Book of Exodus Chapter Thirty-Six Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verse 1: "Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.” We first heard about Bezelel and Oholiab in Chapter 31, when the Lord pointed out these "skillful" artisans to Moses. They were skilled in construction and as construction managers. The crews of men assigned to them are mentioned in Verse 2 as "every skillful person" and notice that construction skills are gifts from the Lord, or you may prefer to call them "abilities." Here is the complete Verse 2: "Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it." Notice in Verse 3 that best of all, these were trustworthy men: "They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning." At the prompting of the Lord, Moses entrusted all the valuable components of the Tabernacle to them, and the gifts kept rolling in.
Every once in awhile we hear of a church organization with plenty of volunteers. There are many organizations, on the other hand, where the pastor and his wife do just about everything. In Verses 4-5, we find a responsiveness in Israel that should be seen in you and me: "And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, 5 and they said to Moses, 'The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.'" There were many who were willing to give their precious, hidden treasures, and also those who were able and willing to give their time.
In Verse 6 we see that Moses had fully accepted God's position for him as leader of Israel: "So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, 'Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.' Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more." Moses had learned absolute authority in the court of Pharaoh as God intended. Note in these verses, a people with an opportunity to give, as sanctioned and encouraged by the Lord, but now they were prevented from bringing more, "For," as in Verse 7, "the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it." If you have the opportunity to give out of what the Lord has given to you and He prompts you to do it, act now, for it is an opportunity that may suddenly be gone.
As seen previously, God chooses the finest materials and the most skilled workers for all that he does, in each of our lives. Note the precision in Verses 8-13: "All the skillful men among those who were performing the work made the tabernacle with ten curtains; of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material, with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman, Bezalel made them. 9 The length of each curtain was twenty-eight cubits and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains had the same measurements. 10 He joined five curtains to one another and the other five curtains he joined to one another. 11 He made loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set; he did likewise on the edge of the curtain that was outermost in the second set. 12 He made fifty loops in the one curtain and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was in the second set; the loops were opposite each other. 13 He made fifty clasps of gold and joined the curtains to one another with the clasps, so the tabernacle was a unit." This was to be a large and impressive structure, but even the smallest detail was just as important to the Lord as any other part. You may feel lost and insignificant in this large universe, yet every detail about you is precisely what the Lord has in mind. You may disapprove of the way you and I look, but all that He does has good purpose and meaning, even if, like this tabernacle, we are still under construction.
Verses 14-17 contain a description of the curtains that covered the tabernacle: "Then he made curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; he made eleven curtains in all. 15 The length of each curtain was thirty cubits and four cubits the width of each curtain; the eleven curtains had the same measurements. 16 He joined five curtains by themselves and the other six curtains by themselves. 17 Moreover, he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was outermost in the first set, and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was outermost in the second set." You could wonder at this point: Where did they get the materials for this tent? The answer is another question: If you had to suddenly leave your home, your community, what would you take with you? Some of them decided, "I'm not coming back to Egypt and I have to build a house somewhere and have a pen for my sheep. I'll load my wagons with acacia wood," not realizing it would be used to build a house where the people would encounter God. Others said, "My family will need clothing. I'll bring yarn." Still more felt precious metals and jewels would be important. Our very personal decisions become much more than we expect, as God shapes them to His purposes.
In Verse 18, "He made fifty clasps of bronze to join the tent together so that it would be a unit." If you're a church person, you might feel "your" church is right and all the others are less right, and therefore your group doesn't associate with theirs. This tent is a representation of God's people filled with the Holy Spirit. Speaking of His people, Jesus prayed in John 17:21 "that they all may be one," and from God's perspective, we are one, even when we don't see it. The process continues in Verse 19, as waterproof, beautiful coverings were made for the top and sides: "He made a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of porpoise skins above." You may feel inadequate in appearance and insufficiently prepared for the onslaught of the elements of this world, but God is doing a great work in preparing your life and mine. Don't be afraid.
Verses 20-21 begin an examination of the structure of the boards supporting this tabernacle, and we can keep in mind that a "cubit" is roughly the distance from a man's elbow to the tips of his fingers: "Then he made the boards for the tabernacle of acacia wood, standing upright. 21 Ten cubits was the length of each board and one and a half cubits the width of each board." The "cubit" used in this construction would have been a measure of Bezalel's lower arm, carefully created in his mother's womb, with this purpose in mind: that his arm would be the measuring device for God's Holy Temple.
In Verses 22-30, we glimpse this precise construction project, as God utilized these people, who never dreamed as children they would be involved in such an enterprise: "There were two tenons for each board, fitted to one another; thus he did for all the boards of the tabernacle. 23 He made the boards for the tabernacle: twenty boards for the south side; 24 and he made forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for its two tenons and two sockets under another board for its two tenons. 25 Then for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, he made twenty boards, 26 and their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board and two sockets under another board. 27 For the rear of the tabernacle, to the west, he made six boards. 28 He made two boards for the corners of the tabernacle at the rear. 29 They were double beneath, and together they were complete to its top to the first ring; thus he did with both of them for the two corners. 30 There were eight boards with their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets, two under every board." What did you dream about as a child? At four years old, after seeing a magnificant meteor shower, I was consumed with the idea of becoming an astronomer, never imagining that God had in mind that I was to be a pastor...on the computer of all things, something never heard of when those little streaks of light flamed in the sky over my little head. What does He have in mind for you?
In all the construction of these verses, we find an interesting technology, designed by the Lord Himself as an intricate meeting place for God with mankind. Israel needed a substantial place they could look to and be reassurred by His Presence, but they were a nomadic people. What could be substantial, not be touched by ordinary priests or the people, and yet be portable, all at the same time? God's answer is in this chapter, and here are Verses 31-34: "Then he made bars of acacia wood, five for the boards of one side of the tabernacle, 32 and five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the tabernacle for the rear side to the west. 33 He made the middle bar to pass through in the center of the boards from end to end. 34 He overlaid the boards with gold and made their rings of gold as holders for the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold." As directed by the Lord through Moses, Bezalel and his partner, Oholiab, fashioned bars, boards and rings together, allowing priests to carry the various parts of the tabernacle without actually touching them. The wooden bars passed through the rings, much like we are carried by the Holy Spirit into the Presence of the Lord, touching Him without being destroyed by the holiness of God.
All of this was to be a mystery to the people, drawing them to wonder and ultimately have faith in the Lord, as we see in the veil and screen of Verses 35-38: "Moreover, he made the veil of blue and purple and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen; he made it with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. 36 He made four pillars of acacia for it, and overlaid them with gold, with their hooks of gold; and he cast four sockets of silver for them. 37 He made a screen for the doorway of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver; 38 and he made its five pillars with their hooks, and he overlaid their tops and their bands with gold; but their five sockets were of bronze." In Colossians 1:26-27, Paul would refer to the encounter we are to have with the Lord, as "the mystery hidden for ages but now revealed...which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Just like God used men and women to build this tabernacle with all its hidden treasures, He is building a people of faith to contain the greatest Treasure of all, "which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." All this is veiled to the world, but He is revealing everything to you and me.
Lord, thank You for revealing Yourself to me. I trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.