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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 31

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-11


THE CALL OF BEZALEEL AND AHOLIAB. The directions for the construction of the tabernacle and its furniture being now complete, and the composition of the holy oil and the holy incense having been laid down minutely, it only remained to designate the persons to whom the oversight of the work was to be especially entrusted. These were to be two—Bezaleel, of the tribe of Judah, as head and chief; Aholiab, of the tribe of Dan, as his assistant. There can be no doubt that they were selected, primarily, as already possessing superior artistic powers and acquirements; but in appointing them God promised an infusion of special wisdom and knowledge, so that they were at once naturally and supernaturally fitted for their task. It is important to note that artistic ability is thus distinctly recognised as being quite as much a gift of God as any other, and indeed as coming to man through the Spirit of God (Exodus 31:3). Artistic excellence is not a thing to be despised. It is very capable of abuse; but in itself it is a high gift, bestowed by God on a few only, with the special intent that it should be used to his honour and glory—not indeed in his direct service only—but always so as to improve, elevate, refine mankind, and thus help towards the advancement of God's kingdom

Exodus 31:2

I have called by name. God "calls by name" only those whom he appoints to some high office, as Moses (Exodus 3:4; Exodus 33:12), Cyrus (Isaiah 45:3, Isaiah 45:4), and here Bezaleel and Aholiab. He honours us highly in even condescending to "know us by name," still more in "calling" us. Bezaleel is traced to Judah in Chronicles through five ancestors—Uri, Hur, Caleb, Hezron, and Pharez, Judah's son by Tamar. The genealogy, though less contracted than most of those in Exodus, probably contains two or three omissions. The son of Hur. Hur, the grandfather of Bezaleel, is thought to be the person mentioned in Exodus 17:10, and Exodus 24:14.

Exodus 31:3

The Spirit of God. There is no article in the Hebrew, any more than in Genesis 1:1; and some would therefore translate "a Divine Spirit"; but no change is needed. Ruakh elohim contains in itself the idea of singularity, since God has but one Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the medium of communication whereby God the Father bestows all gifts upon us. In wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge. By the first of these terms is meant the power to invent and originate; by the second ability to receive and appreciate directions and suggestions; by the third, such information as is acquired by experience and acquaintance with facts. Bezaleel was to have all these, and, in addition, was to be wise in all manner of workmanship; i.e.—to possess manual dexterity, the power of artistic execution.

Exodus 31:4, Exodus 31:5

The result of these gifts would be to enable him—1. To devise cunning worksi.e; to design everything excellently; and 2. To work in all manner of workmanshipi.e; to carry out his designs with success. It has been said that "as everything that had to be done was prescribed in strict and precise detail, there was to be no exercise of original powers of invention nor of taste" (Cook); but this was scarcely so. The forms of the cherubim, the patterns to be woven into the stuffs, or embroidered on them, the shapes of the vessels, of the capitals of the pillars, and of the laver were not prescribed in the directions. Bezaleel and Aholiab would have had to design them after such a description as Moses could give of the "pattern" which he had seen in the mount. In doing this, there would be much room for the exercise of inventive power and taste.

Exodus 31:5

In cutting of stonesi.e; "in Genesis-curling." The fabric of the tabernacle was entirely of metal, cloth, and wood. In carving of timber. Rather "cutting." The word is the same as that used of the stones. And no ornamental "carving" of the woodwork was prescribed.

Exodus 31:6

Aholiab appears to have had the entire charge of the textile fabrics, both woven and embroidered (Exodus 38:23). Of the tribe of Ban. It is remarkable that Hiram, the chief artist employed by Solomon for the ornamental work of the temple, was also a descendant of Dan (2 Chronicles 2:14). Yet the Danites were in general rather warlike and rude than artistic (Genesis 49:17; Deuteronomy 33:22; Judges 13:2; Judges 18:11, Judges 18:27). In the hearts of all that are wise hearted have I put wisdom. "Unto him that hath shall be given. Those who were already "wise hearted—possessed, that is, of artistic power—were selected by God to receive extraordinary gifts of the same kind.

Exodus 31:7-11

Contain an enumeration of the various works already commanded to be made The same order is observed, except that here the tabernacle itself is placed first, and the altar of incense takes its natural position next to the candlestick.

Exodus 31:10

The cloths of service. Rather "the vestments of office'—i.e; the distinguishing vestments of the High Priest, which he alone was allowed to wear. These were the blue robe, the ephod, the girdle of the ephod, and the breast-plate (Exodus 28:6-35). The holy garments. The rest of the High Priest's dress—i.e; the linen drawers, the diapered tunic, the inner girdle and the mitre (Exodus 28:39, Exodus 28:43; Le Exodus 16:4), which constituted his whole apparel on the great day of atonement. The garments of his sons—i.e, the linen drawers, tunics, girdles, and caps, mentioned in Exodus 28:40, Exodus 28:42.


Exodus 31:3-6

Artistic excellence.

I. ITS FOUNDATION A NATURAL GIFT. God singled out from the mass of the people such as were "wise hearted." A natural foundation was necessary for his spirit to work upon. It is generally allowed, in the case of a poet, that "nascitur, non fit." But the same is true of all art-genius. Every artist, be he poet, painter, sculptor, musician, or mere designer of furniture, requires to have a something implanted within him from the first, out of which his artistic power is to grow, and without which he could never attain to excellence. Bezaleel and Aholiab were such persons. They were men of natural genius, with a special aptitude for the task to which they were set.

II. THE NATURAL GIFT MAY BE LARGELY INCREASED AND IMPROVED BY GRACE. There is a natural affinity between artistic excellence and spirituality. God, who gives artistic power originally for wise and good purposes, will, if men use the power worthily, augment it by the direct action of his Spirit on their intellects. Those poets, painters, etc; who have been good men, have found their artistic ability improve with time. Those who have lived evil lives have found it deteriorate. The spirit of devotion gave to the school of Angelico, Francis, and Perugino, its wonderful power and intensity. Milton's religious ardour sublimised his poetry. The best art has always had a religious purpose, and derived much of its excellence from its association with religion. Men who regard their gifts as a trust, and exercise them in the fear of God, find constantly that their conceptions grow in grandeur and dignity, while their execution becomes more and more happy. The spirit of God fills them with wisdom, and understanding, and knowledge, and even with "all manner of workmanship."

III. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE NATURAL GIFT MAY BE PERVERTED TO EVIL, AND BECOME A CURSE BOTH TO ITS POSSESSOR AND OTHERS. There is no intellectual power which is not liable to misuse. Artistic excellence is perhaps more liable to it than most others. If it is divorced from moral goodness, and made a mere instrument of self-glorification, it becomes debased at once. And the decline is easy from bad to worse. "Facilis descensus Averni." There are few things which have worked greater evil in the world than high artistic genius combined with moral depravity. A whole generation may be utterly corrupted by a single sensualistic poet. Sculpture and painting have less influence; yet still a sensualistic school of either may have a most deleterious effect upon the morals of an age. It is of the greatest importance that such a perversion of artistic genius should not take place. It should be impressed on all that their artistic powers are the gift of God, to be accounted for just as much as other gifts; to be used, as all gifts are to be used, to his honour; to be made to subserve the ends for which his kingdom has been established upon earth—the advance of holiness, the general elevation, refinement and spiritualisation of mankind, and the special purifying to himself of a peculiar people, zealous of good works.


Verse 12

Bezaleel and Aholiab.

The calling of these two craftsmen for the work of the sanctuary, and the statement concerning Bezaleel that Jehovah had "filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship" (Exodus 31:3), suggest various important lessons. On the distinction of the terms—"wisdom," "understanding," "knowledge," see the exposition, and consult the valuable notes on Ephesians 1:8, Colossians 1:9, in the Bishop of Durham's Commentaries. The general moral is, that when God has any important work to be done, whether in Church or State, he will not fail to raise up, and in due time to "call by name," the individuals needed for the doing of it. The preparatory training school or' these individuals may be far removed from the scene of their future labours. Bezaleel and Aholiab were trained in Egypt. Of what is said in "From Log Cabin to White House" of Presidents Lincoln and Garfield, of the United States—"Both of these statesmen were born in log-cabins, built by their fathers, in the wilderness, for family homes. Both were poor as mortals can well be. Both were born with talents of the highest order; but neither enjoyed early advantages of schools and teachers … Both worked on a farm, chopped wood, and did whatever else was needful for a livelihood, when eight years of age," etc. Thus God gifts, trains, prepares men, without a hint of the use to Which he means afterwards to put them. Till the event discloses it, the honour in reserve for them is kept a secret, even from themselves. The Genesis is polished in obscurity by the master's hand. Ultimately it is brought to light, and astonishes the beholders by the rare finish of its beauty. The tabernacle was built with the spoils of the Egyptians in more senses than one. More special lessons are the following—

I. ALL GIFTS ARE FROM GOD. Not simply gifts of intellect, of oratory, of holiness, of spiritual understanding, but gifts of every kind, from the highest to the lowest. Grace, in the case of Bezaleel, Aholiab, and their fellow-craftsmen, proceeded on a basis of natural endowment. Cf. verse 6—"into the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom." Skill in handicraft is a species of mental excellence, and deserves the name "wisdom." It, also, is from God. So with all natural talents; with, e.g; the pectic gift; gifts of music, painting, sculpture, architecture; business faculty; the gift of statesmanship; the power to "think out inventions"; the skill of the artificer. This truth lies at the basis of the demand for a religious use of gifts.

II. NATURAL GIFTS ADMIT OF INDEFINITE EXPANSION AND ENLARGEMENT UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF GOD'S SPIRIT. The workers in the tabernacle were supernaturally assisted in their work. Nothing less than this is implied in the words—"And I have filled him with the spirit of God" (verse 3); "into the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom" (verse 6). Grace aids nature. Regeneration is often accompanied by a mysterious and almost miraculous improvement in the powers of knowledge, so much so that, from a state of stolid imbecility, a person may be seen rising up and standing forth an acute argumentative pleader for the truth. What holds good of the general invigoration of the powers, may be expected to apply in the particular. Dedication of self carries with it dedication of gifts. And if an individual dedicates to God any special gift which he possesses, seeking, whether in the Church or in pursuit of an ordinary calling, to use the same for God's glory, it will be his privilege to have it aided, strengthened, purified, and largely enhanced in its operations by the influences of Divine grace. The commonest work will thus be better done, if done in the spirit of prayer. And so with the noblest. Milton speaks of his great epic as a work "not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pea of some vulgar amourist or the trencher-fury of a rhyming parasite—nor to be obtained by invocation of Dame Memory and her siren daughter, but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases."

III. RELIGION SANCTIFIES LABOUR. The Bible is a text-book of instruction on the dignity of labour. It has no sympathy with the contemptible foppishness which looks on labour as degrading. It includes labour in religion. It sees in the occupation of the humblest handicraftsman the exercise of a Divine gift. The good man who, whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he does, does all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) does not demean himself by an honest calling, but transfigures his calling into part of his service to his Maker. In his case, laborare est orate. The shewbread on the table in the sanctuary was a recognition of the sacredness of labour. It had as one of its meanings the dedication to God of the exercise of the calling by which Israel won its daily bread. So manual labour was sanctified to God in the making of the tabernacle. But it was reserved for Christianity to give the crowning proof of the dignity of labour by showing it ennobled and glorified in the person of its Founder. The fathers of the Christian Church, in contrast with the Greeks and Romans, who looked on artisans and barbarians with contemptuous disgust, preached in their noblest tones the duty and dignity of honourable toil. "The proudest bishops were not ashamed to dig; a Benedict worked six hours a day with hoe and spade; a Becket helped regularly to reap the fields. The monks at once practised labour, and ennobled and protected it. The towns and the middle classes grew up under their shelter. Laborare est orate became the motto of Christian life".

IV. THE HIGHEST USE OF GIFTS IS TO DEDICATE THEM TO THE SERVICE OF GOD IN THE WORK OF HIS CHURCH. Transformed by grace, and employed in the service of religion, gifts become graces—"Charismata." All labour, all gifts, admit of being thus devoted. The handicrafts can still bring their tribute to God, if in no higher way, in the erection of places for his worship. Art can labour in the adornment of the sanctuary (cf. Ps 60:13). The service of praise affords scope for the utilisation of gifts of music, vocal and instrumental. There is need for care lest art, ministering to the worship of God, should overpower devotion; but, considered in itself, there need be no jealousy of the introduction of the tasteful and beautiful into God's service. It is meet that the Giver of gifts should be served with the best our gifts can yield. Earthly callings may minister to God's kingdom in another way, by bringing of their lawful gains and laying them at Christ's feet. There is, besides, the private consecration of gifts to God, as in the case of Dorcas, making coats and garments for the poor (Acts 9:39), or as in the case of a Miss Havergal, or an Ira D. Sankey, consecrating to God a gift of song. Minor lessons taught are—

(1) Gifts are not all alike, yet God can use all.

(2) Some are made to lead, others to serve and follow, in the work of God's kingdom. We glorify God most when unambitiously content to fill our own place; when not envious of the greater gifts of others. The humblest is needed. Bezaleel could ill have dispensed with the artificers; Aholiab, with the needle-workers. They in turn needed the master minds to direct them. There should be no jealousy among those engaged in the same work (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:1-31.).

(3) Diversity of gifts gives rise to division of labour.

(4) Bezaleel and Aholiab, though of different tribes (Judah and Dan), wrought together as friends, were not opposed as rivals. What kept out the spirit of rivalry was the consciousness that both were working in a sacred cause, and for God's glory, not their own. The feeling that we are working for Christ should keep down dissensions among Christians.—J.O.

Verses 13-17


THE PENALTY FOR NOT OBSERVING THE SABBATH. Various reasons have been given for this recurrence to the sanctity of the sabbath. Kurtz connects it with the giving of the two tables, in which "the law of the sabbath held a particularly prominent place." Kalisch and others view it rather as the sequel to the directions concerning the tabernacle, and as designed to teach "that the holy service in the tabernacle could not supersede the observance of the sabbath, but derived front that observance its true value." A third set of critics regard the recurrence to the subject as purely practical—being intended to meet an immediate danger—that of the people, in their zeal to erect the tabernacle, setting sabbath observance at nought. (So Jarchi, Aben-Ezra, Clark, Rosenmuller, Canon Cook, and others.) It is to be observed, however, that the present passage is not a mere repetition. It adds to former notices (Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 23:12) two new points:—

1. That the sabbath was to be a sign between God and Israel, a "distinguishing badge," a "sacramental bond" (Cook); and

2. That its desecration was to be punished with death (Exodus 31:15). These were supplementary points of so much importance as to furnish ample reason against their announcement being delayed.

Exodus 31:13

Verily. Rosenmuller suggests, "Nevertheless." But there is no need for any change. It is a sign. Hitherto circumcision had been the only visible "sign" that the Israelites were under a special covenant with God—his people, bound to him by special ties (Genesis 17:9-14; Acts 7:8). The adoption of circumcision by the Egyptians and other nations (Herod. 2.104) had produced the effect that this "sign" was no longer distinguishing. It might be still" a sign of profession "; but it had ceased to be "a mark of difference "; and some other mark was therefore needed. Such the observance of the sabbath by entire abstinence from servile work became. No other nation adopted it. It continued to Roman times the mark and badge of a Jew.(Juv. Sat. 6.159; 14.96). That ye may know, etc. By keeping the sabbath day as a day of holy rest the Israelites would know—i.e; would realise severally in their own per sons, that God was their sanctifier. Sanctification would be the fruit of their obedience.

Exodus 31:14

Every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death. To defile the sabbath was to do any unnecessary servile work upon it. Works of mercy, works of necessity, and works connected with religious observance were not prohibited. (See Matthew 12:1-7; 10-12.) The penalty of death for breaking the sabbath seems to moderns over-severe; but the erection of sabbath-observance into the special sacramental sign that Israel was in covenant with God made non-observance an offence of the gravest character. The man who broke the sabbath destroyed, so far as in him lay, the entire covenant between God and his people—not only broke it, but annulled it, and threw Israel out of covenant. Hence, when the sin was committed, no hesitation was felt in carrying out the law. (See Numbers 15:32-36.)

Exodus 31:15

The sabbath of rest. Rather, "a sabbath." There were other sabbaths besides that of the seventh day (Exodus 23:11; Le Exodus 25:2-12; etc.). By the expression, "a sabbath of rest"—literally, "a rest of resting"—the idea of completeness is given. Perhaps the best translation would be—"in the seventh is complete rest."

Exodus 31:16

For a perpetual covenant. The sabbath is itself a covenant—i.e; a part of the covenant between God and Israel (Exodus 24:4)—and it is, also, a sign of covenant—i.e; a perceptible indication that the nation has entered into a special agreement with God, and undertaken the observance of special laws.

Exodus 31:17

It is a sign. See above, Exodus 31:13. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth. See the comment on Exodus 20:11. And was refreshed. Literally," and took breath." The metaphor is a bold one, but not bolder than others which occur in holy scripture (Psalms 44:23; Psalms 78:65). It does but carry out a little further the idea implied in God's "resting." We cannot speak of any of God's acts or attributes without anthropomorphisms.


Exodus 31:13-17

Covenant signs.

To each covenant which he has made with man, God has attached some special sign or signs. And each sign has been significant, has set before the mind of those to whom it was given some great religious truth.

I. THE FIRST COVENANT SIGN WAS THE RAINBOW. God had destroyed by a deluge the whole human race, except eight persons. It pleased him, after this, to enter into a covenant with Noah and his sons (Genesis 9:8, Genesis 9:9), and through them with the human race, that he would never bring such a destruction upon the world again (Genesis 9:11). Of this covenant he appointed the rainbow to be the sign, symbolising by its brightness and beauty his own mercy (Genesis 9:14-17). Here the religious truth taught and impressed by the sign was that precious one, that God is not only a just, but also a merciful God.

II. THE SECOND COVENANT SIGN WAS CIRCUMCISION. When God selected Abraham out of the entire mass of mankind to be the progenitor of the chosen race and of him especially in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed, and entered into a covenant with him, it was in these words—"Thou shalt keep my covenant, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations—this is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee, every man child among you shall be circumcised" (Genesis 17:9, Genesis 17:10). Hence the covenant itself was called "the covenant of circumcision" (Acts 7:8). This rite of initiation, the covenant sign of the Abrahamic dispensation, shadowed forth the great truth that man has an impurity of nature, which must be put away before he can be brought near to God and received into his full favour.

III. THE THIRD COVENANT SIGN WAS THE SABBATH. Its institution to be a covenant sign is set forth in the words, "Verily, my sabbaths ye shall keep, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations" (Exodus 31:13). It witnessed to the truth that God requires distinct and open acknowledgment at the. hands of men, and not only so, but material worship at stated times, the least that will content him being one day in seven. The nations, when they served him at all (Acts 10:35), served him irregularly. They knew nothing of a definite day, or a formal apportionment of time, for his service. By the institution of the Sabbath the Israelites were taught, and through them the world, that God is interested in man, claims his thoughts, sets a value on his worship, and will not be satisfied with mere occasional acknowledgment, but demands that a fixed proportion of our time shall be dedicated to his worship exclusively.

IV. OTHER COVENANT SIGNS. NO further covenant signs were given until our Lord came upon earth. Then two were instituted in the Sacraments. Baptism taught the same truth as circumcision—the need of putting away impurity; but taught it by a simpler rite, and one to which no exception could be taken. The Lord's Supper taught a new truth, the necessity of reconciliation through the death and atoning blood of Christ. It witnessed to the certain fact that man cannot save himself, cannot atone for his own sins, but needs a mediator, a redeemer, an atoner, to make satisfaction for him.


Exodus 31:12-18

The Sabbath.

If this prohibition to work upon the Sabbath is introduced, as probably it is, lest the people, in their zeal for the service of the sanctuary, should be tempted to infringe upon the holy day, it has certain obvious sides of instruction turned towards ourselves. We cannot but see in it the high honour which God puts upon his Sabbath.

1. It is the one command of the Decalogue to which reference is made in the conclusion of this series of instructions. This implies its great importance. It shows that, in God's esteem, the observance of the Sabbath was intimately bound up with the best interests of Israel.

2. The Sabbath is declared to be a sign between God and the Israelites. It was to be a memorial to future generations that Jehovah had made a covenant with the nation, and had sanctified them to himself. But its very selection for this purpose was a tribute to its importance. The reason of the selection could only be that the Sabbath was in itself a boon of the highest kind to Israel, and had important bearings on the state of morals and religion. A well- or ill-spent Sabbath, as all history shows, has much to do with the character both of the individual and of the community. The Sabbath, further, is a "sign" in this respect, that it is at once a means for the promotion of true religion, and a test or indication of its presence. A disregard of Divine authority shows itself in nothing more readily than in a disposition to break in upon the day of rest—to take from it its sacred character.

3. The Sabbath is not to be infringed upon, even for the work of the tabernacle. There was no such excessive haste, no such imperative call, for the sanctuary being finished, that the Sabbath needed to be broken by the plying of handicrafts, in order to get it done. We are taught that even our zeal for God's work is not to be allowed to betray us into unnecessary infractions of the day of rest. This is not, of course, to be applied to spiritual work, to afford an opportunity for which is one end of the giving of the Sabbath.

4. The breaker of the Sabbath was to be put to death. This was not too severe a punishment for the deliberate breaking of a law so repeatedly enforced, and the observance of which had been made by Jehovah a "sign" of the covenant between himself and Israel. Slight as the act seems, it was, in this case, a crime of a very flagrant order. It was punished as an act of treason. At the conclusion of these commands, God gave to Moses the two tables of testimony, "tables of stone, written with the finger of God." A symbol

(1) of the perpetuity of the law,

(2) of its want of power to regenerate (2 Corinthians 3:7).—J.O.

Verse 18


THE TABLES OF TESTIMONY. It had been assumed, in the directions given for the construction of the ark, that God would give, in some material form, a document to be called "the testimony," which was to be laid up inside it (Exodus 25:16). It is not too much to say that the tabernacle, with its various appurtenances, was constructed for this purpose; the rest of the tabernacle was designed with a view to the holy of holies the holy of holies was designed as a receptacle for the ark—and the ark was designed as a receptacle for the tables of testimony. This section could, therefore, scarcely be concluded without some definite account of the document which was to give the ark and the tabernacle itself, its main significance.

Exodus 31:18

When he had made an end of communing. Literally, "when he had finished speaking." Two tables. Rather, "the two tables"—i.e; the tables promised when he went up into the mount (Exodus 24:12). Of stone. Stone was the ordinary material on which Egyptian documents were engraved, both at the time of the Exodus, and before and after. They were, however, for the most part, either inscribed upon the natural rock, or engraved on the walls of temples or tombs. Inscriptions upon slabs of stone are rare, more especially in the early times, and would scarcely have occurred to Moses himself. Written with the finger of Godi.e; "inscribed supernaturally"—not cut by any human hand. Compare Exodus 32:16. It is idle to speculate on the exact mode of the Divine operation.


Exodus 31:18

The Tables of Testimony

were in many respects like the document impressed upon them. For instance, they were—

I. OF STONE, AND THEREFORE ENDURING AND WELL NIGH IMPERISHABLE. Few things are more enduring than some kinds of stone. Inscriptions exist, engraved on stone, which are certainly anterior to Abraham. No remains in metal go back so far. Gold and silver are, comparatively speaking, soft. Iron corrodes. Steel was unknown at the period. The material selected to receive the moral law was as nearly indestructible as possible. The tables may still exist, and may one day be discovered under the mounds of Babylon, or in the bed of the Euphrates. The character of the material was thus in harmony with the contents of the tables, consisting, as they did, of laws whereof no jot or tittle shall pass away till the fulfilment of all things (Matthew 5:18).

II. WRITTEN WITH THE FINGER OF GOD. The stones had the laws engraved upon them by a Divine agency which is called "the finger of God." The laws themselves had been long previously written with the finger of God in the fleshly tables of men's hearts. The Divine power, which was competent to do the one, could no doubt with can accomplish the other. The human heart is the most stubborn of all materials, and the most difficult to impress permanently.

III. TWO-FOLD. Twin tables, alike in the main, but inscribed differently. So was the law of the tables two-fold—containing

(1) man's duty to God, and

(2) his duty to his neighbour.

It is uncertain how the Ten Commandments were divided between the two tables, but quite possible that the first four were written on one table, and the last six on the other. In that case the material division would have exactly corresponded to the spiritual.

IV. WRITTEN ON BOTH THEIR SIDES (Exodus 32:15). So the moral law—the law of the Decalogue—is written both within and without the human heart—presses externally upon men as a rule of right which they are constrained to obey, and approves itself to them from within, as one which the voice of conscience declares to be binding, apart from external sanction. The book seen in vision by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:9) was "written within and without" (ib, 10), like the tables; but its entire contents were "lamentation, and mourning, and woe." The moral law, as convincing us of sin, has a painful side; but it sustains as much as it alarms, and produces as much effort as mourning.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 31". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/exodus-31.html. 1897.
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