God is here drawing towards a conclusion of what he had to say to Moses
upon the mount, where he had now been with him forty days and forty
nights; and yet no more is recorded of what was said to him in all that
time than what we have read in the six chapters foregoing. In this,
I. He appoints what workmen should be employed in the building and
furnishing of the tabernacle,
II. He repeats the law of the sabbath, and the religious observance of
III. He delivers to him the two tables of the testimony at parting,
|Appointment of Bezaleel and Aholiab.
||B. C. 1491.|
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son
of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:
3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and
in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of
4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and
5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of
timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.
6 And 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;
7 The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the
testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the
furniture of the tabernacle,
8 And the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick
with all his furniture, and the altar of incense,
9 And the altar of burnt offering with all his furniture, and
the laver and his foot,
10 And the cloths of service, and the holy garments for Aaron
the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the
11 And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy
place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they
A great deal of fine work God had ordered to be done about the
tabernacle; the materials the people were to provide, but who must put
them into form? Moses himself was learned in all the learning of the
Egyptians, nay, he was well acquainted with the words of God, and the
visions of the Almighty; but he knew not how to engrave or embroider.
We may suppose that there were some very ingenious men among the
Israelites; but, having lived all their days in bondage in Egypt, we
cannot think they were any of them instructed in these curious arts.
They knew how to make brick and work in clay, but to work in gold and
in cutting diamonds was what they had never been brought up to. How
should the work be done with the neatness and exactness that were
required when they had no goldsmiths or jewellers but what must be made
out of masons and bricklayers? We may suppose that there were a
sufficient number who would gladly be employed, and would do their
best; but it would be hard to find out a proper person to preside in
this work. Who was sufficient for these things? But God takes
care of this matter also.
I. He nominates the persons that were to be employed, that there might
be no contest about the preferment, nor envy at those that were
preferred, God himself having made the choice.
1. Bezaleel was to be the architect, or master workman,
He was of the tribe of Judah, a tribe that God delighted to honour; the
grandson of Hur, probably that Hur who had helped to hold up Moses's
and was at this time in commission with Aaron for the government of the
people in the absence of Moses
out of that family which was of note in Israel was the workman chosen,
and it added no little honour to the family that a branch of it was
employed, though but as a mechanic, or handicraft tradesman, for the
service of the tabernacle. The Jews' tradition is that Hur was the
husband of Miriam; and, if so, it was requisite that God should appoint
him to this service, lest, if Moses himself had done it, he should be
thought partial to his own kindred, his brother Aaron also being
advanced to the priesthood. God will put honour upon Moses's relations,
and yet will make it to appear that he takes not the honour to himself
or his own family, but that it is purely the Lord's doing.
2. Aholiab, of the tribe of Dan, is appointed next to Bezaleel, and
partner with him,
Two are better than one. Christ sent forth his disciples who were to
rear the gospel tabernacle, two and two, and we read of his two
witnesses. Aholiab was of the tribe of Dan, which was one of the less
honourable tribes, that the tribes of Judah and Levi might not be
lifted up, as if they were to engross all the preferments; to prevent a
schism in the body, God gives honour to that part which lacked,
1 Corinthians 12:24.
The head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee. Hiram,
who was the head workman in the building of Solomon's temple, was also
of the tribe of Dan,
2 Chronicles 2:14.
3. There were others that were employed by and under these in the
several operations about the tabernacle,
Note, When God has work to do he will never want instruments to do it
with, for all hearts and heads too are under his eye, and in his hand;
and those may cheerfully go about any service for God, and go on in it,
who have reason to think that, one way or other, he has called them to
it; for whom he calls he will own and bear out.
II. He qualifies these persons for the service
I have filled him with the Spirit of God; and
in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom.
1. Skill in common arts and employments is the gift of God; from him
are derived both the faculty and the improvement of the faculty. It is
he that puts even this wisdom into the inward parts,
He teaches the husbandman discretion
and the tradesman too; and he must have the praise of it.
2. God dispenses his gifts variously, one gift to one, another to
another, and all for the good of the whole body, both of mankind and of
the church. Moses was fittest of all to govern Israel, but Bezaleel
was fitter than he to build the tabernacle. The common benefit is very
much supported by the variety of men's faculties and inclinations; the
genius of some leads them to be serviceable one way, of others another
way, and all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit,
1 Corinthians 12:11.
This forbids pride, envy, contempt, and carnal emulation, and
strengthens the bond of mutual love.
3. Those whom God calls to any service he will either find, or make,
fit for it. If God give the commission, he will in some measure give
the qualifications, according as the service is. The work, that was to
be done here was to make the tabernacle and the utensils of it, which
are here particularly reckoned up,
&c. And for this the persons employed were enabled to work in gold,
and silver, and brass. When Christ sent his apostles to rear the
gospel tabernacle, he poured out his Spirit upon them, to enable them
to speak with tongues the wonderful works of God; not to work upon
metal, but to work upon men; so much more excellent were the gifts, as
the tabernacle to be pitched was a greater and more perfect
tabernacle, as the apostle calls it,
|The Observance of the Sabbath.
||B. C. 1491.|
12 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
13 Speak 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.
14 Ye 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.
15 Six 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.
16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to
observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a
17 It 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.
18 And 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.
I. A strict command for the sanctification of the sabbath day,
The law of the sabbath had been given them before any other law, by was
it had been inserted in the body of the moral law, in the fourth
commandment; it had been annexed to the judicial law
and here it is added to the first part of the ceremonial law, because
the observance of the sabbath is indeed the hem and hedge of the whole
law; where no conscience is made of that, farewell both godliness and
honesty; for, in the moral law, it stands in the midst between the two
tables. Some suggest that it comes in here upon another account. Orders
were now given that a tabernacle should be set up and furnished for the
service of God with all possible expedition; but lest they should think
that the nature of the work, and the haste that was required, would
justify them in working at it on sabbath days, that they might get it
done the sooner, this caution is seasonably inserted, Verily, or
nevertheless, my sabbaths you shall keep. Though they must
hasten the work, yet they must not make more haste than good speed;
they must not break the law of the sabbath in their haste: even
tabernacle-work must give way to the sabbath-rest; so jealous is God
for the honour of his sabbaths. Observe what is here said concerning
the sabbath day.
1. The nature, meaning, and intention, of the sabbath, by the
declaration of which God puts an honour upon it, and teaches us to
value it. Divers things are here said of the sabbath.
(1.) It is a sign between me and you
The institution of the sabbath was a great instance of God's favour to
them, and a sign that he had distinguished them from all other people;
and their religious observance of the sabbath was a great instance of
their duty and obedience to him. God, by sanctifying this day among
them, let them know that he sanctified them, and set them apart for
himself and his service; otherwise he would not have revealed to them
his holy sabbaths, to be the support of religion among them. Or it may
refer to the law concerning the sabbath, Keep my sabbaths, that you
may know that I the Lord do sanctify you. Note, If God by his grace
incline our hearts to keep the law of the fourth commandment, it will
be an evidence of a good work wrought in us by his Spirit. If we
sanctify God's day, it is a sign between him and us that he has
sanctified our hearts: hence it is the character of the blessed man
that he keepeth the sabbath from polluting it,
The Jews, by observing one day in seven, after six days' labour,
testified and declared that they worshipped the God who made the world
in six days, and rested the seventh; and so distinguished themselves
from other nations, who, having first lost the sabbath, which was
instituted to be a memorial of the creation, by degrees lost the
knowledge of the Creator, and gave that honour to the creature which
was due to him alone.
(2.) It is holy unto you
that is, "It is designed for your benefit as well as for God's honour;"
the sabbath was made for man. Or, "It shall be accounted holy by
you, and shall so be observed, and you shall look upon it a sacrilege
to profane it."
(3.) It is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord,
It is separated from common use, and designed for the honour and
service of God, and by the observance of it we are taught to rest from
worldly pursuits and the service of the flesh, and to devote ourselves,
and all we are, have, and can do, to God's glory.
(4.) It was to be observed throughout their generations, in
every age, for a perpetual covenant.
This was to be one of the most lasting tokens of that covenant which
was between God and Israel.
2. The law of the sabbath. They must keep it
keep it as a treasure, as a trust, observe it and preserve it, keep it
from polluting it, keep it up as a sign between God and them, keep it
and never part with it. The Gentiles had anniversary-feasts, to the
honour of their gods; but it was peculiar to the Jews to have a weekly
festival; this therefore they must carefully observe.
3. The reason of the sabbath; for God's laws are not only backed with
the highest authority, but supported with the best reason. God's own
example is the great reason,
As the work of creation is worthy to be thus commemorated, so the great
Creator is worthy to be thus imitated, by a holy rest, the seventh day,
after six days' labour, especially since we hope, in further conformity
to the same example, shortly to rest with him from all our labours.
4. The penalty to be inflicted for the breach of this law: "Every one
that defileth the sabbath, by doing any work therein but
works of piety and mercy, shall be cut off from among his people
he shall surely be put to death.
The magistrate must cut him off the sword of justice if the crime can
be proved; if it cannot, or if the magistrate be remiss, and do not do
his duty, God will take the work into his own hands, and cut him off by
a stroke from heaven, and his family shall be rooted out of Israel."
Note, The contempt and profanation of the sabbath day is an iniquity to
be punished by the judges; and, if men do not punish it, God will, here
or hereafter, unless it be repented of.
II. The delivering of the two tables of testimony to Moses. God had
promised him these tables when he called him up into the mount
and now, when he was sending him down, he delivered them to him, to be
carefully and honourably deposited in the ark,
1. The ten commandments which God had spoken upon mount Sinai in the
hearing of all the people were now written, in perpetuam rei
memoriam--for a perpetual memorial, because that which is written
2. They were written in tables of stone, prepared, not by Moses,
as it should seem (for it is intimated,
that he found them ready written when he went up to the mount), but, as
some think, by the ministry of angels. The law was written in tables
of stone, to denote the perpetual duration of it (what can be
supposed to last longer than that which is written in stone, and laid
up?), to denote likewise the hardness of our hearts; one might more
easily write in stone than write any thing that is good in our corrupt
and sinful hearts.
3. They were written with the finger of God, that is, by his
will and power immediately, without the use of any instrument. It is
God only that can write his law in the heart; he gives a heart of
flesh, and then, by his Spirit, which is the finger of God,
he writes his will in the fleshly tables of the heart,
2 Corinthians 3:3.
4. They were written in two tables, being designed to direct us in our
duty both towards God and towards man.
5. They are called tables of testimony, because this written
law testified both the will of God concerning them and his good-will
towards them, and would be a testimony against them if they were
6. They were delivered to Moses, probably with a charge, before he laid
them up in the ark, to show them publicly, that they might be seen
and read of all men, and so what they had heard with the hearing of
the ear might now be brought to their remembrance. Thus the law was
given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.