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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 36

Verse 1

1. Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab. Although Moses might have seemed to be unnecessarily prolix in recording the injunctions which God gave respecting the building of the tabernacle, yet he repeats the same narrative here almost in the same words; and this he does with the best design, and for very good reasons. For it was of much importance that it might be seen by actual comparison how exactly the artificers had conformed everything to the pattern laid down by God: and this, not only in commendation of their obedience, but because it behooved that there should be nothing human in the structure; for although they might each of them have exerted themselves strenuously in the work, still it was not lawful for them to give the slightest scope to their own inventions; nay, this would have been a profanation of the sacred edifice, not to follow in every part what had been so carefully dictated to Moses. And this might avail as a restraint upon them in future times, so that they might not violate God’s commands by any change or innovation. They did not indeed understand the reason of everything either in reference to number or measure; but it became them to be assured that God had commanded nothing without a purpose. Hence, also, their minds should have been elevated to the heavenly pattern, so as reverently to look up to the mysteries, obscure as they were, which it contained, until its full manifestation. This verbal repetition, then, reminds us how accurately the labor and art of men in the building corresponded with the command of God.

Verse 2

2. And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab. It is not without reason that Moses so often exalts the grace of God’s Spirit in the ingenuity and artistic skill of the workmen. In the first place he speaks of them as skillful architects, and then, by way of correction, adds that they were furnished from above with such intelligence. Thus the absurdity of the Papists is refuted, who, in order to prove free-will, think it sufficient to drag forward the passages in which rectitude of will is commended: whereas, even though men may will aright, it is foolish to infer that therefore they are possessed of free-will, unless it be proved that the will proceeds from themselves. Consequently, what follows in the text, — that every one contributed either of his labor or his substance to the building of the tabernacle, according as their hearts stirred them up, — does not so make men the authors of pious affections, as to defraud God of His praise. It is true that men understand — are willing — encourage themselves to holy endeavors; but the question is, from whence comes their intelligence, their will, and their zeal in well-doing? Scripture decides that they are the gifts of God and the Spirit: the Papists improperly arrogate them to themselves.

Verse 3

3. And they received of Moses all the offering. Here is set forth, first of all, the diligence and prudence both of Moses and the artificers, and secondly, their integrity. Their prudence is shewn in the distribution of the materials among them; their diligence in the quickness with which they commence the work, without waiting till they have enough for its completion; whilst they testify their extraordinary integrity when they voluntarily declare that enough has been given, and put a stop to the offerings, lest they should be more than they required. We know how few restrain themselves (297) when an opportunity is given of thieving without detection; and, even if there be no disposition to deceive, yet most people are tempted by ambition, greedily to long for more to pass through their hands than they need. We see, then, how God directed them all to undertake the work of the sanctuary, and impelled them to persevere in it by His Spirit. This grace, however, manifests itself most fully in the marvelous ardor of the people. They were not very rich, for they had had no treasures laid up for a long period; and the wealthiest among them had no more than what they had secretly conveyed away out of Egypt; whilst the building was sumptuous; and still they do not cease from contributing more than was necessary, until an edict forbade them. Such promptitude and liberality was worthy of no common praise; and hence it is more wonderful that they should soon afterwards neglect the true God in whose service they were thus zealous, and fall into foul idolatry. Let us learn from hence, that the pious zeal, which existed in them for a short time, emanated from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and further, that all our best feelings vanish, unless the gift of stedfastness be superadded.

What follows represents, as by a lively image, as we have said, how faithfully they executed whatever God had prescribed, so as not to vary from it even in the smallest thread.

(297) “Qui gardent leurs mains pures et nettes;” who keep their hands pure and clean — Fr.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Exodus 36". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/exodus-36.html. 1840-57.