Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bible Commentary - Exodus 38

In this chapter, we continue with the construction of the bronze altar, the bronze basin, the hangings of the courtyard, and conclude with the total cost of the Tabernacle.

Much of the material in chapter 38, just like chapters 36 and 37, is nearly copied from an earlier section of Exodus.  In this case, it is Ex 27.  As in chapters 36 and 37, the redundancy is here to teach the Israelites to follow the commands of the LORD precisely, especially as it relates to the covenant.  Unlike the earlier chapters of this section, most Israelites would in fact be allowed into the courtyard when properly consecrated, so they would be able to directly observe the form of the bronze altar, the hangings and so forth.  Even so, this is not a substantial difference and the tone of chapter 38 largely parallels that of the earlier chapters.

Fortunately, we are nearly at the end and we also get to see something new, an inventory of all the costs of the Tabernacle and everything associated with it.

I don't think there is much purpose in looking at the numbers in detail.  I will make some general points, however.  The number of men over twenty years is about 600,000.  From this, we can statistically approximate the size of the whole community (including children and women) to be around two to three million.  This gives us an idea of the scale of the Israelite camp, and I will be quoting this number many times in the next couple books.

Next, we can see that the construction of the Tabernacle involved a significant amount of money.  As I have said many times before, this money was almost certainly looted from Egypt in the events of the Exodus which we have previously read.

Lastly, I will mention that throughout these chapters it has been ascribing the construction labors to Bezalel and Oholiab, but in practice there is far too much for two people to build, so they were almost certainly just overseers of the construction, which was practically carried out by many members of the community.  Interestingly, neither Bezalel nor Oholiab are from the tribe of Levi, which means that non-priests were the ones who actually built the ark of the covenant and the other sacred relics.  By ritual convention, they would be the first and the last non-priests to ever see these things.  It's not particularly important, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

With that, I will proceed to chapter 39.

No comments: