Exodus 38:1-31

Daybreak for Students

Exodus 38:1-31

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK
Exodus 38
And Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord commanded Moses. — Exodus 38:22

In this modern age of technology, computers can accomplish many tasks very quickly. However, they need to be programmed precisely in order to function properly. For example, in some computer languages, if one semicolon is inserted in the wrong place, nothing will happen — at least, nothing that was expected — because a semicolon signals the conclusion of an instruction. To those of us who are unfamiliar with programming language, incorrect insertion of a semicolon might seem like a small matter. However, we’d be wrong! If we want the program to work properly, those semicolons have to be in the right places. When programming is done correctly, suddenly the power of the computer is at our disposal. 

This need for paying close attention to detail is portrayed in today’s text. At first glance, this chapter in Exodus may not seem to have much relevance to the twenty-first century in which we live. Yet, it offers a glimpse into the nature of God. Perhaps we do not fully understand why God planned the Tabernacle as He did. We recognize that it had to be portable, so that it could be disassembled from time to time and transported to a new location, but why was the Tabernacle to be so beautifully designed? Why did the altar have to be of shittim wood? Did it really matter that the hooks of the pillar and their fillets (bands) were of silver? Why twenty pillars instead of twenty-five? We do not know the answers to those questions.

What we do know is that the Tabernacle was the subject of much divine thought and care, and God is just as intimately concerned with the details of our lives. His Word tells us that He knows the number of hairs on our heads, is aware when we get up and sit down, and even notes the thoughts of our hearts! 

In our focus verse, we read that Bezaleel, the head artisan, took God’s instructions seriously and “made all that the Lord commanded Moses.” By doing so, the Children of Israel were assured that God would be pleased to dwell among them.

Just as God expected the craftsmen of Israel to work exactly according to His directions without questioning them, He expects us to trust His judgment and follow Him in faith. When we do, we can be assured that His holy presence will be with us.

BACKGROUND

This chapter includes the final segment of instructions regarding the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings. It provides the details for the altar of burnt offering and the bronze laver (verses 1-8), then moves to a description of the courtyard (verses 9-20). The chapter concludes with an inventory of the bronze, silver, and gold that were used (verses 21-31).

Although Moses had overall responsibility for the construction of the Tabernacle, he delegated direct oversight of the project to skilled artisans — among them, Bezaleel and Aholiab — to do the actual work. Each verse in the first section of this chapter begins with the words, “And he . . . ,” referring to Bezaleel. 

The description of the altar of burnt offering in this chapter is similar to the one in Exodus 27:1-8. The altar was a hollow rectangle, approximately seven feet across and five feet tall. A grate allowed a supply of air to the fire and permitted the ashes to fall through into the pan placed below. There were horns at the corners of the altar to which the sacrifices were bound with cords. A laver made of brass (also described in Exodus 30:17-21) stood between the Tabernacle and the brazen altar and held the water for the ceremonial washings of the priests. Verse 8 relates that the women brought their “lookingglasses” for use in the construction of the laver; these were mirrors made of highly-polished bronze.

In addition to the furnishings for the Tabernacle, Bezaleel also constructed the courtyard, which was the open area surrounding the holy building. Approximately 150 feet by 75 feet in size, the courtyard was enclosed by a framework hung with curtains that were approximately seven-and-a-half feet tall. Because these curtains were not as tall as the Tabernacle, the building itself would have been visible throughout the camp.

The Tabernacle was very costly to build, utilizing massive amounts of gold, silver, and brass. By Moses’ appointment, the Levites had charge of the offerings that were brought in for the project. According to verse 21, Ithamar, the son of Aaron, was chosen to have oversight of this account. Each of the roughly 600,000 adult males of the Israelites was responsible for some of the cost — verse 26 tells us each was to donate a bekah (or half a shekel) for the work. Offerings were made on an unconditional basis because it was God himself who designated how the materials were to be built into a furnished structure.

AMPLIFIED OUTLINE

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
V.   The construction of the Tabernacle
     D.   The construction of the building
           1.   The Tabernacle assembled
                 b.   The making of the parts
                       (11)   The altar of burnt offering (38:1-7)
                       (12)   The bronze laver (38:8)
                       (13)   The court (38:9-20)
                       (14)   The metals used (38:21-31)

A CLOSER LOOK

  1. What did the women bring for use in constructing the laver? 

  2. Why do you think that some of the material for the Tabernacle came from contributions that each man was instructed to bring, while some came from freewill offerings?

  3. What can we learn from the attitude of the Israelites with regard to this detailed project?

CONCLUSION

Let us be like Bezaleel in our text today, and be faithful in doing all that God would have us do, down to the smallest detail.