Sacred Texts  Bible  Bible Commentary  Index 
Exodus Index
  Previous  Next 

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Exodus Chapter 31

Exodus 31:1

exo 31:1

The Builders (cf. Ex 35:30-36:1). - After having given directions for the construction of the sanctuary, and all the things required for the worship, Jehovah pointed out the builders, whom He had called to carry out the work, and had filled with His Spirit for that purpose. To "call by name" is to choose or appoint by name for a particular work (cf. Isa 45:3-4). Bezaleel was a grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, who is mentioned in Exo 17:10; Exo 24:14, and was called to be the master-builder, to superintend the whole of the building and carry out the artistic work; consequently he is not only invariably mentioned first (Exo 35:30; Exo 36:1-2), but in the accounts of the execution of the separate portions he is mentioned alone (Exo 37:1; Exo 38:22). Filling with the Spirit of God signifies the communication of an extraordinary and supernatural endowment and qualification, "in wisdom," etc., i.e., consisting of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and every kind of workmanship, that is to say, for the performance of every kind of work. This did not preclude either natural capacity or acquired skill, but rather presupposed them; for in Exo 31:6 it is expressly stated in relation to his assistants, that God had put wisdom into all that were wise-hearted (see at Exo 28:3). Being thus endowed with a supernaturally exalted gift, Bezaleel was qualified "to think out inventions," i.e., ideas or artistic designs. Although everything had been minutely described by Jehovah, designs and plans were still needed in carrying out the work, so that the result should correspond to the divine instructions.

Exodus 31:6

exo 31:6

There were associated with Bezaleel as assistants, Oholiab, the son of Achisamach, of the tribe of Dan, and other men endowed with understanding, whom God had filled with wisdom for the execution of His work. According to Exo 38:23, Oholiab was both faber, a master in metal, stone, and wood work, and also an artistic weaver of colours. In Exo 38:7-11, the words to be executed, which have been minutely described in ch. 24-30, are mentioned singly once more; and, in addition to these, we find in Exo 31:10 השּׂרד בּגדי mentioned, along with, or rather before, the holy dress of Aaron. This is the case also in Exo 35:19 and Exo 39:41, where there is also the additional clause, "to serve (שׁרת ministrare) in the sanctuary." They were composed, according to Exo 39:1, of blue and red purple, and crimson. The meaning of the word serad, which only occurs in these passages, is quite uncertain. The Rabbins understand by the bigde hasserad the wrappers in which the vessels of the sanctuary were enclosed when the camp was broken up, as these are called begadim of blue and red purple, and crimson, in Num 4:6. But this rendering is opposed to the words which follow, and which indicate their use in the holy service, i.e., in the performance of worship, and therefore are quite inapplicable to the wrappers referred to. There is even less ground for referring them, as Gesenius and others do, to the inner curtains of the tabernacle, or the inner hangings of the dwelling-place. For, apart from the uncertainty of the rendering given to serad, viz., netted cloth, filet, it is overthrown by the fact that these curtains of the dwelling-place were not of net-work; and still more decisively by the order in which the bigde hasserad occur in Exo 39:41, viz., not till the dwelling-place and tent, and everything belonging to them, have been mentioned, even down to the hangings of the court and the pegs of the tent, and all that remains to be noticed is the clothing of the priests. From the definition "to serve in the sanctuary," it is obvious that the bigde serad were clothes used in the worship, στολαὶ λειτουργικαί, as the lxx have rendered it in agreement with the rest of the ancient versions-that they were, in fact, the rich robes which constituted the official dress of the high priest, whilst "the holy garments for Aaron" were the holy clothes which were worn by him in common with the priests.

Exodus 31:12

exo 31:12

(cf. Exo 35:2-3). God concludes by enforcing the observance of His Sabbaths in the most solemn manner, repeating the threat of death and extermination in the case of every transgressor. The repetition and further development of this command, which was included already in the decalogue, is quite in its proper place here, inasmuch as the thought might easily have occurred, that it was allowable to omit the keeping of the Sabbath, when the execution of so great a work in honour of Jehovah had been commanded. "My Sabbaths:" by these we are to understand the weekly Sabbaths, not the other sabbatical festivals, since the words which follow apply to the weekly Sabbath alone. This was "a sign between Jehovah and Israel for all generations, to know (i.e., by which Israel might learn) that it was Jehovah who sanctified them," viz., by the sabbatical rest (see at Exo 20:11). It was therefore a holy thing for Israel (Exo 31:14), the desecration of which would be followed by the punishment of death, as a breach of the covenant. The kernel of the Sabbath commandment is repeated in Exo 31:15; the seventh day of the week, however, is not simply designated a "Sabbath," but שׁבּתון שׁבּת "a high Sabbath" (the repetition of the same word, or of an abstract form of the concrete noun, denoting the superlative; see Ges. 113, 2), and "holy to Jehovah" (see at Exo 16:23). For this reason Israel was to keep it in all future generations, i.e., to observe it as an eternal covenant (Exo 31:16), as in the case of circumcision, since it was to be a sign for ever between Jehovah and the children of Israel (Eze 20:20). The eternal duration of this sign was involved in the signification of the sabbatical rest, which is pointed out in Exo 20:11, and reaches forward into eternity.

Exodus 31:18

exo 31:18

When Moses had received all the instructions respecting the sanctuary to be erected, Jehovah gave him the two tables of testimony-tables of stone, upon which the decalogue was written with the finger of God. It was to receive these tables that he had been called up the mountain (Exo 24:12). According to Exo 32:16, the tables themselves, as well as the writing, were the work of God; and the writing was engraved upon them (חרוּת from חרת = χαράττειν), and the tables were written on both their sides (Exo 32:15). Both the choice of stone as the material for the tables, and the fact that the writing was engraved, were intended to indicate the imperishable duration of these words of God. The divine origin of the tables, as well as of the writing, corresponded to the direct proclamation of the ten words to the people from the summit of the mountain by the mouth of God. As this divine promulgation was a sufficient proof that they were the immediate word of God, unchanged by the mouth and speech of man, so the writing of God was intended to secure their preservation in Israel as a holy and inviolable thing. The writing itself was not a greater miracle than others, by which God has proved Himself to be the Lord of nature, to whom all things that He has created are subservient for the establishment and completion of His kingdom upon earth; and it can easily be conceived of without the anthropomorphic supposition of a material finger being possessed by God. Nothing is said about the dimensions of the tables: at the same time, we can hardly imagine them to have been as large as the inside of the ark; for stone slab 2 1/2 cubits long and 1 1/2 cubits broad, which must necessarily have been some inches in thickness to prevent their breaking in the hand, would have required the strength of Samson to enable Moses to carry them down the mountain "in his hand" (Exo 32:15), or even "in his two hands" (Deu 9:15, Deu 9:17). But if we suppose them to have been smaller than this, say at the most a cubit and a half long and one cubit broad, there would have been plenty of room on the four sides for the 172 words contained in the decalogue, with its threats and promises (Ex 20:2-17), without the writing being excessively small.

Next: Exodus Chapter 32