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Deeper Commentary

Exo 35:1 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-
The commands to build the tabernacle are repeated twice in Exodus, and there is the record of Israel's golden calf apostasy set in the middle of them. Ex. 25:1-31:18 give the tabernacle building commands, then there's the golden calf incident, and then the commands are repeated in Ex. 35-40. Surely this was edited in this manner to give encouragement to the exiles- the commands to rebuild the temple had been given in detail in Ez. 40-48, but the exiles failed- and yet, the implication runs, God was still willing to work again with His people in the building of His sanctuary despite their failure. There is good internal reason to think that the Pentateuch likewise was re-written in places to bring out the relevance of Israel's past to those in captivity.

Exo 35:2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of solemn rest to Yahweh: whoever does any work in it shall be put to death-
Israel were to put to death those who were so addicted to works that they refused to keep the Sabbath. This was how earnestly God wished to impress upon them the need for salvation by grace rather than works. It was because God's people had been sanctified or made holy (Ex. 31:13) that they were to sanctify or set apart / make holy the seventh day for God's service. We are to respond to God's setting of us apart- by setting apart what we have for Him. That is the essential take away from this, even though we are no longer required to keep the Sabbath.

Exo 35:3 You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the Sabbath day’.-
It has been widely noted that many elements of the ten commandments are to be found in the legislation of Mesopotamia. Thus there are references to the Sabbath being kept as a monthly festival; and later "the name Shabattu was applied by the Babylonians and Assyrians to the day of the full moon, the fifteenth of the month, which was especially dedicated to the worship of the moon-god... the days of the full moon were considered days of ill luck... the Israelite Sabbath was instituted, it seems, in antithesis to the Mesopotamian system" (Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary On The Book Of Exodus (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1997) p. 244). Thus most pagan festivals of the time were begun by the lighting of a candle in the home; but a candle was not to be kindled on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:3). Yahweh blessed the Sabbath (Ex. 20:11). Work was not to be done so as to rest and remember God's creative grace; whereas in pagan thought, work wasn't done because 'Sabbath' was an unlucky day on which it was best to do as little as possible in case some 'Satan' figure struck. Such belief was being deconstructed in the Sabbath law.

Exo 35:4 Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which Yahweh commanded, saying-
"All the congregation" rather than "the princes" is stressed because the entire people were invited to donate.

Exo 35:5 ‘Take from among you an offering to Yahweh. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, Yahweh’s offering: gold, silver, brass-
Willing hearted giving to God is important- the giving must never be from a sense of unavoidable obligation. In appealing for generosity to our poorer brethren, Paul uses this idea- speaking of how a willing heart in a cheerful giver is so loved by God (2 Cor. 8:19; 9:7).

Paul pleads with Corinth to see the similarities between them and the ecclesia in the wilderness; he wants them to personalize it all. He sees their gathering and redistribution of wealth as exactly analogous to Israel’s gathering of manna (2 Cor. 8:15)- and he so wishes his Corinthians to think themselves into Israel’s shoes. For then they would realize that as Israel had to have a willing heart to give back to God the wealth of Egypt which He had given them, so they were to have a willing heart in being generous to their poorer brethren (Ex. 35:5 = 2 Cor. 8:12). And they would have realized that as “last year” they had made this offer (2 Cor. 8:10 Gk.), so the year before, Israel had received Egypt’s wealth with a similar undertaking to use it for the Lord’s cause. As Moses had to remind them a second time of their obligations in Ex. 35, so Paul had to bring it again before Corinth. And if they had seen these similarities, they would have got the sense of Paul’s lament that there was not one wise hearted man amongst them- for the “wise hearted” were to convert Israel’s gold and silver into tools for Yahweh’s service (Ex. 35:10 = 1 Cor. 6:5; 2 Cor. 10:12).  


Exo 35:6 blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen, goats’ hair-
These were the things which Israel had taken with them from Egypt (Ex. 12:36); we likewise should use whatever resources we have taken from this world [cp. Egypt] in order to do God’s work and build and enhance His dwelling place amongst His people. There is an apparent juxtaposition between the scarlet, the clothing of kings and rulers, and goats' hair. They had taken the scarlet clothing from Egypt when they left, but the goats' hair was what they had shorn from their own animals which they had with them. So God was asking them to bring their own small offerings along with the more valuable things they had taken from Egypt / the world. This all speaks of our attitude to giving and wealth on our wilderness journey.  

Exo 35:7 rams’ skins dyed red, sea cow hides-
The sea cow hides were what they had picked up whilst camped on the shores of the Red Sea. Likewise what we pick up along the way in our wilderness journey is to be given to God.

Acacia wood-
Acacia was plentiful in the wilderness, but it is little more than brushwood; a surprising choice of material to be used in God’s dwelling place. But His choice of us with all our weakness and dysfunction, the common, weak stuff of the wilderness, is no less surprising. The choice of acacia wood for constructing the tabernacle is one of several points in the whole enterprise where it seems a less than ideal material was chosen, from a construction point of view. This aspect emphasizes that God prefers to work with the soft, weak and broken in order to do His work (as also in Ez. 15:2-5).

Exo 35:8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense-
Ex. 27:20 had commanded "that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light". But here we read that they only brought "oil". "Pure olive oil" apparently refers to olive juice which bursts naturally from the first ripe olives. But we enquire where Israel obtained olive oil from in the wilderness, especially such "pure" olive oil to such great amounts as required here? Perhaps they had been given lots of it as they left Egypt and gave it to the priests. But that would not have been this fresh, "pure" oil. So I think they simply brought ordinary olive oil, as stated here. And they did this for 40 years? I suggest as on Ex. 27:8 that this was God's ideal intention, and many of these laws were applicable only in contexts when obedience to them was possible. God's law is not therefore at all a reflection of a God who is a literalist or legalist. For by its nature, the law of Moses shows that He was not like that.

Exo 35:9 onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod and for the breastplate-
The precious stones were donated by the princes or elders (Ex. 35:27). Yet they are listed along with common acacia wood and goats' hair. There was to be a culture of giving, from the wealthiest to the poorest, which was to characterize the community of God's people.

Exo 35:10 Let every wise-hearted man among you come, and make all that Yahweh has commanded-
As in Ex. 28:3, the wise were given wisdom, in keeping with God’s principle of confirming people in the way in which they themselves choose to go. This is how God's Spirit also works today on human hearts. "That they may make..." (Ex. 28:3 AV) hints at the way in which God's Spirit is given, but people must still respond to it. Thus the Corinthians were given the Spirit (1 Cor. 1), but didn't use it; and so Paul couldn't speak to them as spiritual people (1 Cor. 3:1). Perhaps only Bezaleel and Aholiab were wise hearted, although it was God's intention that there should be many such- which would mean Paul may be alluding here in lamenting that there was not a wise hearted man in Corinth (1 Cor. 6:5).

Exo 35:11 the tabernacle, its outer covering, its roof, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets-
he ark was covered in the tabernacle by the various layers of the tent detailed in Ex. 26:1-6: sea cows' skins, red rams skins, goats hair, blue, purple, scarlet and linen. These would form a kind of rainbow over the ark, and above that there was the Angel in the pillar of cloud or fire. This "pattern of things in the Heavens" (Heb. 9:23,24) replicated the visions of a throne (the ark) over-arched by a rainbow and the glory of God.

When David says in 2 Sam. 7:2 that he doesn't want Yahweh to have to dwell in "curtains", this doesn't mean that David was concerned that God's ark was under a tent, whilst he lived in a house. Rather is the reference to the ten curtains which comprised the tabernacle. David was assuming that he could change the Mosaic commandments about the tabernacle, and move God's purpose forward to something more permanent. We see here how he didn't consider the laws of Moses [of which the commands about the tabernacle were part] to be static. He saw them as open to interpretation and development. This was not a position he came to lightly, seeing he had been terribly punished for thinking he could flout the legislation about how the ark was to be transported.

Exo 35:12 the ark, and its poles, the mercy seat, the veil of the screen-
"Pole" is s.w. "strength". There is again a juxtaposition of ideas- the weak acacia wood, which is no more than a thorn bush, was to be turned into God's strength through being overlaid with gold.

Exo 35:13 the table with its poles and all its vessels, and the show bread-
The continual mention of rings and poles is because all the tabernacle had to be portable, as Israel were constantly on the move. This is proof enough that much of the "law of Moses" was only relevant to the wilderness generation. God's desire to be continually on the move, dwelling in a tent, was still evident at the time when Israel settled in the land. For He told David that He didn't want a temple because He was dynamic, always moving on. But the way of religion is to have a permanent, stable closed system, rather than the dynamic way of the Spirit and true spirituality. "Rings" in Hebrew is literally 'that which sinks in', and refers to a signet ring. If a literal ring was solely in view, a different word would have been used. It was as if this mobile, ever moving onwards style of the tabernacle was the signature or hallmark of God. 

Exo 35:14 the lampstand also for the light, with its vessels, its lamps, and the oil for the light;-
We read in 1 Jn. 2:20,27 that we have each been anointed. The idea of anointing was to signal the initiation of someone. I'd therefore be inclined to see 1 Jn. 2:20,27 as alluding to baptism; when we become in Christ, in the anointed, then as 2 Cor. 1:21 says, we too are anointed in a sense. We're given a specific mission and purpose. "The anointing that you received" would therefore refer to our commissioning at baptism. It seems to imply a one time act of being anointed / commissioned / inaugurated for service. Baptism isn't therefore merely an initiation into a community; it's a specific commissioning for active service, in ways which are unique to us. We do well to bring this point out to those we prepare for baptism. The words for 'anointing' are unique to 1 John but they occur in the LXX to describe the anointing / initiation of the priests, and of the tabernacle / dwelling place of God (e.g. Ex. 29:7; 35:14,28). John sees us as the dwelling place / tabernacle of the Father.

Exo 35:15 and the altar of incense with its poles, the anointing oil, the sweet incense, the screen for the door, at the door of the tabernacle-
The structure of the tabernacle pointed ahead to man's approach to God under the Christian dispensation. First, a man had to bow his head in order to pass through the gate. Humility is essential. Then there was acceptance of the principle of sacrifice, the large altar; followed by the laver or washing basin, speaking of baptism. Beyond that is the table of shewbread (breaking of bread), the candlestick (church life) and the incense altar (prayer). After this is the veil, through which we can pass in Christ into the most holy place, and the presence of God Himself.

Exo 35:16 the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of brass, its poles, and all its vessels, the basin and its base-
For "poles" see on :13. For the basin / laver and altar, see on :15.

Exo 35:17 the hangings of the court, its pillars, their sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court-
As discussed on :15, the entrance to the court was of such a height that a man would need to bow his head to enter- a sign that humility was and remains the initial and crucial requirement for a person who wishes to come to God, and begin the journey which ends in fellowship with God Himself, His very presence [cp. the ark in the most holy].

Exo 35:18 the pins of the tabernacle, the pins of the court, and their cords-
The "pins" are the tent pegs.

Exo 35:19 the finely worked 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 first group of garments were not the same as the "holy garments", and likely refer to aprons, towels and the coverings for the tabernacle items whilst they were transported.

Exo 35:20 All the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses-
The departing and coming back with the gifts (:22) applies to both men and women (:22). So "all the congregation" included women- in a society where religion was largely a male preserve, Yahweh's call involved both men and women.

Exo 35:21 They came, everyone whose heart stirred him up, and everyone whom his spirit made willing, and brought Yahweh’s offering, for the work of the Tent of Meeting, and for all of its service, and for the holy garments-
The "everyone" who had material gave it for the construction of the tabernacle, according to Ex. 35:23; although this "every man" is elsewhere defined as "every one whom his spirit made willing" to donate (Ex. 35:21). "Every knee shall bow to me... every tongue shall confess... so then every one of us shall give account" (Rom. 14:11,12) is another example- 'all men', 'every man' means 'every one of God's people'.

Exo 35:22 They came, both men and women-
The rabbis claim that this means that the men followed the women, as if the women were more enthusiastic. LXX "And the men, even every one to whom it seemed good in his heart, brought from the women...". It is observable that Aaron asked the women to bring their earrings and jewellery to make the golden calf, but it is only recorded that the men responded. Which is why the women now provided their jewellery for the tabernacle. There might possibly be a hint that the women were generally more spiritually committed than the men at this point. it could be that the items now listed are more appropriate to female jewellery. And in this context, :25,26 stress the work of the women in making the tabernacle materials.

As many as were willing-hearted, and brought brooches, earrings, signet rings, and armlets, all jewels of gold; even every man who offered an offering of gold to Yahweh-
Cor. 8:12 alludes here: "If there be first (i.e. most importantly) a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" . Every man was to contribute to the building of the tabernacle (cp. the ecclesia) with a willing heart (Paul surely alludes here). They weren't told: 'Whoever is willing and able to contribute, please do so'. And yet the majority of us have at least something materially; and as we have been blessed, so let us give.

Willing hearted giving to God is important- the giving must never be from a sense of unavoidable obligation. In appealing for generosity to our poorer brethren, Paul uses this idea- speaking of how a willing heart in a cheerful giver is so loved by God (2 Cor. 8:19; 9:7).

Exo 35:23 Everyone, with whom was found blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen, goats’ hair, rams’ skins dyed red-
We wonder whether literally "everyone" made these offerings. Because it was a vast congregation, and the tabernacle items were all very small scale. This may be an example of the generally positive language used by God at this time- for He did not behold iniquity in Israel at this time because he was as it were in love with them.  

And sea cow hides, brought them-
The sea cow hides were what they had picked up whilst camped on the shores of the Red Sea. Likewise what we pick up along the way in our wilderness journey is to be given to God.

Exo 35:24 Everyone who offered an offering of silver and brass brought Yahweh’s offering; and everyone, with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it-
The acacia wood was just the common bush wood found in the desert. It is juxtaposed against offering of silver. See on :23. The generous response of the Israelites in giving towards the tabernacle was surely because it was not demanded of them but merely their assistance was invited (Ex. 35:24).

Exo 35:25 All the women who were wise-hearted spun with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, the blue, the purple, the scarlet, and the fine linen-
This and :26 stresses the work of the women in making the tabernacle materials. I discussed on :22 how there might possibly be a hint in the record that the women were generally more spiritually committed than the men at this point.

Exo 35:26 All the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun the goats’ hair-
See on :25. The wise hearted were given the Spirit of God's wisdom in confirmation of this (Ex. 36:2). We read here of a mental, psychological stirring up; the Spirit of God thus works in harmony with the human spirit. And this is how God works in willing human hearts to this day. It is part of the gift of the Spirit involved in the new covenant (Ez. 20; Jer. 31,32) that God can directly revive or stir up human hearts (Is. 57:15). He works directly upon human minds and psychologies.

Exo 35:27 The rulers brought the onyx stones, and the stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastplate-
The precious stones were donated by the princes or elders. Yet in Ex. 25:4-7 they are listed along with common acacia wood and goats' hair. There was to be a culture of giving, from the wealthiest to the poorest, which was to characterize the community of God's people.

Exo 35:28 and the spice, and the oil for the light, for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense-
The incense was "sweet" in that it smelled sweet to God. But that depended upon the components being brought to Him. “A pleasant aroma” is a very common phrase. This concept is important to God. It first occurs in Gen. 8:21 where it means that God accepted Noah's sacrifice and vowed that the pole of saving mercy in His character was going to triumph over that of necessary judgment. Under the new covenant, it is persons and not sacrifices or incense which are accepted as a "pleasant aroma" (Ez. 20:41). The word for "pleasant" means strong delight; this is how God's heart can be touched by genuine sacrifice. Those pleasing offerings represented us, the living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). And so it is applied to us in 2 Cor. 2:15- if we are in Christ, we are counted as a pleasant aroma to God. The offering of ourselves to Him is nothing of itself, but because we are in Christ and counted as Him, we are a delight to God. Hence the colossal importance of being “in Christ”. "Aroma" or "smell" is a form of the Hebrew word ruach, the word for spirit or breath. God discerns the spirit of sacrifices, that was what pleased Him rather than the burning flesh of animals. Our attitude of mind in sacrifice can touch Him. Sacrifice is therefore accepted, Paul says, according to what a person has to give, but the essence is the attitude of mind behind it. We think of the two coins sacrificed by the widow.

Exo 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 by Moses-
The Hebrew word here and in Ex. 36:3 for "freewill" carries the idea of spontaneity. This is the clear implication of its usage in places like Jud. 5:2,9; 1 Chron. 29:5,9; 2 Chron. 35:8; Ps. 54:6. There is a strong sense of immediate emotion attached to the word (Hos. 14:4). And there was a major emphasis in the law of Moses upon freewill offerings (Lev. 7:16; 22:18,21,23; 23:38; Num. 15:3; 29:39; Dt. 12:6,17; 16:10; 23:23). The other legal codes of the nations around Israel were all about rituals; whereas Yahweh's law encouraged spontaneous giving as part of the way of Yahweh. For He is not a God of rituals, but of relationship. The way of the Spirit is the same today; spontaneous, emotional, personal response to God's grace, responding to Him on our own initiative and in our own way, in addition to obeying His specific requirements.        

Exo 35:30 Moses said to the children of Israel, Behold, Yahweh has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah-
To be called by name meant that this man had a special purpose intended for him ahead of time; "name" in Hebrew suggests a personality and character. But we too are called by name as Jeremiah was. There were good works intended for us to do, designed before the world was. But like Bezalel, we must accept the gift of God's Spirit in order to fulfil those intentions and potentials (Acts 15:18; Eph. 2:10).

Bezaleel means shelter of / for God, appropriate for a man who built His tent / tabernacle. This reinforces the idea that God prefers to dwell in a tent, and not in a physical brick building. David and Solomon willfully ignored this in their obsession with building a temple. It's possible (although see my commentary on 1 Chron. 2:18) that Bezaleel was little more than a child. For 1 Chron. 2:19,20 says that Caleb was the father of Hur. Caleb was only 40 when he first spied out the land (Josh. 14:7). "The son of..." is not a precise term in Hebrew and can simply mean a relative, but there is still the idea of a relative in a younger generation than the 'father'. Bezaleel was a generation or two older than Bezaleel; and when Caleb was 40, Bezaleel made the tabernacle that same year. This would be typical of how God works through the weak and those considered inappropriate by men. He gave His Spirit to the young Bezaleel, who may have been only 12 years old, and through him built His dwelling place. We can be sure there would have been many older and experienced builders, who had worked for the Egyptian building projects, who would have been far more qualified in secular terms.

Exo 35:31 He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of workmanship-
As in Ex. 28:3, the wise were given wisdom, in keeping with God’s principle of confirming people in the way in which they themselves choose to go. This is how God's Spirit also works today on human hearts. "That they may make..." (Ex. 28:3 AV) hints at the way in which God's Spirit is given, but people must still respond to it. Thus the Corinthians were given the Spirit (1 Cor. 1), but didn't use it; and so Paul couldn't speak to them as spiritual people (1 Cor. 3:1).

Wisdom and knowledge were what God created the world with (Prov. 3:19,20), so the idea may be that this tabernacle was a new creation. These men could have refused to do what God asked them. This passage appears to be the basis upon which Paul tells us that each of us have “good works” which God has in mind for us to do, and we must exercise our freewill to perceive them and go do them (Eph. 2:10).

Exo 35:32 and to make skilful works, to work in gold, in silver, in brass-
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.

Exo 35:33 in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all kinds of skilful workmanship-
The stones in the breastplate and shoulder pieces would have had to be of the same size, and yet the jewels given to Israel on leaving Egypt would have been of different sizes. They would have had to be cut, and also cut in order to reflect the light in an optimal way.  

Exo 35:34 He has put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan-
The whole phrase “Behold I have given you…” (Gen. 1:28) occurs later when the Priests are told what God has given them (Ex. 31:6; Lev. 6:10; Num. 18:8,21; Dt. 11:14). What God did at creation, He can do at any time. When Moses “finished the work” of the tabernacle (Ex. 40:33), there is clear allusion to God ‘finishing the work’ of creation (Gen. 2:2).

The wise were made more wise- an idea we often encounter in the opening chapters of Proverbs. God confirms men and women in the way they wish to go, through the work of His Spirit; if they wish to do His work and build up His dwelling place, He will confirm them in their natural talents and give them new ones.

Exo 35:35 He has filled them with wisdom of heart, to work all kinds of workmanship, of the engraver, of the skilful workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of those who do any workmanship, and of those who make skilful works-
"The skilful workman" [singular] of Ex. 28:15 and elsewhere may specifically refer to Aholiab (Ex. 35:35; 38:23). Perhaps Paul saw in this man a representation of us all- for he urged us likewise to be careful workmen when it comes to the understanding and teaching of God's word (2 Tim. 2:15).