New European Commentary

 

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Deeper Commentary

31:4

The Divine commands about the tabernacle likewise allude to the ideas of the surrounding nations, and yet bring out significant differences. In the same way as the Babylonians believed that the temple of Marduk in Babylon was a reflection of the Heavenly temple, so the tabernacle was also a reflection of the pattern of Yahweh's Heavenly temple. The Canaanites spoke of their god El as living in a tent- just as Yahweh dwelt in a tent. The Ugaritic epic of King Keret speaks of how "The gods proceed to their tents, the family of El to their tabernacles" (Tablet 2 D, 5, 31-33). El's tabernacle was thought to be constructed of boards- just as Yahweh's tabernacle was. Both had a veil, just as the Moslem shrine in Mecca has one. But there were significant differences. The Canaanite legends speak of the gods building their temples themselves; Cassuto points out that the very terms used about Bezaleel's skill and talent in building the tabernacle are used in Canaanite legends about the skill and talent of the gods in supposedly building their own temples. Perhaps the Exodus record so labours the point that Moses and the Israelites built Yahweh's tabernacle is in order to highlight the difference between the one true God and the pagan gods, who had to build their own tabernacles.

 

31:13,14 Israel stood at Sinai and were told that if they were obedient, then they would be God's people. But then they were told that actually, God accepted them anyway as His people. And only then was the Law given to Moses- with the message that it was to be kept out of gratitude for what God had already done by grace in saving them just "simply so", because he loved them and had chosen their ancestors by grace (Dt. 4:34-40). Likewise it was because God sanctified Israel that they were to keep the Sabbath (Ex. 31:13,14; Dt. 5:15). It wasn't that any human obedience made them holy- the laws were simply an opportunity to respond to the grace shown them. For God's salvation of them from Egypt, like ours from this world, was nothing but grace.