Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bible Commentary - Exodus 36

In this chapter, construction of the Tabernacle begins in earnest.

This chapter begins by noting that the people brought in even more freewill offerings than were required for the construction, so Moses commands the people to cease contributing gold and the other stuff.  It's a charming little anecdote, one that I have only ever heard referenced by pastors trying to encourage tithing, which is amusing until you remember that these people also worshiped idols.  They are not exactly the best role models, but in this case I'd have to agree that their "giving spirit" cannot be questioned.  I think it can be debated how much peer pressure they would have to contribute to this "free will" offering, but that's left to speculation because the text itself never states or implies that the people felt any compulsion to give other than through Moses's request.

Either way, they gather what is needed and begin construction.  The text describing the construction process is virtually identical to the text where God commanded Moses how to build the corresponding thing.  If you compare the characteristics such as the length of the curtains (28 cubits), the number of loops (50), or any other thing, it precisely matches with the earlier description in Ex 25-31.  The only difference is that here Bezalel is constructing things, while in Ex 25-31 God is commanding Moses how to construct the things.

So if my readers wish to learn more about the significance or meaning of any of the things being built, simply go read my commentary for the corresponding earlier chapter.  This chapter largely corresponds with the commands in Ex 26.

There really isn't much else for me to say, so I'll just leave one parting thought before I move on to the next chapter, which is this: so much of the book of Exodus is about obedience to long, detailed commands and numerous prohibitions.  The longest of those commands is the command to build the Tabernacle, and now we're seeing its fulfillment.  As we observe the Israelites' adherence to all of the fine details of the commands, including the dimensions, colors and patterns of the various objects, think about what message this sends both to the Israelites to whom Moses spoke, but then also the ancient Hebrew readers of the written (or oral) Torah, that their faith is largely being defined by adherence to these highly specific rules?  I've already talked a lot about how Exodus is a book filled with many rules, but what we're seeing now is that the ancient Israelites followed them precisely, with the obvious implication that its ancient readers should follow these rules precisely too.

I will continue to discuss "the Law" as we move along through the OT, but for now, let's move on to the next chapter.

Edit: I found some interesting notes from John Wesley discussing Ex 36-39.  He notes the significant fact that the people who were not priests (i.e. 99.9% of the population) would by law never enter the tabernacle, which means that they would never actually see the ark of the covenant, the lampstand or anything else that resides within the tabernacle.  Therefore describing the construction of these things is important because it shows the people that the LORD's instructions for their creation was followed precisely.  To quote Wesley directly,
These several ornaments where with the tabernacle was furnished, the people were not admitted to see, but the priests only; and therefore it was requisite they should be thus largely described, particularly to them. And Moses would thus shew the great care which he and his workmen took to make every thing exactly according to the pattern shewed him in the mount. Thus he appeals to every reader concerning his fidelity to him that appointed him, in all his house. And thus he teacheth us to have respect to all God's commandments, even to every jot and tittle of them.

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