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Bible: What Does Exodus 35-40 Teach Us About the Tabernacle?

Updated on September 9, 2016



Distinguishing Trait of Bezalel and Aholiab

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Calling All Willing Artisans

Addressing the congregation, Moses reiterates their obligation to keep the Sabbath; God regards disobedience to this command, even kindling a fire in their homes, as a capital offense (vv. 1-3).

He also repeats the LORD’s word about an offering for the tabernacle--a gift that calls for a willing heart in the participant (vv. 4-5).

Those who give may offer a variety of items: precious metals (v. 5), fabrics, linens, and wood (vv. 6-7), oil and spices (v. 8), and onyx stones (v. 9).

Yahweh calls all gifted artisans to come and offer their services to build, carve, and weave all tabernacle articles. (A comprehensive list of these items appears in verses ten through nineteen.)

The LORD has already given Moses detailed, “How to” instructions concerning all of these works.

Verses 20-29 show Israel’s obedience in offering their material goods and services for the tabernacle.

The salient phrases in this section include “whose heart was stirred” (vv. 21, 26), “whose spirit was willing” (v. 21), “as many as had a willing heart (v. 22), and “whose hearts were willing” (v. 29).

[Obviously, a close connection exists between the heart and the spirit, and one's service to God].

Now Moses draws special attention to two gifted artisans: Bezalel (a man “filled with the Spirit of God” in various ways and for certain tasks) [vv. 30-34a; cf. 31:1-5], and Aholiab, a man with similar talents (vv. 34b-35; cf. 31:6).

However, he mentions that this great work will require the abilities of all artisans in Israel (36:1).

Protective Furnishings Built First

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Abundant Freewill Offerings

Exodus 36

Moses issues a call to all of these men and women to accomplish the task that the LORD had commanded (v. 2).

[Again, he employs the phrases “in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom” and “whose heart was stirred.”]

Having received “much more than enough” freewill offerings, these artisans ask Moses to command the people to stop giving; he listens to their plea, and the people obey their leader’s directive (vv. 3-7).

As the artisans begin to build the tabernacle, they initially work on articles of protection [curtains (vv. 8-19), veil (v. 35-36), and screen (vv. 37-38)] before proceeding to build the actual furniture. The boards (vv. 20-30) and the bars (vv. 31-34) are the wooden framework for the curtains.

[Notice this shift from the first recording (see Exodus 25:10ff).

The sin of the golden calf necessitated this change].

[For other details concerning these articles of protection and the wooden framework, see the earlier commentary in Exodus 25:10ff].

Bezalel, the Artisan



Exodus 37

According to the specifications stated earlier, Bezalel first makes the ark (vv. 1-2), its rings and poles (vv. 3-5), and the mercy seat and cherubim (vv. 6-9).

Next, he constructs the table of showbread (vv. 10-12), its rings and poles (vv. 13-15), and its utensils (v. 16).

Third, this gifted man makes the lampstand with its branches (vv. 17-18), its bowls (vv. 19-20), knobs (vv. 21-22), and other accessories, all of gold and all of one piece (vv. 23-24).

Fourth, he constructs the altar of incense and its horns (vv. 25-26). The altar also has rings and poles to carry it (vv. 27-28).

Fifth, he makes the anointing oil and incense (v. 29).

Exodus 38

The altar of burnt offering with its utensils, grate, rings and poles is next on his list (vv. 1-7).

Unlike the other furniture, everything associated with this altar is made of bronze.

This arrangement holds true with the laver also (v. 8).

Bezalel supervises the weaving of the tabernacle court, making sure that the dimensions of its hangings and pillars are accurate.

Sockets for the pillars, the screen for the gate and the pegs of the tabernacle also need supervision (vv. 9-20).

Now Moses summarizes the inventory of the tabernacle, and credits the main leaders and artisans (vv. 21-23).

Much gold (v. 24), silver (vv. 25-28), and bronze (vv. 29-31) compose the materials of the tabernacle.

Altogether, they use 199 talents of gold, silver, and bronze, and 4,905 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary.

[Those twenty years old and above (603,550 men) offer a bekah (one half shekel) of silver per head (v. 26)].

Exodus 39

Finally, the artisans make the priestly garments (v. 1).

First, Bezalel makes the colorful ephod with its straps and band, and inserts its onyx stones (vv. 2-7).

Next, he works on the breastplate, setting in it the four rows of precious stones (vv. 8-14).

With chains (v. 15), rings (vv. 16-17, 19), and a blue cord (v. 21), they fasten the breastplate to the rings of the ephod.

Finally, they make the robe with its pomegranates and bells (vv. 22-26), tunics (v. 27), a turban and a sash (vv. 28-29), and the plate of the holy crown fastened to the turban with a blue cord (vv. 30-31).

Moses records the completion of all of the work of the tabernacle, and acknowledges the people’s obedience (v. 32).

Then he lists all of the items that the people bring to him (vv. 33-41), and seems genuinely pleased with their good work.

They had done it “according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses” (vv. 42-43).

The Holy Place


The Tabernacle

Exodus 40

The LORD lists in order what He wanted Moses to do to erect and arrange the tabernacle: first, He designated the set-up date as the first day of the first month (v. 2).

After the tabernacle is set up, Moses must next put the ark in it and screen off the ark with the veil (v. 3).

Third, the table of showbread with its utensils and the lampstand, its lamps lit, come next (v. 4).

Fourth, he must put the altar of incense before the ark and put up the screen for the door of the tabernacle (v. 5).

Fifth, the altar of burnt offering goes up before the door (v. 6).

Sixth, the laver filled with water belongs between the tabernacle and the altar (v. 7).

Seventh, the court is set up, and the screen is hanged at the court gate (v. 8).

Eighth, Moses must anoint the tabernacle and its utensils (v. 9).

Then Yahweh lists the items to be anointed: the altar of burnt offering (v. 10) and the laver (v. 11).

Finally, after they have been properly washed and clothed, he must anoint Aaron and his sons (vv. 12-15).

In obedience to the LORD, Moses performs all of these tasks (v. 16).

The Pillar of Fire


The Cloud and the Fire

Under Moses’ supervision, the tabernacle goes up on the first day of the first month in the second year (v. 17).

Israel's leader records the exact order he took to accomplish this work.

[It reads as if he did everything himself, but he certainly enlisted the help of many skilled and unskilled hands].

The text naturally focuses on the proper care of the Testimony after they set up the tent (vv. 18-21).

Yet Moses does include the setting up of the table and its bread (vv. 22-23), the lampstand and its lamps (vv. 24-25), the altar and its incense (vv. 26-27), the screen (v. 28), the altar of burnt offering and its burnt and grain offerings (v. 29), the laver with its water for their ceremonial washing (vv. 30-32), and finally, the court and the screen of the court gate (v. 33).

Moses finishes the work as the LORD had commanded him (vv. 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32).

After they complete all of the work, the Cloud covers the tabernacle; Yahweh’s glory fills the structure, not allowing Moses to enter (vv. 34-35).

Depending upon the Cloud’s position—taken up from above the tabernacle or remaining there—Israel sets out from their camp or stays put (vv. 36-37).

Whenever they journey during the day, Israel sees the Cloud; but at night, they see fire (v. 38).

Summary Questions for Exodus

1. Interact with the significance of the prophetic role of intercession.

2. What were the three yearly feasts for Israelite males?

3. What chapters comprise the Book of the Covenant?

4. Name the tabernacle furniture pieces, and their symbolism.

5. What does the citing of God’s “Name” include?

6. Who were the Spirit-filled artisans put in charge of tabernacle work?

7. What changes to the arrangement of the tabernacle occurred after the golden calf incident?

8. What are the elements in the Passover celebration? Explain the ritual of this feast.

9. Discuss Jethro’s contributions to the theocracy.

10. Into what two parts are the Ten Words split?

11. From what nation did the “king who knew not Joseph” come?

12. What priestly action signifies identification?

13. What does the “Song of Moses” commemorate?

14. What did the breaking of first tablets symbolize?

15. What was involved in the covenant renewal of chapter thirty-four?

16. Why does God prohibit the people from making images of Himself?

17. Name some offenses that merit capital punishment in the theocracy.

18. Why was keeping the Sabbath so important to God?

19. What is the significance of leaven? Why did God forbid eating leavened bread?

20. What substance, besides blood, must not be eaten? Why not?

21. Who were dedicated instead of the first-born of Israel?

22. What kind of husband and father did Moses appear to be? Provide evidence for your conclusion.

23. What does God’s covenant name Yahweh signify?

24. With what kinds of laws does the “Book of the Covenant” deal?

25. In what month did Israel leave Egypt?

26. What enemy did Israel defeat through the intercession of Moses and the help of Hur and Aaron? Whose descendants were they?

27. Why do you suppose that the writers of Scripture omit relating events from the early years of Moses and Christ?

28. In the very beginning, what was Aaron’s role as he teamed with Moses? What made this role necessary?

29. Why does God often take His people to brink of rebellion before acting on His promises?

30. What are the purposes of God’s ‘sign miracles’?

31. What will serve as a sign of protection from God’s wrath on the day of the Passover?

32. Discuss the significance of leaven in Israelite culture.

33. What was Israel’s part in their salvation?

34. What was the veil’s purpose?

35. What two major tabernacle pieces were overlaid with bronze instead of gold as was the other furniture? Why?

36. What are the various pieces of the priest’s clothing?

37. What are engraved on onyx stones, where are these stones placed, and what does that symbolize?

38. What is the significance of putting blood on the tips of ears, thumbs, and toes?

© 2013 glynch1


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