Exegetical Notes: Exodus 25:1-9; 31:1-6

25 The Lord said to Moses,

A frequently repeated phrase throughout the book of Exodus. It highlights both the authority of Moses to lead as well as his role as God’s authentic messenger to the nation.

“Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.

“a contribution” -God gives instruction to Moses to begin assembling the raw materials needed to construct the tabernacle of the Lord. Remember, in the request for a contribution, Israel would be giving largely from the spoils God recently supplied the nation as they departed Egypt (Exodus 12:36).

APP: God ultimately provides all that is needed to accomplish those tasks to which He has called His people.

“whose heart moves him” -“This passage speaks of the need for voluntary contributions, setting a pattern for worship that has always characterized biblical religion. Although God himself could provide anything ever needed for his purposes, including his worship, he delegated to his people the opportunity to do so and thereby gave to them the gift of experiencing generosity and self-sacrifice, as well as a sense of direct involvement in their essential ongoing relationship with him.” 

Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 563.

“generosity and self-sacrifice” – Two characteristics of God Himself, which are most clearly displayed and understood through the cross of Christ.

These also provide evidence of one’s desire to genuinely worship God. Remember David’s words in 1 Chronicles 21:22-24:

“22 And David said to Ornan, “Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the Lord—give it to me at its full price—that the plague may be averted from the people.” 23 Then Ornan said to David, “Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.” 24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

And Jesus’ comments concerning the widow’s offering in Luke 21:1-4.

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Paul also wrote, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” ( 2 Cor. 9:7).

“for me a contribution” – Notice the focus of this offering. It is for God. Gifts are not given in hopes that they might provide future and more abundant personal wealth. This runs contrary to many modern day pleas for offerings we might observe in some contemporary churches.

APP: Worship is a means for celebrating the character and action of God. It is “for him”. It isn’t something we do for us. As suggested by other contemporary church leaders.

And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze,

“this is the contribution” – God gave Moses an overview of the construction/fabrication materials. The materials required for the tabernacle and worship therein will be described further as they appear in the subsequent instructions, that is, chaps. 25–30. They are grouped here according to type. First come the metals (v. 3), then the fabrics (v. 4), then the skins and the wood (v. 5), followed by the lamp oil, the fragrant anointing oil ingredients and the incense ingredients (v. 6), and finally by the gemstones to be used on the high priest’s special breastpiece (v. 7). Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 563–564.

Two notes concerning this offering: 
1. It has purpose.
 2. It has variety.

blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair,

tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood,

oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense,

onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.

And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

This verse brings difficulty if you consider what is actually being said. How does man make an adequate dwelling place for God Himself? Is this not a task too great for man? Thus chapter 31 shows God’s intervention through a man gifted by the Spirit.

Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.

31 The Lord said to Moses,

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,

“called by name” -The idiom employed in the Hebrew connotes specifically selecting a single individual, that is, naming that individual to a job. In this case Bezalel, and no one else, was to head the tabernacle construction project; no substitute could be employed in his place, and his specific background and skills were the ones God planned to enhance with the filling of his Spirit. Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 650.

“by name” – APP: God has specific tasks intended for specific people.

and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship,

Notice the blending of ability and spiritual gifting highlighted in this verse. But note their relationship in the quote below.

“Verse 3 does not say that God gave Bezalel four things (“Spirit of God, … skill, ability and knowledge”) but correctly translated says that he gave Bezalel mainly one thing: his Spirit, which then perfected Bezalel’s wisdom, insight, knowledge, and work performance in general. The clearest translation of the Hebrew might be: “I have filled him with God’s Spirit in [regard to] wisdom, in insight, in knowledge, and in every sort of work.” In other words, the way the filling of the Spirit of God affected Bezalel was to enable him to be wiser, more insightful, more knowledgeable, and more capable of any sort of work to which God assigned him.” Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 650.

to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze,

in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you:

“And I have given” – Ultimately, any way in which an individual honors God through service comes from God’s hand.

QUES: Could it be that the Israelites learned much of these skills during their years of slavery in Egypt? What implications might we gather from this for our lives?