Day 43 (Feb. 12): The willing give offerings for Tabernacle construction, God gives skills to some to guide the construction

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Exodus 35-36

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (35:3): No fire?  What’s the deal with that?

A. Keep in mind that we mostly use fire for entertainment today, so we’re a long way from the original context of this question.  We also have the ability (usually) to start a fire with just the push of a button or the strike of a match; the Israelites didn’t have that option.

There are a few particular reasons why the act of making the fire was forbidden within a dwelling (which is important).  First, you wouldn’t build a fire like that to keep warm.  God isn’t trying to freeze anybody out.  Secondly, a fire like that would require a lot of work: gathering the wood, setting it up, and kindling the flame, which defeated the whole purpose of the command in the previous verse: they were not supposed to work!  Building a fire was work.  The other thing is that, in this context, a fire built like this inside a house or tent would have been for the purpose of doing more work: cooking, cleaning, washing things, etc.  Here again, more work.  So in saying “no” to fire, God is really saying, “don’t build a fire whose only purpose is for you to be able to work inside your home.  That defeats the purpose of Sabbath.”

Q. (35:13): Rob, do you know anything about the Bread of the Presence?

A. According to my sources, even Jewish authorities on the subject don’t know exactly what this part of the ritual was about.  We know that Leviticus 24:5-9 gives instructions on how to make it, and 1 Chronicles 9:32, we see which of the Levites were responsible for making it.  There was mention of a very specific recipe that has been lost to history.  The huge bread loaves — weighing around 13 pounds each — were to be placed on the table in the holy section of the Tabernacle, across from the Menorah.  Since God ordered for there to be 12 loaves presented each Sabbath, it would appear that the purpose was for the Israelites to be reminded on God’s daily provision for each of the tribes.

Q. (35:21, 22): I notice the Bible said those “whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved” and “all whose hearts were willing” brought offerings to make the things the Lord commanded.  Thus, there were those who did not care to bring offerings?  The Israelites were like any other society as far as some followed God and some didn’t?

A. I don’t have a good answer to this question.  There’s really no way to tell.  The story only tells us that God put it on the hearts of certain people — perhaps the ones that benefitted the most when the looted the Egyptians? — and they responded.

O. By the way, an ephod is a sleeveless garment worn by Jewish priests.  See what it looks like at http://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/ephod/

Q. (35:35): The Bible says that the Lord has given Bezalel and Oholiab special skills for making all of the Lord’s requests.  Can you tell us in the Bible where it talks about skills that God has given every person, even us?

A. As far as craftsmanship goes, this passage, and these people, are unique.  It appears that God created them for this purpose, and in their responding to God, they are answering their life’s calling.

The Bible doesn’t talk much about the type of skills mentioned here.  It doesn’t say “God created some people to be incredible athletes, some to be great piano players, and some to be brilliant thinkers.”  But what it does say, the NT in particular, is that we must use whatever talents God has given us for His glory, like the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  Now that means different things to every one of us.  But the cool thing is, as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12, is that when we each use our gifts for the benefit of the community, we become unified and form the Body of Christ: the living presence of God on the face of the earth.  When we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, this is the concept that the person has in mind: coming together, sharing our talents for the common good rather than personal glory, living sacrificially, and inviting others to be a part of it.  That is what it means to be a community living as the Body of Christ.

Q. (36:8-38): All of this work to build the Tabernacle makes me think of sewing all of that cloth together … in the desert.  How did they keep from getting it dirty?  And they didn’t have sewing machines.  I’m just wondering how they would go about such a task.  Then, this made me think of something we haven’t talked about yet: the climate.  Can you tell us what conditions they would have been faced with living in the desert for so, so long?

A. Well, if they lived in the desert for so many years, and especially if they had lived in Egypt, which is certainly mostly desert, the people must have become quite skilled at sewing and maintaining clothes in the midst of the desert climate.  I guess I would say that sand was just a part of life to them.  If their primary dwelling was tents rather than houses, then they probably faced the task of dealing with sand daily.  I couldn’t tell you very much about how they did so, but they would have been forced to make it work.

Regarding the climate: as anyone who has been to the beach can tell you, sand heats up really fast!  But it also loses that heat more quickly than rock.  So life in a desert is about dealing with extreme heat during the day, and (in certain seasons) the bitter cold at night.  But honestly, the reasons people don’t live in a desert have NOTHING to do with the climate: it’s the fact that there is no food.  Nothing much edible grows, and there aren’t many animals and no water outside of the occasional oasis.  God was providing these for His people so that they could make their home in the desert during this trial period.  We will soon see how they fail the test.  So basically, if you could come up with food and water, which they had, the Israelites were able to overcome the rest of the problems.

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