Day 44 (Feb. 13): Israelites get to work building the Ark, a table, lampstand, incense altar, altar of burnt offerings, wash basin, courtyard, and making the priests attire

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 37-39:31

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. (Exodus 37:1-29): Can you remind us again what the significance is to all the gold?

A. It was the most valuable material available, and therefore required the greatest sacrifice on the part of God’s people.

Q. (37:17-24): What is the significance of the almond blossom design for the lampstand?  The one that comes to my mind is maybe God is the stem and we are the branches.  And from us, with God as our stronghold, the stem, we can spread his word to others, the buds?  Or, in this case it may be just Israelites?  Am I in the ballpark?

A. There are two significances to the almond tree (which will prominently appear again in Numbers and also in Jeremiah).  First, the almond tree was the first tree to bloom in the Middle East after the winter, making it a symbol of new life and renewal.

The other symbolism of the almond tree is a word play.  The word for almond (shâqêd)in Hebrew is very similar to the word for “lookout,” “watchful,” or “unresting.”  So, as the shape and form of an almond tree, with ever burning candles, the Menorah would have been a powerful symbol of God’s protectiveness and watching over His people day and night.  Cool, huh?

Q. (37:24): Where could the Israelites find 75 pounds of gold to make this.  Is gold easy to find in the desert?  If they used gold they already had, then where did they get it.  What I’m asking is where did the gold come from originally?  I always think of gold in Alaska and the West Coast.

A. They got it from the Egyptians when they left Egypt, in addition to whatever the people had themselves before they left.  There is no indication that the people were mining gold at this point.

Q. (37:25): Any significance to the horns?

A. The horn is an ancient symbol of power, and it still is to some extent.  It’s another symbol to watch for in subsequent stories.

Q. (38:1-7):  Why bronze?  Is it because it has a higher melting point needed for the burnt offerings?

A. Yes, Israel was in the midst of the Bronze Age during this time.  (We will see how other tribes enter the iron age as the story progresses.)  Bronze was the primary material used to make tools and other items during this time.  While not as tough as iron, bronze is tough stuff that can stand up to high heat.  Generally, items that went inside the tent were made of gold and silver — though silver is used both places— and items in the courtyard — the altar, washbasin, etc. — were made of bronze.

Q. (38:9-20) Is linen symbolic?

A. While not as expensive as the precious metals or stones, there would have been intense effort put into making the twisted linen, making it a valuable material.  It is just another example of the people (probably women in this case) making important sacrifices for God and the greater good of the tribes.

Q. (38:24-31): The inventory is to show how much the Israelites sacrificed their own belongings to make the Tabernacle as God instructed?

A. Yes.  And, also to show the investment that the people made for God.

Q. (39:30): The trust God has in Aaron after he pulled his shenanigan has me baffled.  Also, can you tell us the difference between Aaron’s and Moses’ duties?  Moses did not wear all of this fancy attire, right?

A. Aaron never seems to be punished for his role in the calf incident, kind of like other folks in our story so far that weren’t punished for their deceit — Jacob and Abraham — or other sins.  I don’t really know why.

Moses’ role in liberating the people is unique and won’t be carried on by someone else — though technically Joshua will become the leader — where as Aaron’s role as high priest will be an ongoing role for the people, hence the fancy duds.  The high priest will be THE person chosen to go into God’s presence on the Day of Atonement, (What is that, you ask?  The answer is coming up soon!) which will make that person the most important person in the entire nation, even more important than the leader or king.  I’d say he deserves something nice for that level of responsibility.

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