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Bezalel and Oholiab


The L ord spoke to Moses: 2See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, 4to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. 6Moreover, I have appointed with him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7the tent of meeting, and the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, 8the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its stand, 10and the finely worked vestments, the holy vestments for the priest Aaron and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the holy place. They shall do just as I have commanded you.

The Sabbath Law

12 The L ord said to Moses: 13You yourself are to speak to the Israelites: “You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the L ord, sanctify you. 14You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. 15Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the L ord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. 16Therefore the Israelites shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. 17It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the L ord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”

The Two Tablets of the Covenant

18 When God finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

2. See, I have called by name Bezaleel. In the remainder of this work we shall follow the course of the history to the end of Deuteronomy, where the death of Moses himself is recorded.

Although God had omitted nothing which related to the form of the tabernacle, but had accurately prescribed every thing that was to be done, still the actual difficulty of the work might have overwhelmed both Moses and the whole people with despair; for this was no ordinary work, or one on which the most skillful artificers might exercise their ingenuity, but a marvelous structure, the pattern of which had been shewn on the Mount, so that it might seem incredible that any mortals should be able by their art to compass what God had commanded. Besides, they had been entirely engaged in servile tasks in Egypt, such as would extinguish all intellectual vigor, and prevent them from aspiring to any liberal arts. Hence we gather that all, who obediently follow God’s voice, are never destitute of His aid. In all our difficulties, then, let this prayer encourage us to proceed: 290290     Augustin. Confess. 10. 40. “Et tota spes mea non nisi in magna valde misericordia tua. Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis.” See also ibid., Section 45, 7. Edit. Bened., Tom. 1, pp. 184, 186, 191; et Tom. 10. 851 A. “Give what Thou commandest: and command what Thou wilt.”

To “call by name,” is equivalent to rendering eminent, so that Moses signifies that Bezaleel should be something extraordinary, as being endowed with a peculiar gift. Thus Cyrus is said in Isaiah 45:4, to be called by his name, because in the purpose of God he had been destined in a remarkable manner to execute such great things. Still, although the call of Bezaleel was special, because, as I have just said, God entrusted to him an unusual and by no means ordinary work, we gather that no one excels even in the most despised and humble handicraft, except in so far as God’s Spirit works in him. For, although “there are diversities of gifts,” still it is the same Spirit from whom they all flow, (1 Corinthians 12:4;) and also as God has seen fit to distribute and measure them out to every man. Nor is this only the case with respect to the spiritual gifts which follow regeneration, but in all the branches of knowledge which come into use in common life. It is, therefore, a false division, when ungodly men ascribe all the means of our support partly to nature and God’s blessing, and partly to the industry of man, since man’s industry itself is a blessing from God. The poets are more correct who acknowledge that all which is suggested by nature comes from God; that all the arts emanate from Him, and therefore ought to be accounted divine inventions. The utility of this doctrine is two-fold; first, that all things which have reference to the support and defense of life, whenever we meet with them, should excite our gratitude, and that whatever seems to be derived from man’s ingenuity, should be regarded as proofs of God’s paternal solicitude for us; and, secondly, that we should honor God as the Author of so many good things, since He sanctifies them for our use. Moses applies many epithets to the Spirit, because he is speaking of so remarkable a work; yet we must conclude, float whatever ability is possessed by any emanates from one only source, and is conferred by God. This is the only difference, that Bezaleel was endued with consummate excellence, whilst God makes distribution to others according to His pleasure.

6. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab. It is no matter of surprise that the principal workman should be chosen from the tribe of Judah; 291291     Addition in Fr., “Laquelle estoit la premiere en dignite;” which was the highest in dignity. why a companion should be given him from the tribe of Dan can hardly be accounted for, unless its obscurity more highly illustrated the grace of God.

A kind of contradiction at first sight appears, when it is added immediately afterwards that God had put wisdom in the hearts of all that were wise-hearted; for, if they already excelled in intelligence, what was the object of this new inspiration? Hence it has been commonly supposed, that the special grace of God was only given in aid of that ability which we naturally possess. But rather are we taught by this passage that, when anything grows in us, and our endowments manifest themselves more conspicuously, our progress is only derived from the continued operation of the Spirit. God had already conferred acuteness and intelligence on the artificers in question; yet their dexterity was only, as it were, the seed; and He now promises that He will give them more than had previously appeared. I know that the words may be thus explained, — Whosoever shall be fit and proper for the work, have therefore been endowed with intelligence, because God has inspired it by His secret influence; but the other exposition is more simple. What follows as to the various parts of the tabernacle has been already treated of elsewhere.

34. Take unto thee sweet spices. This oblation might have been noticed with the others, yet, since it merely describes the composition of the incense, which is connected with the altar of incense, and in fact is but an appendage to it, I have seen no reason why I should separate them. Let the curious subtilely discuss, if they please, the ingredients themselves; it is enough for me that they were chosen at God’s will to make a very sweet smell. For I know not whether it is likely, as some suppose, that galbanum 154154     “Not of strong and evil savor, as R. Salomom, for then it had been unfit to make a perfume of.” — Tostatus in Willet. “Dioscor. asserit galbanum esse gravis odoris, et Plinius ait galbanum foetere et castorem olere; quod forte intelligit de partibus galbani magis terrestribus — ideoque noster interpres addit τὸ bonis odoris;” (i.e., V., after LXX. Χαλβάνην ἡδυσμῦ·) Corn. a Lapide, in loco. is of a strong and disagreeable savor, and, since they only offer this conjecture in an unknown matter, they deserve little credit. My conviction is that it was sweet, which the words of Moses himself a little further on confirm, where he denounces the penalty of death upon those who should use such perfume for their private gratification; for this prohibition would have been absurd, unless its odor had been very agreeable. Besides, the analogy between the sign and the thing signified would not have held good, unless its sweet savor had testified that God is greatly pleased with the prayers of His people. Moreover, in order that the sacred symbol might be the more reverenced, it was not allowable to transfer this mixture to private use; for since men are rude and earthly-minded, there is nothing they are more prone to than to mix up heavenly things with those of earth. Therefore, to elevate their minds the more, it was necessary that the incense, in which there was a special holiness due to God alone, should be set apart from common use.

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