THE APPOINTMENT OF BEZALEEL AND AHOLIAB.
(1-11) The instructions needed for the making of the tabernacle, its furniture, and the priests’ dresses, were now complete. Moses was sufficiently informed, by what he had heard and seen, both as to the “Tent of Meeting” itself, and as to all its appurtenances and paraphernalia. But Moses was not himself an artist. Among the branches of knowledge comprised in his Egyptian education the skill of the artistic constructor had not been included. (See Excursus B. at the end of the Book.) It was therefore necessary that the manual work of carrying out the instructions given him should be entrusted to others. We might have expected that it would have been left to Moses to select the individuals from among the thousands of artificers who had accompanied him out of Egypt. But God saw fit to mark the importance of the work by taking the direct appointment of the persons to be employed upon Himself. He knew what was in man. He knew to whom he had given the highest artistic power, and who at the same time that they possessed it would work in the most religious spirit. He accordingly named two persons, Bezaleel and Aholiab, as those to whom the superintendence of the whole business should be given. Bezaleel was to be leader and chief, Aholiab assistant. Bezaleel’s task was to be general, Aholiab’s, apparently, special (Exodus 38:23). Both, however, were to receive the special assistance of God’s Holy Spirit for the due execution of their respective tasks (Exodus 31:3-6), and both, as chosen instruments of God, and faithful workers in His service, had their names equally commemorated in His Holy Book, and were thus upheld as examples to future ages.
Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur.—Hur, the grandfather of Bezaleel, is generally supposed to be identical with the Hur who supported Moses’s hands (Exodus 17:12), and was left joint regent with Aaron when Moses went up into Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:14). There is, however, no evidence of this beyond the identity of the name.
Of the tribe of Judah.—Descended from Judah through Pharez, Hezron, and Caleb (1 Chronicles 2:5; 1 Chronicles 2:18-20).
In wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge.—By “wisdom” is probably meant the power to invent and originate artistic forms; by “understanding,” the ability to appreciate artistic suggestions received from others; by “knowledge,” acquaintance with the methods and processes of art. Bezaleel was to possess all these gifts.
In all manner of workmanship.—He was also to possess that wonderful dexterity of hand on which the power of artistic execution mainly depends.
. . .—It is a characteristic of early art that it eschews specialism, and it is as nearly universal as possible. Theodore of Samos (ab. B.C. 600-560) was an architect, a worker in bronze, and an engraver of hard stones. Michael Angelo was an architect, painter, and sculptor. Giotto was the same, and also a worker in mosaic. It is some time before, in each particular people or country, the imitative arts become separated, and each artist aspires to eminence in one branch only. (Comp. the multiform artistic powers ascribed to Hiram of Tyre in chap. 214.)
In cutting of stones, to set them—i.e., in gem-engraving. This branch of art was needed for engraving the names of the tribes upon the two onyxes of the ephod (Exodus 28:9), and upon the twelve precious stones of the breastplate (Exodus 28:17-18). It was an art very early practised both in Chaldæa and in Egypt. (See Note 2 on Exodus 28:8.)
In carving of timber.—Rather, cutting of timber. The woodwork of the sanctuary was not “carved,” but plain.
Of the tribe of Dan.—The tribe of Dan is among the most undistinguished; but it produced two great artists—Aholiab, the skilful maker of the textile fabrics of the tabernacle, and Hiram, the master workman employed in the ornamentation of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 2:14).
All that are wise hearted.—On the expression “wise hearted,” see Note 1 on Exodus 28:3.
Exodus 31:11And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.
Exodus 31:12And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,THE LAW OF THE SABBATH DECLARED ANEW UNDER A PENAL SANCTION.
(12-17) The worship of the tabernacle was so closely connected with Sabbatical observance (Leviticus 19:30), that no surprise can be felt at a recurrence to the subject in the present place. It was not only that there might be a danger of zealous men breaking the Sabbatical rest in their eagerness to hasten forward the work of construction now required of them. The re-enactment of the Law might serve to check this tendency if it existed; but clearly the present passage is not specially directed to so narrow an object. It is altogether general in its aim and teaching. It re-enacts the law of the Sabbath (1) under a new sanction; and (2) with new light in its intention and value. Hitherto the Sabbath had been, in the main, a positive enactment intended to test obedience (Exodus 16:4); now it was elevated into a sacramental sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:13). Having become such a sign, it required to be guarded by a new sanction, and this was done by assigning the death-penalty to any infraction of the law of Sabbath observance (Exodus 31:14-15).
Cut off.—Or, separated, set apart from. His act at once cast him out from the number of God’s people, made him an outlaw, ipso facto excommunicated him.
The sabbath of rest.—Rather, a sabbath of rest, or a complete rest. The repetition (sabbath sabbâthôn) gives an idea of completeness.
Exodus 31:18And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.THE TWO TABLES GIVEN.
(18) The termination and crown of the entire conference which Moses had held with God on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18) was the committal to his hands of the two tables of testimony which had been promised before the ascent into the mount was made (Exodus 24:12), and which were pre-supposed in the entire arrangement of the sanctuary. The Court pre-supposed the tabernacle; the outer chamber of the tabernacle, or holy place, was a mere vestibule to the inner chamber, or holy of holies: the inner chamber was a receptacle for the ark; and the ark was a chest or coffer constructed to contain the Two Tables. The entire design having been laid down, it was a first step towards the carrying out of the design to put into the hands of Moses that treasure with a view to which all the directions concerning the tabernacle had been given.
Two tables of testimony.—Rather, the two tables. The treasure which had been glanced at in Exodus 25:21, and distinctly promised in Exodus 24:12.
Written with the finger of God.—Comp. Exodus 24:12, where God speaks of “commandments which He has written.” We must understand that the tables were inscribed by some supernatural process, and not by any human hand. The exact nature of the supernatural process is not revealed to us.