The Israelites were at the foot of the mountain where God’s very presence passed by! The Israelites had just seen God’s 10 plagues and great miraculous victory at the Red Sea. When temptation arises we must always strive against it! We must remember how near the Lord is to us, indeed for those of us in Christ it is his Holy Spirit which indwells us!
Exodus 32:1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
The people of Israel had been delivered from slavery in Egypt. The events of Exodus 32 were not decades after the 10 plagues. The betrayal of Israel was perpetrated by the same people who saw the Red Sea part, who witnessed the thunder and lightning of God’s holy presence descend on the mountain. This was the SAME generation who had just received salvation, deliverance, freedom from the house of bondage.
The events of Exodus 32 took place at the foot of the mountain. They were within the very site and presence of the same mountain upon which God was communicating his desires and instructions to Moses. Those who worshipped the images of the golden calf could not claim they had “forgotten” the Lord’s deliverance due to passage of time, or due to being without present reminder. The people were within viewing distance of God’s presence!