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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Exodus 31

Verses 1-11

Who May Build the Tabernacle

God has explained to Moses what the tabernacle, His dwelling place, should look like. Now He announces who is allowed to build the tabernacle. These cannot just be people who are in the mood for it. God designates them Himself. He knows the qualities of every member of His people. He gave them at birth. But the qualities are not enough either. It is necessary that He provides them with His Spirit and the necessary wisdom in their natural qualities.

He calls Bezalel by his name. Bezalel means ‘in the shadow of God’. Therein lies an important characteristic for the service: service can only be performed in dependence on God and not in own strength or according to one’s own insight. A shadow is not the person himself, but refers to the person whose shadow it is. The servant is not important, but God.

He is the son of Uri, meaning ‘enlightened’. The enlightenment of the Spirit is necessary for this work. He is also the son of Hur, which means ‘pure’. In the service everything must be in accordance with God’s holiness and purity. Nothing of man, nothing of sin, may stick to it. He comes from the tribe Judah, which means ‘praiser of God’.

This Bezalel receives from God all that is necessary to work with all that is brought by the people for the construction of the tabernacle. But he doesn’t have to work alone. He gets help. He doesn’t have to search for them himself. God takes care of that. He knows who suits him. Thus God places every member in the body, so that the members can serve each other. No member can function on his own. The members need each other, but God determines the function (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Oholiab means ‘the father’s tent’. He is aware of his task. He is the son of Ahisamach, which means ‘brother of support’. He knows that he is there for the other – in this case – Bezalel. He comes from the tribe Dan. This is the darkest tribe, but in His grace God also uses people from that tribe. We see this also with the construction of the temple (2 Chronicles 2:14). The grace of God is greater than our background.

Besides Bezalel and Oholiab, God has added more people to the building. These are all people who are naturally artistic or wise. God puts His wisdom in their hearts. Thus they are able to make all that He has commanded Moses.

In the list of the parts and utensils to be made, we see the tasks that each is assigned. Those who are allowed to build the tent of meeting present in spiritual application those who have special insight into the church of God and its coming together. Those who may build the ark of the testimony represent those who have special insight into the Person of the Lord Jesus. Those who may make the mercy seat represent those who have a great understanding of reconciliation.

The table and its utensils point to the communion of the believers. Those who work on it present those who want to ensure that this mutual fellowship can be maintained as something in which God finds His joy, His food. The lampstand represents the light that is spread in the sanctuary. Those who are working on this represent those who have a great deal of insight into the blessings of the heavenly places and can tell their fellow believers much about them.

The altar of incense represents Christ Who is a lovely fragrance for God. It is, spiritually applied, made by those who have much insight into the glories of Christ. The altar of burnt offering is made by people who understand what the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross means to God. The laver is made by people who take their sanctification seriously.

The garments are made by those who are ordained to the priestly service of the Lord Jesus and of themselves, who know that they are priests and who also perform the priestly service. The anointing oil is prepared by people who want to be guided by the Holy Spirit in everything they do. The incense is composed by those who know what prayer is.

A brother in China once told me a nice practical application of this. He knew three leaders of house churches who have been of great importance to many house churches. All three had a nickname derived from the tabernacle. Brother John Sung was called ‘altar’ because he burned for the gospel. Brother Wang Mieng Dao was called ‘laver’ because in his preaching he put the emphasis on holiness and cleansing. Brother Charles Lee was called ‘sanctuary’ because he knew the Scriptures so well.

In this way we may also know brothers and sisters who, in the service they do, remind us by their way of working of certain aspects of the tabernacle. In fact, we should all have a certain characteristic. After all, we are all members of the body of Christ, each with his own specific task. We also all work together to build up the church, the house of God, each with his own specific gift.

In this way, we complement each other, without claiming that what we are allowed to do is more important than what anyone else is doing. In general, for the believers, it is true that they may know and enjoy all these things and will enjoy what others have discovered of the different truths presented in the parts and materials of the tabernacle. Thus they grow up together to Him Who is the Head of the church and of Whom everything comes: “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him who is the head, [even] Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-Nehemiah :).

Verses 12-17

The Sabbath

The LORD has almost finished speaking with Moses. For the seventh and last time we read in His speech to Moses: “The LORD spoke …, saying.” And this seventh time is the introduction to the sabbath, the seventh day of the week, the day of rest for Israel.

This day looks forward to the rest of the millennial kingdom of peace. There all the work of God and all that has been done for Him ends up. God wants to remind His people of this. He also wants them to remember this constantly and to observe that day. Working on that day means not taking God’s commandment into account. It is punishable by death.

The sabbath is the sign of the covenant between the LORD and His earthly people. God has set that day Himself after He has completed His creation work. On that day “He ceased [from labor], and was refreshed”. God wants His people to share in it with Him. That is a great grace.

This is the end of the LORD’s speech to Moses.

Verse 18

The Tablets of Stone

The stone tablets set out to us the responsibility of the people. This responsibility contrasts sharply with the intention of God, which He spoke about with Moses. While He gives the tablets of stone, He knows how the people are behaving at the foot of the mountain. The following chapter gives details.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 31". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/exodus-31.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.