Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 37

Introduction

The Work On Building The Dwellingplace Begins And Is Satisfactorily Completed In Accordance with Yahweh’s Command (Exodus 35:4 to Exodus 38:31).

The preparations for the Dwellingplace and its furniture include gathering all the necessary materials, sewing material together, skilful workmanship and planning in order to make use of the available personnel, with the most skilful work being done by the experts.

It may be asked, why was it necessary for the details of the Dwellingplace and its contents to be repeated twice, firstly in the giving of the instructions (Exodus 25 ff) and then in its actual construction? We may suggest the answer is as follows. Firstly there was a great emphasis on the need for all to be constructed exactly in accordance with the pattern shown to Moses in the Mount (Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40; Numbers 8:4; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:23). Thus it was necessary to demonstrate first, that the pattern was given by God, and then second that it was followed.

But why was the pattern so important? That brings us to the second reason. The double stress on the construction of the Dwellingplace was evidence of the importance of the lessons that could be drawn from it. It was a twofold witness. And there were two complementary reasons why the pattern was important, one was so as to ensure that no taint of false ideas entered into the Dwellingplace lest it fail to portray the truth about God as precisely as possible and thus lead Israel astray (how easily they were led astray at every opportunity), and second because it revealed heavenly truths that could be revealed in no other way (Hebrews 9:23).

To sum up but some of those truths; it revealed that they worshipped the invisible God; it revealed that He was their merciful King; it revealed that His light was constantly shed on them; it revealed that they were His people and that He would constantly feed them; it revealed that He could be approached and would offer mercy; it warned that He was holy and must not be approached lightly; it made clear that although He was there among them there was a huge difference between man and God, and between creation and its Creator; and it revealed that constantly sinful man needed constant atonement. These are equally lessons that we need to recognise today when many approach God too lightly and overlook His holiness. It is true that Christ has made for us a way into God’s presence more wonderful than the Dwellingplace, and that through Him we can approach Heaven itself, but let us not forget that that is because of the greatness of Who He is, the greatness of the sacrifice He offered, and the wonder of His intercession for us. It is not because we are less sinful, but because of Who He is and What He has done for us. And as we thus study the details of the Dwellingplace let us learn that we approach a holy God, which we can only do without fear because of the wonder of what Christ has done for us. Without Him we would shrivel up in God’s presence.

We may analyse this whole section as follows;

a The gathering of the materials (Exodus 35:4-29).

b Bezalel is filled with the Spirit of God, and he and Oholiab, the skilled overseers, are filled with wisdom and all manner of workmanship for the task (Exodus 35:30-35).

c The skilled overseers with the skilled men go about the work (Exodus 36:1-4).

d The generosity of the people is such that the collecting of materials has to cease (Exodus 36:5-7).

c The wisehearted make the curtains and frames, and the veil and screen (Exodus 36:8-38).

b Bezalel (no doubt with assistance from Oholiab and the skilled workmen) makes the furniture (Exodus 37:1 to Exodus 38:20).

a The sum of the gold, silver and brazen copper described (Exodus 38:21-31).

Thus we note that in ‘a’ the materials are gathered, and in the parallel the precious metals used are described. In ‘b’ Bezalel is filled with the Spirit of God for the task of making the furniture and in the parallel he ‘makes’ all the sacred furniture. In ‘c’ the ‘skilled overseers’ go about the work, and in the parallel the ‘wisehearted’ make the curtains and frames. And central to all in ‘d’ the people’s generosity overflows.

So the overall picture it that the materials are gathered, the overseers and skilled workmen are given wisdom by God and go about their work, the gifts overflow and become too many, the skilful workmen make the framework and curtains, and the skilful overseer the furniture, and the precious metals obtained and used are then assessed. But all this is given in detail because of the importance of the work and to enable all to see their part in it.

For us the message comes over how important are all aspects of the work of God. We must now look at the detail.

The Making of the Dwellingplace (Exodus 36:8 to Exodus 38:20).

From this point on the chiastic framework is replaced by a straightforward delineation of the different work done on the Dwellingplace following distinct patterns as is required by the subject matter. Thus we have in Exodus 36 working outwards the making of the inner curtains (Exodus 36:8-13), then of the outer curtains of goat’s hair (Exodus 36:14-18), then of the protective covering of skins (Exodus 36:19). Included is the working of the curtains, their dimensions, the coupling, the loops and the clasps (Exodus 36:8-19) in that order. This is then followed by the making of the frames, their dimensions and their sockets (Exodus 36:20-30); and then by the making of the bars, the Veil with its pillars and the outer screen with its pillars (Exodus 36:31-38).

In Exodus 37:1 to Exodus 38:8 we have, commencing in the Most Holy Place and moving outwards, the making of the Ark, the Mercy Seat (in the Most Holy Place); the Table for the showbread, the Lampstand, the Altar of incense; (all in the Holy Place); the anointing oil and incense (used in the Holy Place); the Altar of burnt offering and the Laver together with their method of transportation (in the courtyard). That is then followed by the making of the curtains and the gate of the courtyard (Exodus 38:9-20).

The Making of the Furniture - The Work Overseen By Bezalel (Exodus 37:1 to Exodus 38:20).

Bezalel had responsibility for all the sacred furniture. We may assume, however, that he obtained assistance in the more general work. We note that the order of furniture made commences from the Holy of Holies and moves through the Holy Place to the outer court.

There is here a continual general pattern commencing with the making and description of the item of furniture, followed by the making of the means of its transportation (rings and staves) (Exodus 37:1 to Exodus 38:8).

Verses 1-9

The Making of the Furniture - The Work Overseen By Bezalel (Exodus 37:1 to Exodus 38:20).

Bezalel had responsibility for all the sacred furniture. We may assume, however, that he obtained assistance in the more general work. We note that the order of furniture made commences from the Holy of Holies and moves through the Holy Place to the outer court.

There is here a continual general pattern commencing with the making and description of the item of furniture, followed by the making of the means of its transportation (rings and staves) (Exodus 37:1 to Exodus 38:8).

The Making of the Ark (Exodus 37:1-9).

Exodus 37:1-9

‘And Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood: two cubits and a half was the length of it, and a cubit and a half the breadth of it, and a cubit and a half the height of it: and he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a crown of gold to it round about. And he cast for it four rings of gold, in on its four feet; even two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. And he made staves of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold. And he put the staves into the rings on the sides of the ark, to bear the ark. And he made a mercy-seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And he made two cherubim of gold; he made them of beaten work, at the two ends of the mercy-seat; one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other end: he made the cherubim of one piece with the mercy-seat at its two ends. And the cherubim spread out their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; the faces of the cherubim were towards the mercy-seat.’

Note that it is stressed that the Ark was made by Bezalel himself. The best was made by the best. For details of the Ark see on Exodus 25:10-22.

Verses 10-16

The Making Of Table For The Showbread (Exodus 37:10-16).

Exodus 37:10-16

‘And he made the table of acacia wood: two cubits was its length, and a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height: and he overlaid it with pure gold, and made for it a crown of gold round about. And he made for it a border of a handbreadth round about, and made a golden crown for its border round about. And he cast for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that were on its four feet. Close by the border were the rings, the places for the staves to bear the table. And he made the staves of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold, to bear the table. And he made the vessels which were on the table, its dishes and its spoons, and its bowls, and its flagons, with which to pour out, of pure gold.’

For the Table details see on Exodus 25:23-30.

Verses 17-24

The Making Of The Golden Lampstand (Exodus 37:17-24).

Exodus 37:17-24

‘And he made the lampstand of pure gold: of beaten work he made the lampstand, even its base, and its shaft; its cups, its knops, and its flowers, were of one piece with it. And there were six branches going out of its sides; three branches of the lampstand out of one of its sides, and three branches of the lampstand out of its other side: three cups made like almond-blossoms in one branch, a knop and a flower, and three cups made like almond-blossoms in the other branch, a knop and a flower: so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. And in the lampstand were four cups made like almond-blossoms, the its knops, and its flowers; and a knop under two branches of one piece with it, and a knop under two branches of one piece with it, and a knop under two branches of one piece with it, for the six branches going out of it. Their knops and their branches were of one piece with it: the whole of it was one beaten work of pure gold. And he made its lamps, seven, and its snuffers, and its snuffdishes, of pure gold. he made it of a talent of pure gold, and all its vessels.’

For the lampstand details see on 25:31-40.

Verses 25-29

The Making Of The Altar of Incense (Exodus 37:25-28).

Exodus 37:25-28

‘And he made the altar of incense of acacia wood: a cubit was its length, and a cubit its breadth, foursquare; and two cubits its height. Its horns were of one piece with it. And he overlaid it with pure gold, its top, and its sides round about, and its horns: and he made for it a raised ridge of gold round about. And he made for it two golden rings under its ridge, on its two ribs, on the two sides of it, for places for staves with which to bear it. And he made the staves of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold.

For the altar of incense details see on Exodus 30:1-10. These verses were omitted by LXX possibly because the fact of the non-appearance of the Altar of Incense with the Table and the Lampstand in Exodus 25 influenced their thinking.

Verse 29

The Making Of The Anointing Oil And The Incense.

Exodus 37:29

‘And he made the holy anointing oil, and the pure incense of sweet spices, after the art of the perfumer.’

For details of these see on Exodus 30:22-38.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 37". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/exodus-37.html. 2013.