Exodus 31
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chapters 25–31

We come now to the long section of P, which contains the instructions stated to have been given by God to Moses on the mount for the construction and equipment of a sanctuary, and for the vestments and consecration of a priesthood. These instructions fall into two parts: (1) chs. 25–29; (2) chs. 30–31. The instructions contained in chs. 25–29 relate to (a) the vessels of the sanctuary, viz. the ark, the table of Presence-bread, and the candlestick,—named naturally first, as being of primary interest and importance (ch. 25); (b) the curtains, and wooden framework supporting them, to contain and guard the sacred vessels (ch. 26); (c) the court round the Sanctuary, and the Altar of Burnt offering, standing in it (ch. 27); (d) the vestments (ch. 28) and the consecration (ch. 29) of the priests who are to serve in the sanctuary (Exodus 29:1-37); (e) the daily burnt-offering, the maintenance of which is a primary duty of the priesthood (Exodus 29:38-42), followed by what is apparently the final close of the whole body of instructions, Exodus 29:43-46, in which Jehovah promises that He will bless the sanctuary thus established with His presence. Chs. 30–31 relate to (a) the Altar of Incense (Exodus 30:1-10); (b) the monetary contributions for the maintenance of public service (Exodus 30:11-16); (c) the Bronze Laver (Exodus 30:17-21); (d) the holy Anointing Oil (Exodus 30:22-33); (e) the Incense (Exodus 30:34-38); (f) the nomination of two skilled artificers, Bezal’el and Oholiab, to make the sanctuary and its appurtenances Exodus 31:1-11); (g) the observance of the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17).

The principal names of what we—adopting a rendering based upon Jerome’s tabernaculum (i.e. ‘tent’)—commonly call the ‘Tabernacle’ are the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 27:21), the Tent where God ‘met’ and talked with Moses; the Tent; the Tent of the Witness or Testimony, i.e. (see on Exodus 25:16) the Tent containing the Ark, in which were deposited the two tables of the Decalogue; the Dwelling (Exodus 25:9 al.), the Dwelling of Jehovah (Numbers 16:9 al.), or the Dwelling of the Testimony (Exodus 38:21 al.); and the Sanctuary (see on Exodus 25:8). The first two these designations are found in both JE and P; the others are used exclusively by P. If the passages in which E and J speak of the ‘Tent of Meeting’ or the ‘Tent’—viz. Exodus 33:7-11, Numbers 11:16 f., 24, 26, Exodus 12:5; Exodus 12:10, Deuteronomy 31:14 f.—are read carefully, it will be found that the representation which they give of it differs in several respects very materially from that given by P. In E the Tent of Meeting is outside the camp (Exodus 33:7, Numbers 11:26 f., cf. v. 30, Exodus 12:4 : on Numbers 14:44, see p. 428); it is guarded by one attendant, Joshua, who never leaves it Exodus 33:11; cf. Numbers 11:28); though it had probably some decoration (cf. on Exodus 33:6), it was obviously a much simpler, less ornate structure than that described by P; Moses used to go out to it, and enter into it speak with God, and the pillar of cloud then descended, and stood at the entrance of the Tent, and Jehovah spoke to him from it (Exodus 33:8-11; cf. Numbers 11:17; Numbers 11:25; Numbers 12:5; Numbers 12:10, Deuteronomy 31:14 f.); on the march also, the ark precedes the host, to seek out a camping-place for it (Numbers 10:33). In P, on the contrary, the Tent of Meeting is in the centre of the camp, with the Levites around it on the west, south, and north, and Aaron and his sons on the east, and the other tribes, three on each side, outside them (Numbers 2; Numbers 3:23; Numbers 3:29; Numbers 3:35; Numbers 3:38); it is served by Aaron and his sons, and a large body of Levites (in Numbers 4:48, 8580); it is a highly decorated, costly structure (chs. 25–27); the cloud (which is not in P spoken of as a ‘pillar’), instead of descending from time to time, as occasion requires, to the entrance of the Tent, that Jehovah may speak with Moses, rests upon the Tent always, when the camp is stationary (Exodus 40:35-38, Numbers 9:15-23), and Jehovah, instead of speaking to Moses at its ‘entrance,’ speaks to him from between the cherubim above the ark (Exodus 25:22, Numbers 7:89); on the march, also, the ark, borne, covered up, by the Kohathites, with the other sacred vessels, is in the centre of the long procession of Israelites, six tribes preceding it, and six following it (Numbers 2:17; Numbers 3:31; Numbers 4:5 ff; Numbers 10:21). Lastly in P the Tent of Meeting is the centre of an elaborate sacrificial and ceremonial system (Leviticus 1-27, &c.), such as is nowhere mentioned in connexion with the Tent of Meeting of J and E, and, in view of the subsequent history (Judg., Sam.), not historically probable,—at least on anything like the same scale. Unquestionably (cf. p. 359) both representations have common features: in both, in particular, the Tent is the place where God speaks with Moses, and communicates to him His will; nor need it be doubted, though it is no stated in so many words, that the Tent of JE, like that of P, sheltere the ark (though a much simpler ark than P’s): but there are also wide differences between them. Here it will be sufficient to have noted these differences: in explanation of them see p. 430 ff.

The Tabernacle, with its various appurtenances, is described to having been made by Bezal’el and Oholiab, and other skilled workmen acting under them, in accordance with detailed specifications given by God to Moses (chs. 25–31), and a ‘pattern,’ or model, shewn Moses in the mount (Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40, Exodus 26:30, Exodus 27:8). It is designed as a ‘dwelling’ (Exodus 25:8-9) in which God may permanently dwell among His people (Exodus 29:45); and after it has been erected and consecrated, He gives manifest tokens of His presence in it, He fills it with His glory (Exodus 40:34-38), He habitually speaks in it with Moses (Exodus 25:22), and He gives him many of His instructions from it (Leviticus 1:1, Numbers 1:1). It is also the centre at which all sacrifices are to be offered (Leviticus 1:3; Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 3:2, &c.).

In its general principle the ‘Tabernacle’ of P is a portable Temple (so Jos. Ant. iii. 6. 1 μεταφερόμενος καὶ συμπερινοστῶν ναός). On the one hand, it is a tent, and is repeatedly so called, formed of tent-hangings, or curtains, held in their places by cords and tent-pins, of oblong shape, and with a flat upper surface (without a ridge pole), like the tents of Bedawin at the present day (see ill. in Smith, DB. iii. 1467; Judges in SBOT. (Engl. vol.), p. 63; Doughty, i. 226; or (best) Benzinger, Bilderatlas zur Bibelkunde, 1905, No. 287, or Arch.2 89), and divided into two compartments, in this respect also (Kn. on Exodus 26:37) resembling the tents of Bedawin, in which a separate compartment is formed by a curtain for the women (Burckh. Bed. i. 39 f.; EB. iv. 4972); on the other hand, the Tabernacle has also the form of a temple of a type very common in antiquity, and in fact represented by Solomon’s temple, consisting of an oblong rectangular structure, with pillars on its front, standing in a large court, and divided into two parts, the hall (in Greek πρόναος, ‘fore-shrine’; in Solomon’s temple, the hêkâl, 1 Kings 6:3; 1 Kings 6:5; 1 Kings 6:17, &c. [in EVV. rendered badly ‘temple,’ suggesting the whole building]), corresponding to the Holy Place, and the shrine (ναός Hdt. i. 183, or ἄδυτον, the ‘part not to be entered,’ Lat. cella; Heb. debîr, the ‘hindmost part,’ 1 Kings 6:5; 1 Kings 6:16, &c. [in EVV., through a false etymology, the ‘oracle’]), corresponding to the Most Holy Place,—both without windows, and the latter containing, if there was one, the image of the deity to whom the temple was sacred, and usually entered only by the priests. The ‘Tabernacle’ was however primarily and essentially a tent; it was the tapestry curtains alone which formed the real ‘Dwelling’ of Jehovah (see on Exodus 26:1); the ‘boards,’ or framework, were merely intended to give the tent greater stability and security than ordinary tent-poles would do. An altar, a priesthood, with regulations determining who might hold it, and prescribing the sacrifices and other religious offices to be maintained, often also an ark containing some sacred object, a table on which food was laid out for the deity, lavers for ceremonial ablutions, &c., were likewise, in one form or other, the necessary elements in an ancient Temple establishment. The Tabernacle of P was an elaborate and ornate structure. Metals more or less precious, and woven materials more or less ornamented, and more or less richly coloured, were employed; the general distinction observed being that the nearer an object was to the Presence of Jehovah in the Holy of holies, the costlier and more beautiful it was, the commoner materials, such as bronze and ordinary woven stuff, being reserved for the objects further off (cf. on Exodus 25:3). In the same way, the high priest had a specially gorgeous and splendid attire, while that of the ordinary priests was much plainer.

In their dimensions, both the ‘Tabernacle’ and the court display great symmetry. The ruling numbers are 3, 4, 7, 10, their parts (1½, 2, 2½, 5), and their multiples (6, 9, 12, 20, 28, 30, 42, 48, 50, 60, 100). If, without indulging in fantastic extravagances, we may discern a symbolism in numbers, we may perhaps see in three a symbol of the divine, in four—suggesting the four quarters of the earth—the totality of what is human, in seven and twelve numbers which, deriving their original significance from astronomy, came to be regarded as symbols of completeness, and in ten and its multiples numbers specially suggestive of symmetry and perfection. In the prominence given to the numbers mentioned, we may perhaps recognize an effort ‘to give concrete expression—in a manner, it is true, which our Western thought finds it difficult to appreciate—to the sacred harmonies and perfection of the character of the Deity for whose “dwelling” the sanctuary is destined’ Kennedy, DB. iv. 667b). The Holy place Isaiah 20 cubits (30 ft.) long, 10 cubits (15 ft.) high and broad, and the Holy of holies a perfect cube of 10 cubits (exactly half the dimensions of the Holy of holies in Solomon’s temple); and these ratios, a perfect cube, or two cubes placed side by side, are, we are told (Enc. Brit.9 Architecture, cited ibid.), still considered the most pleasing in architectural art; while the perfect cube, forming the Holy of holies, may be intended to represent symbolically the ‘perfection of Jehovah’s character and dwelling place, the harmony and equipoise of all His attributes.’ Comp. how, in Revelation 21:16, the ideal perfection of the New Jerusalem is expressed in the fact that ‘the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.’

The ‘Tabernacle,’ moreover, symbolizes directly, and gives visible expression to, various theological and religious truths. It must, however, be clearly understood that in the text itself no symbolism or significance whatever is attributed either to the Tabernacle or to any of its appurtenances; so that, if we go beyond what is suggested directly by the names or uses of the Tabernacle, or its parts, we are in danger of falling into what is arbitrary or baseless. Bearing this in our minds, we may however observe that by one of its principal names, the mishkân, or ‘Dwelling’ (see on Exodus 25:9), the Tabernacle expresses in a sensible form the truth of God’s presence in the midst of His people; by another of its principal names, the ‘Tent of Meeting’ (Exodus 27:21), it gives expression to the truth that God is not only present with His people, but that He reveals Himself to them; by its third name, the ‘Tent (or Dwelling) of the Witness or Testimony,’ it reminded the Israelite that in the Decalogue, inscribed on the Tables in the Ark, it contained an ever-present witness to the claims of God and the duty of man. These three, especially the first, are the fundamental ideas symbolized by the Tabernacle. But there are also other ideas. Thus the gold, and costly, beautifully worked fabrics, which decorated, especially, the Holy of holies, and were also conspicuous in the gorgeous vestments of the high priest, give expression to the thought that the Dwelling, and the most responsible ministers of God, should be decked, or apparelled, with becoming splendour and dignity. The Bronze Altar, standing midway between the entrance to the court and the Tent, emphasized the importance of sacrifice in general under the old Dispensation (see further on Leviticus 1-5.), and taught the truth that ‘apart from shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Hebrews 9:22); while the burnt-offering, offered daily upon it on behalf of the community, gave expression to the spirit of worship which Israel as a whole should ever be actuated, and symbolized its constant sense of the devotion due from it to its divine Lord. The Laver, standing probably directly in front of the entrance to the Tent, in which the priests washed their hands and feet before their ministrations, secured the ceremonial purity, which was an emblem of the moral purity, that should belong to those who are the ministers of God. The Presence-bread—whatever it may have denoted originally (see on Exodus 25:30)—is an expression of thankfulness, and an acknowledgement that man’s daily bread,—is a like all other ‘blessings of this life,’—divine gift. The symbolism of the Candlestick is less obvious: none is suggested by the text; and any that may be proposed is in danger of being far-fetched, or of being read into the description as an afterthought: but—whether this was its original intention, or not—the candlestick may perhaps be most easily regarded as symbolizing the people of Israel, shining with the light of divine truth (cf. the figure of ‘light’ in Isaiah 51:4, Matthew 5:16 f., Php 2:15; and Revelation 1:12; Revelation 1:20, where the seven golden candlesticks seen in vision are said to denote the seven churches). The interpretation of Zechariah 4:1-4; Zechariah 4:11-13 is too uncertain to be used in explaining the symbolism of the candlestick in the Tabernacle (see the Century Bible, p. 203 f.): moreover, the candlestick there is differently constructed, and the lamps are differently supplied with oil. The Altar of Incense symbolized a higher form of devotion than the altar of burnt-offering: the smoke of incense was finer and choicer than that of animal victims; and it symbolized the devotion not of action, but of aspiration and prayer (cf. Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3 f.): the blood of the sin-offering was also applied to the altar of incense, when it was offered for the high priest or the community (Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18 : see also Exodus 30:10). The ark itself, sacred though it is, does not in P enshrine or symbolize the divine Presence: it contains the Decalogue, which is the ‘witness’ to God’s claims and man’s duty: but the Presence is symbolized by the golden cherubim upon it—which are regularly the emblems of the nearness of deity (see on Exodus 25:18-20)—‘from between’ which, and above the ark, Jehovah speaks with Moses. And the cherubim rest upon the golden mercy-seat, or ‘propitiatory,’ symbolizing, with special emphasis and clearness, the mercifulness of God (Exodus 34:6 f.), and His readiness to forgive sin which has been repented of, and duly purged away (p. 332) by a propitiatory rite. The purification of the altar of burnt-offering (see on Exodus 29:36 f.), and the anointing of the Tabernacle and its vessels after their completion (Exodus 30:26-29), signified that objects designed for sacred purposes must be properly consecrated before being actually used in the service of Jehovah. And the ascending degrees of sanctity, attaching to the court, the Holy place, and the Holy of holies, marked both by the materials of which they were constructed, and by the fact that while the people generally might enter the court, only the priests could enter the Holy place, and only the high priest, and he only once a year, and that ‘not without blood,’ the Holy of holies, safeguarded, in an impressive and significant manner, the holiness of God; and shewed that, though the way to Him was open, it was open only under restrictions (Heb Exo 9:8), and especially that the Presence of God Himself could be approached only by those who were, in a special sense, ‘holy’ (cf. Lev Exo 19:2), and who carried with them the blood of atonement. According to the historical view of the Old Testament, these truths and principles do not date from Moses’ time, but were acquired gradually as the result of divinely guided meditation and reflection upon sacred things: but the question the actual date at which they were acquired does not affect their reality and value.

The symbolical meanings attached to the Tabernacle and its vessels, vestments of the high priest, &c., by Josephus and Philo (see Westcott, Hebrews, p. 238 f.), are cleverly drawn out, and testify to the reverence and regard with which the Tabernacle was viewed, but are too remote to possess probability.

In the NT. the Tabernacle is explained symbolically from a different point of view. In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is represented as constructed so as to reproduce a heavenly archetype—not a mere architect’s model, such as Exodus 25:9 would naturally suggest, but—a real and eternal heavenly original, the genuine ‘tent,’ pitched by God, not man (Exodus 8:2),—‘a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, and not of this creation,’ i.e. not of this visible order of things (Exodus 9:11),—whether by this is meant heaven itself, or an ideal celestial temple in heaven,—of which the earthly tabernacle is merely a secondary representation, a copy (ὑπόδειγμα, Exodus 8:5, Exodus 9:23 : cf. Wis 9:8) and shadow (Exodus 8:5), or counterpart (ἀντίτυπα τῶν ἀληθινῶν). And into this heavenly Temple, the archetype of the earthly tabernacle, Christ, the ideal and perfect High Priest, entered, like the Jewish high priest, only not with the blood of animal victims, but with His own blood, to appear before God, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Exodus 9:12; Exodus 9:23-26; cf. on Leviticus 16). Thus while Josephus and Philo regarded the Tabernacle as a microcosm, or ‘epitome of that which is presented on a larger scale in the world of finite being’ (Westcott, p. 240), the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews regards it as the temporal and material counterpart of an eternal and invisible temple in heaven. The Tabernacle further corresponds to Christ’s humanity. God ‘dwelt’ in the midst of His people in the ‘Dwelling’ (Exodus 25:9) of a tent; and the Word, when He took flesh, ‘dwelt as in a tent or tabernacle’ (ἐσκήνωσεν) among us, and manifested His ‘glory’ to the world (John 1:14). And entrance into (the presence of God, which was all but closed under the older Dispensation, is now opened, by the blood of Jesus, ‘through a new and living way, which he hath dedicated for us, through the veil, that is to say, through his flesh’ (Hebrews 10:20); on which A. B. Davidson (ad loc.) remarks, ‘This beautiful allegorizing of the veil cannot of course be made part of a consistent and complete typology. It is not meant for this. But as the veil stood locally before the holiest in the Mosaic Tabernacle, the way into which lay through it, so Christ’s life in the flesh stood between Him and His entrance before God, and His flesh had to be rent ere He could enter.’

There is no question that the Tent of Meeting, as described by J and E, is historical; but there are strong reasons for holding that the Tent of Meeting, as described by P, represents an ideal, and had no historical reality. See on this question p. 426 ff.

The execution of the directions given in chs. 25–31 is narrated in chs. 35–40, and (Exodus 29:1-37) Leviticus 8,—mostly in the same words, with merely the future tenses changed into pasts, but with a few cases of abridgment, omission, and transposition. In the notes on 25–31 the passages in 35–40 which correspond are noted at the beginning of each paragraph by ‘cf.’

The general structure and character of the Tabernacle are perfectly clear: but great difficulty and uncertainty attach to some of the details. It is impossible within the limits of the present commentary to discuss the doubtful or disputed points. The following notes are indebted frequently to Kennedy’s full and illuminative art. Tabernacle in DB.; a statement and criticism of divergent views upon the principal doubtful points will be found in Benzinger’s ably written art. Tabernacle in EB.

Chapters 30–31

Contents:—The altar of Incense, Exodus 30:1-10; the maintenance of public service, Exodus 30:11-16; the Bronze Laver, Exodus 30:17-21; the composition of the holy Anointing Oil, Exodus 30:22-23; the composition of the Incense, Exodus 30:24-38; the nomination of Bĕẓal’çl and Oholiab to construct, or take the chief part in constructing, the Tabernacle, and its appurtenances, Exodus 31:1-11; the observance of the Sabbath, Exodus 31:12-17; Moses receives from God the two tables of stone, preparatory to descending from the mount, Exodus 31:18. The whole, except Exodus 31:18 b, belongs to P. There are, however, strong reasons for holding that it does not belong to P proper, but to a posterior and secondary stratum of P (P2[211]), of which there are indications also in other parts of the Pentateuch. It is surprising to find the Altar of Incense, which from its importance might have seemed to demand a place in ch. 25, among the other sacred vessels of the Tabernacle, mentioned for the first time in Exo Exodus 30:1-10, when the directions respecting the Tabernacle seem to be complete, and brought to a solemn close by the promise in Exodus 29:43-46 that Jehovah will take up His abode in the sanctuary so constructed: even in Exodus 26:34 f., where the position of the vessels in the Tabernacle is defined, the Altar of Incense is not named. In Exodus 30:10 an annual rite of atonement is prescribed to be performed upon it; but in Leviticus 16, where the ceremonial of the day of atonement is described in detail, no notice of such a rite is to be found; and only one altar, the altar of Burnt-offering, is mentioned throughout the chapter (on v. 18 see Dillm. and Keil, who agree that the order of the ceremonial in vv. 16b–18 shews the altar of Burnt-offering to be here meant). Further, a number of passages occur, in which the altar of Burnt-offering is referred to as ‘the altar,’ implying apparently that there was no other (e.g. chs. 27–29; Leviticus 1-3, 5-6, 8, 9, 16). Hence it seems that the Tabernacle, as pictured in the original legislation of P, contained no incense altar (incense being offered on pans or censers, Leviticus 10:1; Leviticus 16:12, Numbers 16:6-7, &c.), and that both this and other passages in which it is spoken of (Exodus 30:27, Exodus 31:8, Exodus 35:15, Exodus 37:25, Exodus 39:38, Exodus 40:5; Exodus 40:26, Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18, Numbers 4:11), or which term ‘the Altar’ of Exodus 27:1, &c., as though for distinction, ‘the altar of Burnt-offering’ (as Exodus 30:28, Exodus 31:9, Exodus 35:16, Exodus 38:1, Exodus 40:6; Exodus 40:10; Exodus 40:29, Leviticus 4), or ‘the Bronze altar’ (Exodus 38:30, Exodus 39:39), belong to a secondary stratum of P. The other subjects treated in chs. 30–31 are such as would naturally find place in an Appendix, or (remarkably enough) occasion similar difficulties. Thus in Exodus 29:7 (cf. 29), Leviticus 8:12, the ceremony of anointing is confined to the high priest (Aaron): in Exodus 30:30 it is extended to the priests (his ‘sons’). The same extension recurs in Exodus 28:41, Exodus 40:15, Leviticus 7:36; Leviticus 10:7, Numbers 3:3. That the ceremony was regarded originally as limited to the high priest seems, however, to be confirmed by the title ‘the anointed priest’ applied to him (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 6:22; cf. Leviticus 16:32; Leviticus 21:10; Leviticus 21:12, Numbers 35:25), which, if the priests generally were anointed, would be destitute of any distinctive significance.

[211] Secondary strata of P (see p. xii top; pp. 328f., 378).

The nomination of two skilled artificers, Bĕẓal’çl and Oholiab, to construct, or take the chief part in constructing, the Tent of Meeting and its appurtenances, according to the instructions contained in chs. 25–30 (vv. 1–6), with an enumeration of the articles to be made (vv. 7–11); the observance of the sabbath inculcated, vv. 12–17; Moses receives from Jehovah the tables of stone, v. 18. The whole is from P (or P2[215]), including an excerpt from H (in vv. 13–14a), except v. 18b, which is from E.

[215] Secondary strata of P (see p. xii top; pp. 328f., 378).

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
1–6. The nomination of Bĕẓal’çl and Oholiab.

See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:
2. called by name] i.e. specially chosen: cf. Isaiah 45:3-4 (of Cyrus).

Bĕẓal’çl] i.e. ‘In the shadow (i.e. protection, Numbers 14:9 RVm.) of God’; cf. the Ass. name Ina-ṣilli-Bel, ‘In the shadow of Bel’ (cited by Bä.). There are no sufficient grounds for identifying the Ḥur here with the Ḥur of Exodus 17:10, Exodus 24:14. The whole series Ḥur, Uri, Bĕẓal’çl occurs again in 1 Chronicles 2:19 f., in the ‘family’ of Caleb, one of the three leading clans of Judah; but the relation of the two series of names to each other is uncertain: 1 Samuel 30:14 appears to shew that even in David’s time the Caleb-clan was not yet actually part of Judah (comp. the writer’s Genesis, p. 327; and DB., EB., s.v. Caleb).

In v. 6 Oholiab is associated with Bĕẓal’çl; but Bĕẓal’çl is evidently regarded as the constructor in chief: he always takes the first place (Exodus 36:1-2; cf. Exodus 38:22 f.), and is often mentioned alone (Exodus 37:1, and implicitly in vv. 10, 17, 25, &c.).

And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
3. the spirit of God] Regarded in the OT. as the source of any exceptional power or activity of man, as well as of supernatural spiritual gifts: see e.g. (in different connexions) Genesis 41:38, Numbers 11:17, Deuteronomy 34:9 (of administrative capacity), Jdg 3:10, 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13, Micah 3:8, Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 61:1; and cf. the writer’s Genesis, p. 4; DB. ii. 403a: here, of exceptional artistic capacity.

in] i.e. displaying itself in.

wisdom] of artistic skill, as v. 6, Exodus 28:3.

To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,
4. devise cunning works] devise works of skill (Speaker’s Comm.); so Exodus 35:32; Exodus 35:35. Lit. devise (or design, Exodus 26:1) devices (Jeremiah 18:18); here of skill in contriving and executing works of art, as in 2 Chronicles 26:15 mechanical contrivances (Heb. devices [EVV. engines, i.e. ingenia, inventions], the device of the deviser).

4, 5. in gold, and in silver, and in bronze, &c.] such as would be needed for carrying out the preceding body of directions (Exodus 25:10 ff.; Exodus 26:15 ff.; Exodus 28:9-11; Exodus 28:21, &c.).

And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.
5. for setting] See Exodus 25:7, Exodus 28:17; Exodus 28:20.

And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee;
6. Oholiab to be Bĕẓal’çl’s associate. The name ‘Oholiab’ is peculiar, and perhaps not genuinely Hebrew (Gray, Heb. Pr. Names, p. 246): it means apparently The father (God) is my tent; cf. Phoen. אהלבעל, אהלמלך, Baal, or the King, is a tent; Sabaean אהלעתתר, אהלאל, ‘Athtar is a tent, God is a tent; and the Edomitish Oholibamah (‘My tent is the high place’?), Genesis 36:2; Genesis 36:41.

and in the hearts, &c.] i.e. those who are already wise-hearted, i.e. (cf. on Exodus 28:3) possess artistic aptitudes, are to be further endowed by God with wisdom, i.e. with the requisite skill to assist Bĕẓal’çl and Oholiab in their work.

The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle,
7–11. Enumeration of the articles to be made (see chs. 25–28, 30).

And the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick with all his furniture, and the altar of incense,
8. the table] i.e. the table of the Presence-bread, Exodus 25:23-30.

the pure candlestick] i.e. made of pure gold (Exodus 25:31): so Exodus 39:37, Leviticus 24:4.

And the altar of burnt offering with all his furniture, and the laver and his foot,
And the cloths of service, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest's office,
10. the garments of plaited (?) work] in the Heb. a peculiar expression, of most uncertain meaning, not found before, but recurring (with the addition, ‘for ministering in the holy place’) in Exodus 35:19, Exodus 39:1; Exodus 39:41†. No root שרד occurs in Heb.: in post-Bibl. Hebrew and Aramaic (see NHWB. iii. 587b) derivatives mean a plaited basket, a sieve, a grating before an oven; Onk. also uses sârâdâ for a grating in Exodus 27:4, and for a hanging in Exodus 27:9, &c.: hence, if the word is correctly handed down,—and it occurs four times,—it can, with our present knowledge, be only explained to mean something of the nature of plaited work. The reference is evidently to the artistically woven garments of the priests (ch. 28). The ‘and’ before ‘the holy garments’ is better omitted, as in Exodus 35:19, and (in the Heb.) Exodus 39:41 : the garments in question were the ‘holy’ ones. LXX. (στολαὶ λειτουργικαί), Pesh. Targ. render garments of ministry (cf. RVm.); either treating שרד, very improbably, as though it were the same as שרת, or finding שרת four times in their MSS. for שרד,—a not less improbable alternative. ‘Finely wrought’ (RV.) yields an excellent sense; but unfortunately has no philological justification.

And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.
11. sweet spices] fragrant powders: see on Exodus 30:34.

12–17 (cf. Exodus 35:2-3). The observance of the sabbath inculcated. The section has in vv. 13, 14a (see the notes) strong affinities with the ‘Law of Holiness,’ or H (the older laws embedded in P, in Leviticus 17-26); and there is little doubt that some of H’s injunctions on the observance of the sabbath have here been excerpted by P or P2[216] and emphasized by him with the addition of vv. 14b–17: the whole thus forming a law inculcating the observance of the sabbath at a time when the execution of urgent sacred work might be taken as an excuse for disregarding it. The parts excerpted from H have also (like those in Leviticus 17-26 : see LOT. pp. 45 f., 138–141; ed. 6–8, pp. 49 f., 145–148) remarkable affinities with Ezekiel.

[216] Secondary strata of P (see p. xii top; pp. 328f., 378).

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.
13. Speak thou also] And thou (emph.), speak thou (Exodus 27:20).

Verily] cf. on Exodus 12:15 (‘surely’).

ye shall keep my Sabbaths] the sabbaths sacred to me. Note exactly the same words in H, Leviticus 19:3; Leviticus 19:30; Leviticus 26:2 : ‘my sabbaths,’ also, often in Ezek. (Ezekiel 20:12-13; Ezekiel 20:16; Ezekiel 20:20-21; Ezekiel 20:24, Ezekiel 22:8; Ezekiel 22:26, Ezekiel 23:38, Ezekiel 44:24); only besides in Isaiah 56:4†.

a sign, &c.] The sabbath, as a day observed weekly in honour of Jehovah, and kept sacred to Him, is a constantly recurring memorial of Israel’s dedication to Him, and of the covenant-relation subsisting between them. Comp. Ezekiel 20:12 (cited below).

throughout your generations] See on Exodus 12:14. So v. 16.

that men may know (Heb. simply to know: so Psalm 67:2 Heb.) &c.] that all the world may recognize, by means of the sabbath, that it is Jehovah who ‘sanctifies’ Israel, or provides it with the means of becoming a holy people. ‘I am Jehovah which sanctify [better, ‘which sancti fieth’] you (him, them)’ is one of the dominant thoughts of H (Leviticus 20:8; Leviticus 21:15 (cf. v. 8), Leviticus 21:23, Leviticus 22:9; Leviticus 22:16; Leviticus 22:32). Comp. Ezekiel 20:12 ‘I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that men might know [Heb. to know] that I am Jehovah, which sanctifieth them’ (similarly v. 20); also, for the last clause, Ezekiel 37:12.

Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
14. holy] cf. Exodus 16:23 (P), Exodus 20:8 (E), Isaiah 58:13, Ezekiel 20:20, &c.

profaneth] To ‘profane’ is characteristic—like its opposite, to ‘sanctify’—of H, Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 19:8; Leviticus 19:12; Leviticus 19:29; Leviticus 20:3; Leviticus 21:4; Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:9 (twice), Leviticus 21:12; Leviticus 21:15; Leviticus 21:23, Leviticus 22:2; Leviticus 22:9; Leviticus 22:15; Leviticus 22:32, and Ezek. (about 30 times,—6 times, as here, of the sabbath, viz. Ezekiel 20:13; Ezekiel 20:16; Ezekiel 20:21; Ezekiel 20:24, Ezekiel 22:8, Ezekiel 23:38 : so Isaiah 56:2, Nehemiah 13:18). In P only once (Numbers 18:32).

shall surely be put to death] cf., in the Book of the Covenant, Exodus 21:12; Exodus 21:14-17, Exodus 22:19; and in H, for various moral and religious offences, Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 20:9-13; Leviticus 20:15-16; Leviticus 20:27; Leviticus 24:16-17 (for murder). In Numbers 15:32-36 (P) this penalty for sabbath-breaking is said to have been inflicted.

that soul, &c.] See on Exodus 12:15, and Exodus 30:33.

Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
15. How the sabbath is to be observed, viz. by cessation from work. Cf. Exodus 20:9 f.

a sabbath of entire rest] So Exodus 35:2, Leviticus 23:3 al.: see on Exodus 16:23.

Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
16. Wherefore] The Heb. is simply And.

to observe] to hold. See on Exodus 12:47.

a perpetual (or, as the same Heb. is rendered elsewhere, everlasting) covenant] An expression frequent in P: Genesis 9:16 (of the rainbow), Genesis 17:7; Genesis 17:13; Genesis 17:19 (of circumcision), Leviticus 24:8, cf. Numbers 18:19; Numbers 25:13; also Ezekiel 16:60; Ezekiel 37:26, Jeremiah 50:5, Isaiah 24:5; Isaiah 55:3; Isaiah 61:8, Psalm 105:10†. Here, as the context shews (cf. p. 175), the stress lies not on the divine promise, but on Israel’s obligation to observe the terms on which the covenant is based.

16, 17. The main thoughts of vv. 13–15 repeated, and emphasized, in P’s manner: cf. on Exodus 6:27.

It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
17. forearth] verbatim as Exodus 20:11.

rested] desisted (from work), or kept sabbath: see on Exodus 20:8.

was refreshed] lit. took breath,—a strong anthropomorphism: elsewhere used only of men, Exodus 23:12, 2 Samuel 16:14†.

18a. communing] speaking. See on Exodus 25:22.

tables of the testimony] i.e. of the Decalogue (see on Exodus 25:16). So Exodus 32:15; Exodus 34:29 †.

18b. tables of stone] as Exodus 24:12 (E), where see the note. E’s narrative in Exodus 24:12-15 a must have been followed by a statement that Moses, after remaining some time on the mountain (Exodus 32:1), received from God the tables of stone, of which these and the following words are the close. The intermediate part has been replaced by the narrative of P (Exodus 24:15 b–32:18a).

written with the finger of God] hence Deuteronomy 9:10. The practice of inscribing laws on tables of metal or stone was very general in antiquity: Rome, Athens, Crete, Carthage, Palmyra, Babylonia, all supply examples; it would be no cause for surprise, if the original of some of the laws contained in the ‘Book of the Covenant’ were to be brought to light by excavation in Palestine. That the tables on which the Decalogue was written are said to have been inscribed by ‘the finger of God’ (cf. Exodus 34:1) is an expression (Di.) of the sanctity and venerable antiquity attributed to them.

And 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.
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