In this chapter, the description of the tabernacle begins again. This shows that the sin of man in Exodus 32-34 does not take away or even reduce the grace of God. In spite of all that man is and does, God fulfills His counsels. The people have shown how necessary it is that there is a way to God. The tabernacle now comes amidst a fallen people.
1 - 3 The Sabbath Command
1 Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded [you] to do: 2 “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy [day], a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.”
Moses has received in a visible and audible way all the will of the LORD for His dwelling place and His dwelling. Now he has reached the point where he can communicate all this to the people. The author of the letter to the Hebrews points to the faithfulness of Moses in the house of God, the tabernacle (Heb 3:5-6). At the same time, the writer makes it clear that Christ far exceeds Moses in everything.
The writer indicates that Moses is a servant of God in His house and therefore part of that house. Moses’ service consists of passing on to the people what God speaks to him about, and later also in the tabernacle. The writer compares Moses to Christ. As for faithfulness, there is agreement between Christ and Moses. When it comes to the house of God, there is a clear difference between Christ and Moses. Moses is a servant, albeit an honored servant, in the house; but Christ is the Son over the house, which is also His house.
Before saying for the second time what the tabernacle should look like, Moses first speaks about the sabbath command. In this way, even before the tabernacle is written, the final goal of God’s ways with His people is presented. The Sabbath is a picture of the millennial kingdom of peace, the period in which God’s people will truly rest and God will live in peace with His people.
4 - 9 The Contribution for the Tabernacle
4 Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, 5 ‘Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze, 6 and blue, purple and scarlet [material], fine linen, goats’ [hair], 7 and rams’ skins dyed red, and porpoise skins, and acacia wood, 8 and oil for lighting, and spices for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece.
The contribution is on the one hand a commandment of the LORD, on the other hand He asks everyone to bring the contribution with a willing heart. Everyone born of God has the Lord Jesus as his life. By this he loves God. It is his joy to serve him and obey his commandments. The commandments of God – that is not the law of the ten commandments, but all that is inherent in the new life, as it is perfectly visible in the Lord Jesus – are not heavy for those who love Him (1Jn 5:3).
The description of the materials is the same as in Exodus 25 (Exo 25:4-7). This is not a pointless repetition. When God repeats something, it makes it all the clearer how much importance He attaches to it that we realize the value it has3 to Him. He wants us to share in His feelings and in patience He provides everything we need. That also includes repetition.
The materials all speak of the Lord Jesus. Bringing it means telling God what we found in the Lord Jesus. This is an act of the whole people. Everyone has their own contribution, but all contributions together are needed for the dwelling place of God. The dwelling place of God is established where His people honor Him. He is “enthroned upon the praises of Israel”, His people (Psa 22:3b).
10 - 19 The Parts to Be Made
10 ‘Let every skillful man among you come, and make all that the LORD has commanded: 11 the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets; 12 the ark and its poles, the mercy seat, and the curtain of the screen; 13 the table and its poles, and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 14 the lampstand also for the light and its utensils and its lamps and the oil for the light; 15 and the altar of incense and its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the doorway at the entrance of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering with its bronze grating, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars and its sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court and their cords; 19 the woven garments for ministering in the holy place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests.’”
In this section, the parts of the tabernacle to be made all come to our attention. Just like the materials, the parts also speak of the Lord Jesus. In the parts everything takes shape and in the spiritual application we see an extension of the truths that are connected with the Lord Jesus and His work. There are parts that illuminate the Person of Christ from a certain side. Other parts represent truths resulting from His work on the cross. We also see here again how all contributions are necessary and complement each other. Everyone delivers what is necessary, so that the whole can come into being.
A remarkable addition is that the veil is “the curtain of the screen” (verse 12). What that means is written in Numbers 4: “When the camp sets out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and they shall take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it” (Num 4:5).
20 - 29 The People Bring the Contribution
20 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel departed from Moses’ presence. 21 Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came [and] brought the LORD’s contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments. 22 Then all whose hearts moved them, both men and women, came [and] brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and bracelets, all articles of gold; so [did] every man who presented an offering of gold to the LORD. 23 Every man, who had in his possession blue and purple and scarlet [material] and fine linen and goats’ [hair] and rams’ skins dyed red and porpoise skins, brought them. 24 Everyone who could make a contribution of silver and bronze brought the LORD’s contribution; and every man who had in his possession acacia wood for any work of the service brought it. 25 All the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, [in] blue and purple [and] scarlet [material] and [in] fine linen. 26 All the women whose heart stirred with a skill spun the goats’ [hair]. 27 The rulers brought the onyx stones and the stones for setting for the ephod and for the breastpiece; 28 and the spice and the oil for the light and for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense. 29 The Israelites, all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring [material] for all the work, which the LORD had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the LORD.
After Moses has addressed the people, they leave, but not as forgetful hearers. Men and women who have been touched in their hearts come back with their possessions to make them available for the construction. Men come with fabrics and metals and wood. Women bring what they have made with their own hands. All are animated of the one desire: to meet the demand of the LORD. They share in what occupies His heart. It is all given to Him. What joy for Him!
Women participate fully in the work for the tabernacle. They have special qualities that men do not have. They also often have a better sense of what is appropriate for God’s purpose. There was no one among the disciples who did an act like Mary. She anointed the feet of the Lord Jesus (Jn 12:3). She also receives a special mention for this from Him (Mt 26:13). Women are also mentioned among the fellow strugglers for the gospel (Phil 4:2-3).
In Exodus 32 they brought their jewels to make the golden calf (Exo 32:3). Those jewelry they have lost and unfortunately cannot offer them now. In the same way we have lost for the Lord’s service what we have given to the world.
30 - 35 Bezalel and Oholiab
30 Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 31 And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship; 32 to make designs for working in gold and in silver and in bronze, 33 and in the cutting of stones for settings and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. 34 He also has put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in blue and in purple [and] in scarlet [material], and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs.
Bezalel and Oholiab are filled by the LORD with His Spirit and with wisdom, insight and knowledge. In this way they can shape the materials that the people bring in a way that is pleasing to Him. He gives the creativity, but does not leave it to man himself how to deal with it. What they design in their creativity must find its origin in the work of God’s Spirit. It is not about whether it corresponds to the taste of man, but whether it corresponds to Who God is.
This is also the case later in the construction of the temple. Nothing is left to the imagination of Solomon either. David gave “gave to his son Solomon the plan of the porch [of the temple], its buildings, … and the plan of all that he had in mind” (1Chr 28:11-12). The same applies to the local church. For the meeting of the church, the Lord has given clear directions that we cannot change or even ignore at our own discretion (1Cor 11:23a; 14:37).