Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.”
But he said,
“It is not the sound of the cry of triumph,
Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat;
But the sound of singing I hear.”
— Exodus 32:17-18
God finished His instruction to Moses and gave him the two tablets engraved by His hand (Exo. 31:18). I believe Moses walked slowly down the mountain, for he was very old. Perhaps Joshua was helping him. Remember, Joshua had just seen something even Aaron had never seen. He must have been elated. He had seen the pattern of the tabernacle, the Lord’s testimony, and the priesthood.
As they descended, Joshua heard noise and said, “There is a noise of war in the camp” (Exo. 32:17). People often hear what they want to hear. Because Joshua was a soldier, he assumed the noise was the noise of war, and he was ready to fight. Moses, being more mature, realized it was not the noise of victory or defeat, but the noise of singing (Exo. 32:18). Joshua was probably still in awe of all he had witnessed upon the mountain. He may have also felt he was Moses’ equal or at least able to help him, having been present at this great event. Yet when they came down the mountain, Joshua learned that Moses still was the one with discernment. The younger man’s ears were better, but the older man’s ears were more accurate. The noise they had heard was the noise of people playing as they worshipped the golden calf. After Moses and Joshua arrived, there was judgment.