I was a young child the first time I heard the word ‘peradventure.’

My grandmother was trying to get me to go to bed one evening while she was babysitting me. I was a busy kid who was still in high gear when bedtime rolled around. She sat in her rocking chair, picked me up, and told me she was going to read me an exciting adventure story. The story she chose was the story of Moses and the golden calf. Since she lived at the farm where my family was visiting, she got my attention when she mentioned a golden calf.

My grandparents raised Hereford cattle and in all my visits to the farm, I had never seen a gold calf. My grandmother was wise to the ways of small children. She certainly knew how to get their attention!

In the King James Version of the Bible that she was reading from, the word ‘peradventure’ was used in the story when Moses discovered that the Israelites had made a golden calf and were worshipping it while he had been on the mountain meeting with the Lord. When he returned to the camp and saw what they had done, he was appalled. He knew that he needed to make atonement for their sin that would be acceptable to God.

Moses knew that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Moses didn’t have the blood of a sacrificial lamb, so he made some.

Here is the part of the story that caught my interest.

“And it came to pass on the morrow that Moses said unto the people: You have sinned a great sin and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.” (Exodus 32:30 KJV)

I liked the word ‘peradventure’ because when I first heard it I was excited to think that Moses was going to have a perfect adventure. Perfect adventure stories appealed to me!

Despite the fact that although Moses did have a perfect adventure in making the atonement (in that the outcome turned out as he hoped), it wasn’t exactly the type of adventure I had in mind at that young age. However, I never forgot the story, either!

The word peradventure can be an adverb or a noun. Its meaning when used in context is:

1. Adverb – By Chance, Perhaps.
2. Noun – doubt or uncertainty as to whether something is the case.

Middle English: From Old French ‘per’ (or par) ‘auenture’ which means ‘by chance’.

It is a word often used in in the KJV (King James Version) translation of the Bible.

I like this word because it tells me that although Moses did not know for sure if the atonement he intended to make for Israel’s sin of creating and worshipping a golden calf would be acceptable to the Lord, he went ahead and tried anyway. And he succeeded!

Moses knew that almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission or forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22 KJV)

However, Moses had a problem. He did not have the blood of a sacrificial lamb to offer to the Lord for the people’s sin.

So he made some!

Here’s what the scripture records when Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets containing the ten commandments and saw that in his absence that the people had made a golden calf and were worshipping it:

Exodus 32:30

“And he took the calf which they had made and burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.”

Deuteronomy 9:21

“And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.”

I always wondered why the Bible tells us in such great detail (as recorded above in not one, but two places in the Old Testament) that Moses took the calf, burned it in the fire to melt it. When it cooled he stamped it, ground it, and ground it again before throwing it into the brook and making the children of Israel drink it.

Later on in life while working as a geology lab technician, I discovered something about gold that I didn’t know. That being, that colloidal gold is a sol or colloidal suspension of submicrometre-size nanoparticles of gold in a fluid, usually water. The liquid is usually an intense red colour for particles less than 100 nanometers. (Dust size specks.)

Moses burned, hammered, ground, and re-ground the gold from the calf in order to reduce it to microscopic, dust-sized particles because he knew the chemical and purifying properties of colloidal gold. Colloidal gold is still used in some medications today.

Moses presented it to the Lord as a substitute blood sacrifice and hoped that it would be acceptable to the Lord in the absence of the blood of a sacrificial lamb.

That is where the marvellous, archaic word ‘peradventure’ comes in.

Moses wasn’t sure, but he hoped that perhaps this substitute sacrificial offering (in the absence of the blood of a sacrificial lamb) would be acceptable to the Lord to make atonement for Israel’s sin.

The Lord saw the blood red (sol)ution that became visible when the tiny, dust-sized particles of gold were thrown into the water, and he accepted it and his wrath was averted. Justice had been appeased through this sacrificial offering that he looked upon as representative of the blood of Jesus.

It must be noted, however, that although Moses made an atonement and God accepted it, only those who appropriated it by faith (ie., obeyed Moses and drank it) were saved. Although it is not explicitly stated, it is probable that the 3,000 men who were slain by the swords of the Levites that day were those who refused to stoop down and drink of the crimson brook that descended out of the mount.

While it is true that Christ died for the sin of all mankind and tasted death in their stead; it still remains a Biblical fact that only those who by faith appropriate his provision will be saved. To accept the atoning work of the blood is to live; to reject it is to die.


Note: Colloidal Gold is also used today for other purposes, such as making Cranberry Glass and Medicinal Products. etc. I’m not sure if Moses made any of these products in his spare time, but perhaps he did. Moses was well educated during his time in Egypt.

Moses certainly had his hands full with a stubborn and rebellious people. As do many pastors, preachers and leaders in our time!