He was known as a fine human being, devoted to his brother Moses, dedicated too to the service of God. Yet he was prepared to give it all away to placate the people who clamoured for a deity they could see, feel and touch. Never mind that it would be an idol and that Aaron would be false to all that he believed in. Jewish commentary does its very best to extricate Aaron from trouble. These are some of its suggestions.
Worried that Moses was away for too long, he tried to play for time in the hope that his brother would be back and handle the situation before any real harm was done. Believing that the women would refuse to give up their jewellery, he felt the Golden Calf would never happen.
When the jewellery did come good, he said he would build the altar himself, thinking that this would be a good delaying tactic. In the end, when nothing seemed to have worked, he put off the celebrations for a further day, still living in hope that Moses would return any minute.
Had he been Moses and not himself, Aaron would have thundered, “No! No! No golden calf! No idolatry! No sin!” But Aaron was a man of peace – apparently peace at any price. Peace is a supreme ideal, but sometimes the price can be too high. We should never forget Chamberlain and the shame he brought back from Munich.