Opening Prayer: Almighty and gracious God, we come before you as your bride, and we ask that you would wash us with the water of your word. Wash us that we might be made spotless and equipped to serve in your house. Through Jesus Christ, Amen!
Here, the instructions for building the tabernacle are beginning to be carried out. Notice that Moses begins the new covenant of Sinai with a reminder of the Sabbath (35:1-3). This is a reversal of the “old” covenant sequence of the instructions for building the tabernacle which ended with the Sabbath command (31:12-17). Contrast this Lord and his building project with Pharaoh and his.
Nobility and Generosity
Moses commands the people in the name of Yahweh for all those with a “willing heart” to give an offering to the Lord of gold, silver, and bronze. A “willing heart” is literally a princely or noble heart (cf. Num. 21:18, 1 Sam. 2:8, Ps. 47:10, etc). What is striking is that this offering is considered an act of nobility; the ability to give is an act of a noble. This is why God requires his people to give tithes and offerings; you are his nobles, his royal people and therefore you must give like it. There is clearly a number of people involved in the actual construction of the tabernacle. As we have noted previously, “gifted artisan” is literally “wise of heart” (35:10). Wisdom has everything to do with what it creates. Wisdom is always justified by her children (Mt. 11:19). The congregation departs from Moses and everyone whose “heart was lifted” and whose spirit was “enlisted” brought the Lord’s offering (35:21). The word for “willing” (35:21-22) is the verb form of the word for “noble” and is often used for soldiers and officers volunteering/enlisting for battle (Jdg. 5:2, 9, 2 Chr. 17:16), but the same form is used in a parallel context in the building of the temple (1 Chr. 29:5). This giving is not merely noble, it is princely and martial. This offering is a reaffirmation that Israel is the army of Yahweh (cf. Ex. 6:26, etc.).
Women and Artists
It’s striking that the text puts so much emphasis on who is bringing the offerings. The “men and women” bring jewelry offerings (35:22), “every man” brought offerings of thread and linen (35:23), “all the women” spun yarn and all the wise women spun yarn of goats’ hair (35:25-26), “rulers” brought precious stones (35:27), and the conclusion summary is that the “children (‘sons’ lit.) of Israel” brought a freewill/enlistment offering (35:29). Bezalel and Aholiab are clearly set up as the foremen of the building project (35:30-35). But they are working with “every gifted artisan” in whom God has put wisdom and understanding. Given the passage, it is the women in particular who are noted for being “gifted artisans” and for their “wisdom” (35:25-26). The fact that women are singled out and recognized for their part in the building of the tabernacle is significant: the tabernacle itself is already pictured as feminine (26:3, 5, 6, 17) and perhaps there is some connection to the ‘fire offerings’ as well which is spelled with the same letters as the word for “woman” (cf. 29:18, 25, 41). Since the Church is the “bride of Christ” and the “mother” of all those who believe, it is not surprising that the tabernacle and temple should be considered feminine as well (cf. Song of Songs). But this is also related to Israel’s calling, the sort of army Israel is supposed to be: remember it was the courageous midwives who defied the Pharaoh’s orders (Ex. 1), mothers who hid their sons and daughters who helped them (Ex. 2), and later it was the Hebrew women who took the lead in plundering the Egyptians (Ex. 3:22).
The Offering and the Building
The people continued to bring the “Enlistment Offerings” until the craftsmen notified Moses that they had more than enough supplies for the project (36:2-7). Literally, the craftsmen are “wise men” which contrasts with the “wise men” of Pharaoh who with the magicians mimicked Yahweh’s power (Ex. 7:11). Interestingly, the description of sewing the curtains together uses a different words than previously: instead of joining “a woman to her sister” (cf. 26:3ff), it says joining “one to one.” This joining of one to one is to be done such that there might be “one tabernacle” (36:13, 18, cf. 26:6, 11). It should also be noted that much of the language of the tabernacle is anatomical: the sides of the tabernacle are described as “ribs” (36:25, 31, 32), they are covering the tent with “skins” (35:7, 23, 36:19), and the tabernacle has “lips” (36:11, 17) and a “head” (36:29, 38, cf. 26:24). If the tabernacle is a woman or at least represents Israel as the bride of Yahweh, then this is the construction of the new Eve. In this covenant marriage between God and his people, he is creating a new bride with whom he can become one with.
Conclusions and Applications
You are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the bride of the Lord Jesus. You are called upon to imitate “Lady Wisdom.” You have been given the Spirit of wisdom so that you might be “gifted craftsmen.” But our construction project is first and foremost bound up with people. As Spirit-filled craftsmen you are called upon to raise up faithful and godly children. As Spirit-filled craftsmen you are called upon to beautify and glorify your wives and husbands. As Spirit-filled craftsmen you are called upon to build the house of God through ministry to the saints and the strangers and orphans and widows.
Lastly, this call to ministry is a call to battle and warfare. But our warfare is the warfare of seduction, the warfare of a woman. We are called upon to embody the gospel such that the world is drawn to it. We do not compete with the world, we offer the reality to which there are so many false substitutes. You are called upon to be Hebrew midwives and Master Craftsmen. You are Bazalels and Shiphrahs.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, we ask that you would give us your Spirit more and more. Empower us to fight sin and wickedness so that we might create beautiful pictures of your gospel in our families, in our homes, in all that we do.