yehoshua refused Moshe's order? That may be. See my question judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/68740/… that posits Moshe might be acting inappropriately here, which would be a very good reason anyone NOT from Levi (including Yehoshua) would not participate - they would actually be killing their relatives through an extrajudicial process, and the law is far from clear that it was permitted. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 20:46
  • Is there any confirmation that Moses himself went out with a sword to execute? If not, I don't think it's a must for Joshua to have done it either. Although I would like to ask you how much of the Israelite population do you think joined in? Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 21:35
  • Standard Gemara question - "kol binei levi" to include who else? When you see an unnecessary inclusion it's expanding beyond the prat group. The only other people to include in binei levi not obviously included would be the kohanim. Moshe doesn't require inclusion since he's the one who issued the order. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


The Bnei Levi were separate all along, according to Chazal. They studied Torah and were not involved in the work. Therefore, it stands to reason that they weren't influenced by Egyptian ideas and didn't make the same mistake as everyone else.

  • Who said this was an Egyptian idea? We don't find calves (specifically, not oxen) being worshiped by the Egyptians... Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 14:41
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    @IsaacKotlicky Their idolatrous ideas of having a representation of Hashem is not from Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, nor from Shem and Ever. They learned idolatry from the Egyptians. Not that this was supposed to be an Egyptian god.
    – HaLeiVi
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 15:25
  • Idolatry, as the Rambam understands it, doesn't "come" from anywhere - it starts as a natural outpouring of desiring to connect to what is perceived as a messenger of divine power. In fact, the Egel was clearly initially intended to replace Moshe (nataticha ELOHIM lipharoah), not Hashem, though they devolved in the process of making it. I would argue that it needn't have "come" from anywhere, and they were originally looking for a non-mortal intermediary, since the mortal one obviously perished after 40 days without food or water. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 18:10
  • Actually.... See R' Hirsch. The cult of Apis had a bull in front of each of two Temples placed at far ends of the country -- in Memphis and in Heliopolis. Much the way Rechav'am does when Malkhus Yisrael breaks away. When he consecrates them, he says "Zeh elohekha Yisrael", an obvious echo of what Aharon said when presenting the eigel -- "Eileh elohekha Yisrael." According to the Ibn Ezra, the eigel was to replace Moshe, not G-d. Well, Apis is a lower deity who pulls a wagon of prayers up to the gods and blessing down to earth. RSRH concludes that the eigel was a representation of Apis. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 22:17

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