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Craftsmen for the work (31:1-11)
In building the tabernacle, the craftsmen were to follow strictly the God-given plan, but they still had plenty of opportunity to use their creative abilities. The power of God’s Spirit worked through human intelligence and ability. At the same time people had to remember that natural ability was not enough for the service of God. His Spirit was necessary in guiding the craftsmen so that everything might be in accordance with his purposes (31:1-6)
This combination of obedience and initiative in the work of the craftsmen applied not just to the tabernacle itself. It applied also to the priests’ clothing, the anointing oil and the incense (7-11).
The tabernacle and its services were similar enough to other ancient structures and religious practices for the Israelite people to understand them readily. Yet they were different enough to impress upon them the uniqueness of Yahweh and the faith by which they served him.
Altar of incense; tabernacle tax (30:1-16)
The altar of incense was made of wood overlaid with gold. It was much smaller than the altar of burnt offering, was located in a different place and was designed for a different purpose. It was not used for sacrifices, but only for the burning of incense, offered each morning and evening. Incense was a substance produced by grinding and blending certain spices (see v. 34-38 below), and when burnt gave off thick white smoke and a strong smell. Its ceremonial burning seems to have symbolized the offering of prayers and homage to God (30:1-10).
Whenever there was a national census, the people were to pay a special tax, which was then used for the maintenance of the tabernacle. This tax was equal for all, but small enough for even the poorest to pay, indicating that before God the rich had no advantage over the poor. The lives of all were preserved on the same basis, the mercy of God. All had an equal share in the maintenance of the tabernacle and its services (11-16).
Bronze laver (30:17-21)
The laver was a large basin in which the priests washed their hands and feet before either entering the Holy Place or administering the sacrifices. No doubt they needed to wash again after offering the sacrifices (cf. 2 Chronicles 4:6). Such washing, apart from its practical benefits, had symbolic significance, since cleansing from all uncleanness was necessary for acceptable service for God (17-21).
No details are given concerning the shape or size of the laver, though it was large enough to require a firm base or stand (see v. 17). It was made from polished bronze mirrors that many of the women gave as their contribution to the construction the tabernacle (see 38:8).
Anointing oil; incense (30:22-38)
Oil had special significance when used to anoint people or things. Anointing, in its highest sense, meant that holy oil was poured over, or otherwise applied to, people or things to signify that they were set apart for the service of God. The art of preparing oils, perfumes and incenses was well known in Egypt and Arabia, and the Israelites apparently learnt such skills from these people. But the formula given to Moses for the anointing oil was to be used only for the oil of the tabernacle rituals (22-33).
Likewise the incense for the tabernacle was to be made according to an exclusive formula. This incense was to burn ‘before the testimony’, that is, on the golden altar that stood in front of the ark of the testimony (the covenant box) but separated from it by a curtain (34-38).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Exodus 30". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34