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31. The Sabbath

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. 6And 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; 7The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle, 8And the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick with all his furniture, and the altar of incense, 9And the altar of burnt offering with all his furniture, and the laver and his foot, 10And 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, 11And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.

12And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 13Speak 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. 14Ye 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. 15Six 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. 16Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17It 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.

18And 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.

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.


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