Bible Commentary: Exodus 37-38

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Bible Commentary

Exodus 37-38

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The Tabernacle Accoutrements

The building of the tabernacle and the items God commanded to be in it was a monumental task. In chapters 37 and 38, Bezalel makes the implements of the temple according to the commands God had earlier given Moses. No doubt the details are repeated to show that all was done exactly as God had instructed. And it should be pointed out that Bezalel did not work alone. He was the overseer and had many artisans working under him (see Exodus 36:8). Aholiab and those under him did all of the weaving and engraving (Exodus 38:23).

Chapter 37, concerning the furnishings of the sanctuary, begins with the manner in which Bezalel constructed the Ark of the Covenant, including the mercy seat and the cherubim. The text exactly follows the instructions God had given Moses on how the construction was to be done (see Exodus 25:10-22). The only thing left out here is God's instruction that the tablets of the Testimony be put into the ark and that the mercy seat be put on top of it—which we will later find Moses doing once the tabernacle is complete (Exodus 40:20). In the same way, all of the instructions God gave regarding the table of showbread (Exodus 25:23-30) are followed by Bezalel in chapter 37. The only detail not repeated is God's instruction that the showbread be placed on the table—which, again, is something that happens once the tabernacle is finished (Exodus 40:4, 22-23). Then we see here the construction of the lampstand or menorah—also according to God's instructions in chapter 25 (verses 31-40). The only thing left out is the lighting of its lamps, which, still again, is done when the tabernacle is completed (Exodus 40:4, 25). Then we are presented with the making of the altar of incense, following the instructions God gave in chapter 30.

Chapter 38 concerns the court of the tabernacle. It begins with the construction of the altar of burnt offering, according to God's instructions in Exodus 27:1-8. Then follows the bronze laver or washbasin, according to God's instructions from Exodus 30:17-21. Finally, we see the construction of the court itself, following what God told Moses in Exodus 27:9-19. Notice that the various furnishings, including those inside the sanctuary, were made with rings to slide poles through for carrying. This was to keep people from touching the holy implements. God's perfection and glory were symbolized by these items, and thus they were not to be profaned.

The chapter ends with a summary of the precious metals that went into the building of the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings. As a talent weighed about 70 pounds, equaling 3,000 shekels, the weight of all the gold used may have been around a ton. The weight of the bronze was around 2 1/2 tons. And the silver added up to the enormous weight of 3 1/2 tons! Indeed, silver was used in even the most basic elements of the tabernacle and its accoutrements. As The Nelson Study Bible notes: "Although the tabernacle was a tent, it was not a makeshift dwelling. It was a glorious shrine that symbolized the presence of the living God in the midst of His people." Lest we think these are unimportant or insignificant details, Hebrews 8:5 and Hebrews 9:23 remind us that the tabernacle and its furnishings were "the copy and shadow of the heavenly things" and "copies of the things in the heavens."

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