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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Exodus 31



Verses 1-18

IV. The Architects. Exodus 31:1-11

The summoning of Bezaleel and his assistants, Aholiab and other master-workmen, is at once a definition of sacred art and a recognition of natural artistic talent. The idea of the sanctuary is indeed a gift of Jehovah, transmitted by Moses to Bezaleel. Yet even in the wider sense the fact respecting art is that the artist exhibits himself more purely, the more he follows objective images, found in actual life, and formed by God. This limitation does not exclude the originality of the wise-hearted; but it shows itself in four ways: (1) In the plastic impulse, or the talent of construction, such as was shown by Wisdom of Solomon, as artist, at the formation of the earth ( Genesis 1; Proverbs 8). Wisdom effects the execution of the impulse in beautiful phenomenal forms. (2) But what she creates in general, must be realized in particular by perception, or good sense, in its patient studies. Then (3) in order to true creation there is needed furthermore, on the one hand, knowledge, in the form of ideal reflection, standing over the plastic impulse, and, on the other hand, (4) practical understanding, such as enables one to work up the material. But the artistic talent of the “wise-hearted” becomes sacred art only through the Spirit of God. Keil understands by this a supernatural endowment. It is not to be denied that there is something supernatural in every sanctification of a natural endowment. But it is a question whether he so meant it. As to the names Bezaleel and Aholiab, vid. the Encyclopedias. On the obscure expression בִּגְדֵי הַשְּׂרָר, comp. Keil. The context confirms his assumption, that this phrase denotes those garments which belonged to the high-priest alone, while the other garments belonged to him and his sons alike. See other very divergent explanations in Keil. Gesenius refers the word to the curtains of the tabernacle—an interpretation which does not accord with the explanatory expression. “to do service in the holy place” [ Exodus 35:19]. Perhaps, in accordance with the meaning of שָׂרַד II. [in Gesenius], the phrase may designate an exceptional kind of clothing, to be distinguished from all other garments.

V. The Condition of Vitality in the Ritual Worship, the Sabbath, Exodus 31:12-17. Conclusion, Exodus 31:18

The reason why the observance of the Sabbath is here again so strictly inculcated, Keil finds in the fact that one might easily regard the neglect of the observance as permissible in the construction of a great work designed for the worship of Jehovah. Similarly Knobel. But the perpetual observance of the Sabbath is here enjoined—a fact which Keil himself afterwards notices, but which does not accord with this merely outward reason for the injunction. It should also be observed that in Exodus 35:1 sqq. the command respecting the Sabbath recurs again, and this time precedes the order concerning the erection of the tabernacle. The Sabbath belonged as essentially to the tabernacle and the temple as the Christian Sunday to Christian worship.—A sign between me and you. i. e., so to speak, the public symbol of the relation between Jehovah and Israel. Hence breaking the Sabbath is punished as a capital crime. This doom is twice denounced, and the Sabbath itself is called by the emphatic name שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן. “Properly,” says Knobel, “rest of restfulness [Ruhe der Ruhigkeit] i.e., entire rest, complete abandonment of business, the combination of synonyms (?) enhancing the notion (vid. x22). This term is applied only to the Sabbath ( Exodus 35:2; Leviticus 23:3), the day of atonement ( Leviticus 16:31; Leviticus 23:32), and to the Sabbatical year ( Leviticus 25:4).”—Keil feels constrained to take the words of Exodus 31:18 literally. According to Exodus 32:16 the tables also are a work of God. Only, he says, we are not to think of a bodily finger of God as implied in the statement about the tables being written with His finger. It is true that Moses’ co-operation with Jehovah (for he did not need to be on the mountain forty days merely in order to receive the tables) is to be conceived as absolutely merged in God’s authority and authorship. Conjectures on the size of the tables vid. in Keil.[FN1] Alleged contradictions vid. in Knobel, p310.


FN#1 - The tables, Keil remarks, could hardly have been as long and wide as the interior of the ark (into which they were put); for two stone tablets, each four feet long and over two feet wide, and thick enough not to break with their own weight, must have been too heavy for any one but a Samson to carry down the mountain. As they were written on both sid s, and had to contain only one hundred and seventy-two words, a length of about two feet and a width of one and a half feet would have been ample.—Tr.]


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 31:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

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Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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