I was always curious about the whole golden calf situation. Time and time again it seems the Israelites let God down after being released from Egypt.
So I did some research from a Bible commentator named Richard Elliot Friedman to seek some answers. (My learned father showed me his book).
So in his book of commentating, he explains what the “golden calf” represents. He says that the term calf is misleading. The literal term for the word “egel” is young bull. “The plural ‘gods’ does not appear to refer to the calf.
In the pagan religions of the ancient Near East, people did not worship animals, and they did not worship idols. They worshiped gods who were represented or honored by statues. The gods were sometimes pictured as enthroned on a platform, and the platform was commonly composed of figures of cherubs or of young bulls. Since there is only one young bull here, together with plural ‘gods,’ we must understand the people to be perceiving the bull as a throne platform for gods whom they will worship…” (pp. 280).
I agree with all of what he says except for the part about the platform is for “gods that they will worship.” In our day and age, we try to find things in the world that we see represent God for us. Some people find it in nature, some in writing, and some feel God when they enter their synagogue. When some for example, look at their arc, see God in it.
I believe that the people created an object on top of this golden calf to center their feelings of God. Now to regard the plural “ayleh elohecha”, the Torah sometimes refers to God as “Elohim”. This is a plural word too. So I believe that we are mistranslating this word.
My research came from Richard Elliot Friedman's "Commentary on the Torah"