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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 35

 

 

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.


Verses 1-3

The Command Comes To Keep The Sabbath (Exodus 35:1-3).

Whilst at first this command appears to be on its own and not connected with the context its positioning is in fact very important. For at last after the to-ing and fro-ing of the past days, work could begin on the Dwellingplace. The people were now firmly back as Yahweh’s people and in Yahweh’s favour, and they would show their gratitude accordingly. But they first needed to be reminded that with all their enthusiasm, and with all the sacredness of what they were about to do, the Sabbath rest must be maintained. No work was to be done on the Sabbath, even that of constructing the Dwellingplace, and no fire was to be kindled, even for the purpose of forging sacred things. The Sabbath must be kept sacrosanct.

The Necessity to Keep the Sabbath (Exodus 35:1-3).

This can be analysed briefly as:

a The words which Yahweh has commanded are that work shall be done for six days (Exodus 35:1-2 a).

b The seventh is to be a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to Yahweh (Exodus 35:2 b)

b Whoever does any work in it shall be put to death (Exodus 35:2 c).

a You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the sabbath day (Exodus 35:3).

This can be seen as both a progression and a chiasmus. In ‘a’ work is to be done for six days so that in the parallel any one who makes a fire on the seventh day is in the wrong. In ‘b’ The seventh is a solemn rest so that in the parallel anyone who works on it will be put to death.

Exodus 35:1-3

‘And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said to them, “These are the words which Yahweh has commanded, that you should do them. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to Yahweh, whoever does any work in it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the sabbath day.” ’

The importance of the Sabbath day is again highlighted. Men should work for six days, but the Sabbath was a day of solemn rest. Whoever worked on it would be put to death, and this even included the making of a fire. Making a fire actually involved considerable labour, for unless some means of lighting it was to hand, such as a lighted torch, or burning coals, it had to be lit by twirling one stick in a depression on a board, or by rubbing two sticks together. This would include fires for cooking, for it would not be required for heating, and fires for forging what was required for the Dwellingplace. The former was already in principle forbidden (Exodus 16:23). Thus work on the Dwellingplace must also not take place on the Sabbath.


Verses 4-9

The Request For The Freewill Offerings of the People (Exodus 35:4-29).

This passage can be analysed as:

a Yahweh has commanded that they make a willing offering to Yahweh (Exodus 35:4-5 a)

b List of requirements: precious metals, cloth, wood, oil and spices, jewels, and especially oil and spices and the stones for the ephod and the breastpouch (Exodus 35:5-9).

c Every skilled (‘wise-hearted’) man among then was to come and make all that Yahweh has commanded - tent, ark, veil, table, lampstand, oil, incense altar, anointing oil, incense, screen, brazen altar, laver, hangings of the court, pegs, priestly garments (Exodus 35:10-19).

d All the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and brought Yahweh’s offering, for the work of the Tent of Meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought brooches, and earrings, and signet-rings, and armlets, all jewels of gold; even every man that offered an offering of gold to Yahweh. (Exodus 35:20-22).

d Every man, with whom was found bluey-violet, and purpley-red, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and dolphin skins, brought them. Every one who offered an offering of silver and bonze brought Yahweh’s offering; and every man, with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it (Exodus 35:23-24).

c And all the women who were skilled (‘wise-hearted’) span with their hands, and brought what they had spun, the bluey-violet, and the purpley-red, the scarlet, and the fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in skilfulness spun the goats' hair.’ (Exodus 35:25-26).

b And the rulers brought the onyx stones, and the stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastpouch; and the spice, and the oil; for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense (Exodus 35:27-28).

a The children of Israel brought a freewill-offering to Yahweh; every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring, for all the work which Yahweh had commanded to be made through Moses. (Exodus 35:29).

Thus in ‘a’ the command came out for freewill offerings, and in the parallel freewill offerings are brought. In ‘b we are told what was required, and in the parallel what the rulers brought is listed. In ‘c’ the skilled men came and made what Yahweh commanded, while in the parallel it was the skilled women. In ‘d’ the details can be switched around as we like between the two. The point is that the people departed and then brought their gifts.

Exodus 35:4-9

‘And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which Yahweh commanded, saying, “Take from among you an offering to Yahweh. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, Yahweh’s offering: gold, and silver, and bronze, and bluey violet, and purpley-red, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and dolphin skins, and acacia wood, and oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense, and onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastpouch.’

Compare here Exodus 25:3-7 to which this is very similar. A list of requirements for constructing the Dwellingplace are given, and the people told to make their offering to Yahweh from a willing heart. God wants nothing that is not willingly given. But he who gives to God will not lose by it. It included the precious metals, the different dyed cloth and skins, the acacia wood, the oil and spices, and the jewels required for the ephod and breastpouch. For more detailed exposition see on Exodus 25:1-7.


Verses 10-19

The Skilled Workmen Are Called To Assist (Exodus 35:10-19).

Exodus 35:10-19

‘And let every skilled (‘wise-hearted’) man among you come, and make all that Yahweh has commanded, the Dwellingplace, its tent, and its covering, its clasps, and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets; the Ark, and its staves, the mercy-seat, and the Veil of the screen; the Table, and its staves, and all its vessels, and the showbread; the Lampstand also for the light, and its vessels, and its lamps, and the oil for the light; and the altar of incense, and its staves; and the anointing oil, and the sweet incense; and the screen for the door, at the door of the Dwellingplace; the altar of burnt-offering, with its grating of brass, it staves, and all its vessels; the laver and its base; the hangings of the court, its pillars and their sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court; the pegs of the Dwellingplace, and the pegs of the court, and their cords; the finely wrought garments, for ministering in the holy place, the holy garments for Aaron ‘the priest’, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest's office.’

The skilled craftsmen were to bring their skills freely and make the different furniture and components of the Dwellingplace which Yahweh had commanded. For details of these see on Exodus 25:10 to Exodus 28:43. Note that the order in which they are mentioned goes from the Holy of Holies to the outer court depending on the level of holiness. This order differs from that in Exodus 25-30 because the intention is different. There the aim was to present first the details of the means by which Yahweh approached His people, followed then by the means by which they approached Yahweh. Here it is in levels of holiness. We should note that in making this furniture they were not following their own likes and dislikes, but only concerned to do His will.


Verses 20-29

The People Bring Gifts In Abundance (Exodus 35:20-29).

Exodus 35:20-22

‘And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and brought Yahweh’s offering, for the work of the Tent of Meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought brooches, and earrings, and signet-rings, and armlets, all jewels of gold; even every man that offered an offering of gold to Yahweh.’

When they heard Moses’ words the people went away, and stirred in heart and spirit, as many as were made willing brought their offerings to Yahweh of jewellery, and ornaments and gold. Note that it included men and women. They gladly sacrificed their ornaments and jewellery. Many of them, of course, they had earlier abandoned at Yahweh’s command (Exodus 33:5-6). But none of the people were left out and we may be sure that Yahweh noticed each contribution as He did the contribution of the widow woman in the Temple in the time of Jesus (Mark 12:42-43).

Exodus 35:23-26

‘And every man, with whom was found bluey-violet, and purpley-red, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and dolphin skins, brought them. Every one who offered an offering of silver and bonze brought Yahweh’s offering; and every man, with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it. And all the women that were skilled (‘wise-hearted’) span with their hands, and brought what they had spun, the bluey-violet, and the purpley-red, the scarlet, and the fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in skilfulness spun the goats' hair.’

Both men and women brought what they could, the men providing dyed cloth, fine linen, and so on, including acacia wood that they were keeping by for another purpose. And the enthusiastic women did the skilled work of spinning in their tents at home and then brought it to Moses’ workers. Clearly goats’ hair was seen as requiring special expertise.

Exodus 35:27-28

‘And the rulers brought the onyx stones, and the stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate; and the spice, and the oil; for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.’

The wealthier leaders brought the more valuable jewels, especially those which were required for the ephod and the breastpouch, and spice and oil. The latter being for the lamp, for the anointing oil and for the incense.

Exodus 35:29

‘The children of Israel brought a freewill-offering to Yahweh; every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring, for all the work which Yahweh had commanded to be made through Moses.’

So all who were willing brought their gifts freely so as to complete the work which Yahweh had shown Moses as requiring to be done.


Verse 30

The Skilled Overseers Are Described To The People (Exodus 35:30 to Exodus 36:1).

This may be analysed as follows:

a Bezalel has been called by name and filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, and in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship (Exodus 35:30-31).

b And this in order to devise skilful works in gold, silver, brazen copper, cutting of stones, and in wood, to work all manner of skilful workmanship (Exodus 35:32-33).

b And he and Oholiab have had it put into their hearts to teach, and they have been filled with wisdom of heart to work all manner of workmanship of the engraver, and of the skilful workman, and of the embroiderer, even of those who do any workmanship and of those who devise skilful works (Exodus 35:34-35).

a And Bezalel and Oholiab shall work, and every trained man, in whom Yahweh has put knowledge and understanding so as to know how to do all the work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that Yahweh has commanded. (Exodus 36:1)

Note that in ‘a’ there is the giving of understanding and knowledge, which is repeated in the parallel. And in ‘b’ there are the skilful works and the workmanship which are equally mentioned in their parallel. We note also how important it is seen to be that the most skilful workmen work on the Dwellingplace.

Exodus 35:30 - Exodus 36:1

‘And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, Yahweh has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And he has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of expertise; and to devise skilled work, to work in gold, and in silver, and in bronze, and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of skilful expertise. And he has put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. Them has he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of expertise, of the engraver, and of the skilful workman, and of the embroiderer in bluey-violet, and in purpley-red, in scarlet and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of those who do any expert work, and of those that devise skilled work. And Bezalel and Oholiab shall work, and every trained man, in whom Yahweh has put knowledge and understanding so as to know how to do all the work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that Yahweh has commanded.’

The work is seen as so important that Bezalel is ‘called by name’ and filled with the Spirit of God. He is a chosen one of Yahweh and in overall charge of the skilled work, and is expert in engraving, metalwork, jewellery and carpentry. Oholiab is especially the expert in embroidery. Both are gifted by Yahweh for the work. With them will work every trained man whom Yahweh has gifted.

For these verses see Exodus 31:1-11. Moses informed the people that these two men had differing skills, and filled with the Spirit, would contribute their expertise and would teach others also. The embroiderers did the complicated work, the weavers the straight weaving. All had a part to play in this work of God. It is noteworthy that Moses bring the people in on everything. He wanted them to feel a part of what was done.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 35:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/exodus-35.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 1st, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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