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36. Making the Tabernacle

Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded. 2And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it: 3And they received of Moses all the offering, which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the sanctuary, to make it withal. And they brought yet unto him free offerings every morning. 4And all the wise men, that wrought all the work of the sanctuary, came every man from his work which they made;

5And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make. 6And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. 7For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.

8And every wise hearted man among them that wrought the work of the tabernacle made ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work made he them. 9The length of one curtain was twenty and eight cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: the curtains were all of one size. 10And he coupled the five curtains one unto another: and the other five curtains he coupled one unto another. 11And he made loops of blue on the edge of one curtain from the selvedge in the coupling: likewise he made in the uttermost side of another curtain, in the coupling of the second. 12Fifty loops made he in one curtain, and fifty loops made he in the edge of the curtain which was in the coupling of the second: the loops held one curtain to another. 13And he made fifty taches of gold, and coupled the curtains one unto another with the taches: so it became one tabernacle.

14And he made curtains of goats’ hair for the tent over the tabernacle: eleven curtains he made them. 15The length of one curtain was thirty cubits, and four cubits was the breadth of one curtain: the eleven curtains were of one size. 16And he coupled five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves. 17And he made fifty loops upon the uttermost edge of the curtain in the coupling, and fifty loops made he upon the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second. 18And he made fifty taches of brass to couple the tent together, that it might be one. 19And he made a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of badgers’ skins above that.

20And he made boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood, standing up. 21The length of a board was ten cubits, and the breadth of a board one cubit and a half. 22One board had two tenons, equally distant one from another: thus did he make for all the boards of the tabernacle. 23And he made boards for the tabernacle; twenty boards for the south side southward: 24And forty sockets of silver he made under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons. 25And for the other side of the tabernacle, which is toward the north corner, he made twenty boards, 26And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board. 27And for the sides of the tabernacle westward he made six boards. 28And two boards made he for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides. 29And they were coupled beneath, and coupled together at the head thereof, to one ring: thus he did to both of them in both the corners. 30And there were eight boards; and their sockets were sixteen sockets of silver, under every board two sockets.

31And he made bars of shittim wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle, 32And five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the tabernacle for the sides westward. 33And he made the middle bar to shoot through the boards from the one end to the other. 34And he overlaid the boards with gold, and made their rings of gold to be places for the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold.

35And he made a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen: with cherubims made he it of cunning work. 36And he made thereunto four pillars of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold: their hooks were of gold; and he cast for them four sockets of silver.

37And he made an hanging for the tabernacle door of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, of needlework; 38And the five pillars of it with their hooks: and he overlaid their chapiters and their fillets with gold: but their five sockets were of brass.

1. Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab. Although Moses might have seemed to be unnecessarily prolix in recording the injunctions which God gave respecting the building of the tabernacle, yet he repeats the same narrative here almost in the same words; and this he does with the best design, and for very good reasons. For it was of much importance that it might be seen by actual comparison how exactly the artificers had conformed everything to the pattern laid down by God: and this, not only in commendation of their obedience, but because it behooved that there should be nothing human in the structure; for although they might each of them have exerted themselves strenuously in the work, still it was not lawful for them to give the slightest scope to their own inventions; nay, this would have been a profanation of the sacred edifice, not to follow in every part what had been so carefully dictated to Moses. And this might avail as a restraint upon them in future times, so that they might not violate God’s commands by any change or innovation. They did not indeed understand the reason of everything either in reference to number or measure; but it became them to be assured that God had commanded nothing without a purpose. Hence, also, their minds should have been elevated to the heavenly pattern, so as reverently to look up to the mysteries, obscure as they were, which it contained, until its full manifestation. This verbal repetition, then, reminds us how accurately the labor and art of men in the building corresponded with the command of God.

2. And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab. It is not without reason that Moses so often exalts the grace of God’s Spirit in the ingenuity and artistic skill of the workmen. In the first place he speaks of them as skillful architects, and then, by way of correction, adds that they were furnished from above with such intelligence. Thus the absurdity of the Papists is refuted, who, in order to prove free-will, think it sufficient to drag forward the passages in which rectitude of will is commended: whereas, even though men may will aright, it is foolish to infer that therefore they are possessed of free-will, unless it be proved that the will proceeds from themselves. Consequently, what follows in the text, — that every one contributed either of his labor or his substance to the building of the tabernacle, according as their hearts stirred them up, — does not so make men the authors of pious affections, as to defraud God of His praise. It is true that men understand — are willing — encourage themselves to holy endeavors; but the question is, from whence comes their intelligence, their will, and their zeal in well-doing? Scripture decides that they are the gifts of God and the Spirit: the Papists improperly arrogate them to themselves.

3. And they received of Moses all the offering. Here is set forth, first of all, the diligence and prudence both of Moses and the artificers, and secondly, their integrity. Their prudence is shewn in the distribution of the materials among them; their diligence in the quickness with which they commence the work, without waiting till they have enough for its completion; whilst they testify their extraordinary integrity when they voluntarily declare that enough has been given, and put a stop to the offerings, lest they should be more than they required. We know how few restrain themselves 297297     “Qui gardent leurs mains pures et nettes;” who keep their hands pure and clean — Fr. when an opportunity is given of thieving without detection; and, even if there be no disposition to deceive, yet most people are tempted by ambition, greedily to long for more to pass through their hands than they need. We see, then, how God directed them all to undertake the work of the sanctuary, and impelled them to persevere in it by His Spirit. This grace, however, manifests itself most fully in the marvelous ardor of the people. They were not very rich, for they had had no treasures laid up for a long period; and the wealthiest among them had no more than what they had secretly conveyed away out of Egypt; whilst the building was sumptuous; and still they do not cease from contributing more than was necessary, until an edict forbade them. Such promptitude and liberality was worthy of no common praise; and hence it is more wonderful that they should soon afterwards neglect the true God in whose service they were thus zealous, and fall into foul idolatry. Let us learn from hence, that the pious zeal, which existed in them for a short time, emanated from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and further, that all our best feelings vanish, unless the gift of stedfastness be superadded.

What follows represents, as by a lively image, as we have said, how faithfully they executed whatever God had prescribed, so as not to vary from it even in the smallest thread.

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