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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 31

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-18

CHAPTER 31 The Workmen and the Sabbath

1. The workmen called (Exodus 31:1-11 )

2. The Sabbath law emphasized (Exodus 31:12-17 )

3. Moses receives the tables of stone (Exodus 31:18 )

The call of the builders of the tabernacle follows the instructions. The plan and worship of the tabernacle was by divine appointment, only God could give such a plan foreshadowing the redemption work of His Son. To carry out this plan, the Lord called His own workmen by name and filled them with His Spirit, so that they could do the work in a manner which would please Him. “I have called; I have given; I have filled” are the words of Jehovah showing that He selected and qualified the two men to undertake the work. The New Testament ministry rests equally in the hands of the Lord. He has the exclusive right to select His servants for the ministry. As the risen Lord in Glory He gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12 ). And whom He calls into the work of the ministry He also qualifies. His Spirit gives the wisdom and power to carry out the work into which the Lord calls. It is therefore all of Him; no room for boasting or jealousy.

What confusion would have resulted if certain Israelites had decided to do part of the work and others, calling themselves “superintendents,” had directed the construction of the tabernacle, or a committee selected the design of the breastplate and another committee examined drawings of the cherubim. Great is the confusion in the professing church with its man-made, self appointed ministry, with its organizations, committees and worldly methods. The truth so clearly revealed in the New Testament epistles concerning the ministry in the body of Christ and the Holy Spirit who fits for this ministry, is almost entirely forgotten. But wherever there is the divine call and divine qualification through the Spirit of God, there the work is done and is accompanied by the power and blessing of God.

The principal workman called was Bezaleel, the grandson of Hur of the tribe of Judah . He had an assistant in Aholiab, as well as others who were wisehearted and to whom God gave wisdom (Exodus 31:6 ). Bezaleel means, “in the shadow of God”; this tells of his trust, filled with the Spirit of God in wisdom and understanding. He may well be taken as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Uri means “Light of Jehovah”; and Hur means “white.” All these words point clearly to the great workman selected by God to fashion a dwelling place for Him and to make a kingdom of priests unto God, the Lord Jesus Christ. And as Bezaleel did all as God commanded so that He was pleased, so our Lord has done the work in perfect wisdom to the eternal glory of God His Father.

Aholiab, Bezaleel’s assistant, means “tent of my father.” Ahisamach has the meaning “brother of support.” This, likewise, reminds us of our Lord. Bezaleel belonged to the tribe of Judah, the leader in the camp of Israel , and Aholiab to Dan, the last in the camp. Thus the first and the last were selected to do the work. What a glorious time is yet to come when all Israel , saved by grace in that day of His appearing, filled with the Spirit and divine wisdom, erects the great millennial temple (Ezek. 40-48).

The Sabbath law is restated and emphasized. This was also done when the manna was given. Here the Sabbath is especially mentioned as “a sign between Me and you in your generations.” The Sabbath is altogether a Jewish institution; it is always mentioned when Israel is seen in their responsibility in the special position given to them. Here the penalty for breaking the Sabbath is stated for the first time; it is death. Notice the peculiar expression in Exodus 31:17 , that the Lord rested on the seventh day and was refreshed He must have looked forward to His own work on the cross and the marvellous results of this work.

We quote from another some well-put distinctions between the Sabbath Israel had and could not keep, and the Lord’s day. This distinction is of importance in the days when some consciences are disturbed by teachers who would force the seventh day upon those who are under Grace.

1. The Sabbath was the seventh day; the Lord’s day is the first.

2. The Sabbath was a test of Israel ‘s condition; the Lord’s day is the proof of the Church’s acceptance, on wholly unconditional grounds.

3. The Sabbath belonged to the old creation; the Lord’s day belongs to the new.

4. The Sabbath was a day of bodily rest for the Jew; the Lord’s day is a day of spiritual rest for the Christian.

5. If the Jew worked on the Sabbath, he was to be put to death; if the Christian does not work on the Lord’s day, he gives little proof of life;--that is to say, if he does not work for the benefit of the souls of men, the extension of Christ’s glory and the spread of His truth. In point of fact, the devoted Christian who possesses any gift is generally more fatigued on the evening of the Lord’s day than on any other in the week, for how can he rest while souls are perishing around him?

6. The Jew was commanded by the law to abide in his tent; the Christian is led by the spirit of the gospel to go forth, whether it be to attend the public assembly or to minister to the souls of perishing sinners. (C.H. Mackintosh, Notes on Exodus.)

How higher criticism, the whole rationalistic school, and their brethren, the infidels, have amused themselves with Exodus 31:18 . Why should this be thought to be impossible with God? Their sneers but reveal their darkened and wicked hearts. God had made the tables and wrote on them (Exodus 32:16 ).

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Exodus 31". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/exodus-31.html. 1913-1922.
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