Lectionary Calendar
Friday, April 19th, 2024
the Third Week after Easter
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Exodus 35

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-3


Exodus 35:1. And Moses assembled = vayyakheyl]. This assembling suggests the idea of reuniting and strengthening the bonds of union among “all the congregation,” which, through the sad consequences of the sin of the golden calf, were no doubt very much loosened. And Moses does this by first impressing upon the people that most elevating observance of God’s laws, viz., the keeping holy of the Sabbath day, and then by affording them a common interest in a common work. He only now tells them of what he had been told by God (25–31) concerning the holy service. He invites them to bring free-will gifts for the construction of the tabernacle, its vessels, and the holy garments (Exodus 35:4-20). This wrought so effectually on their better nature that Moses found it necessary to restrain the spontaneous outflow of their hearty generosity (Exodus 36:5).


The covenant having been renewed, Moses now relates to the people what God had revealed concerning the time and place of divine worship.


1. Moses was never weary of impressing on the people the importance and divine obligation of the Sabbath day. For this there were several obvious reasons.
(1.) The Sabbath was part of the moral law.
(2.) It was necessitated by the conditions of the body and mind needing rest.
(3.) It was a recognition of God’s right to time.

(4.) An opportunity apart from the distractions and duties of life for drawing near unto God. All these reasons are in special force under the Christian dispensation. Why then should Christian preachers tire of teaching it, or Christian people tire of hearing it? It requires no very wide research to find that selfishness, worldliness, and sin are at the bottom of Sabbath desecration.
2. As this chapter deals mainly with the building of the sanctuary, this command may be regarded as applying to that. They were not to break the law even for so good a purpose. So Christians should not do evil on that day for the supposed benefit that may accrue. The question is not, Would it amuse and instruct to open museums on the Sabbath day; but, Is it right to do so? No! says God’s Word. Notice—

I. That the Sabbath was to be a rest after six days’ work. Hence, honest, diligent toil is of equal obligation. Do not let us lay all the emphasis on “Remember the Sabbath day,” and none on “Six days shalt thou labour.” Again, it would be easy to show that if a man has played away his working week he is unfitted for the sacred enjoyment of the day of rest.

II. That the Sabbath was to be a day of sacred rest. “An holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord.” Not of unsanctified idleness, but a cessation of exhausting labour, so that the mind might be wholly given to the refreshing duties which devolve upon that day. A man may no more waste the Lord’s time than his own. Keeping the Sabbath day holy does not mean simply the putting up of shutters, and the putting by of business; it means also attention to those sacred employments which devolve upon us as the servants of God.

III. That the Sabbath implied the cessation of unnecessary labour. “Ye shall kindle no fire,” &c. In eastern climates this would be quite unnecessary. And, indeed, as the materials of life in those climates are so simple and so easily procurable, very little manual work could be said to be necessary. The obvious exceptions, of course, were works of mercy to man and beast. With us it is different; fires, e.g., are necessary. But the prohibition against needless work is binding still. We have ample time to do our necessary works and to enjoy the luxuries of life. Let us not, nor oblige our servants to, rob God of the right to His own day.

In conclusion—Remember that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.
i. For man’s use. Not for his abuse. If a man wants recreation let him take it out of his own time. ii. For God’s worship. As the institution, or the confirmation at any rate of the Sabbath contemplated the tabernacle, so the Sabbath is inseparably, all through the ages, connected with the worship of God.

J. W. Burn.



Moral Law! Exodus 35:1-35.

(1.) The ceremonial law was like a scaffolding around a building which is being slowly and gradually raised. When the building is completed, the scaffolding is taken away. But the moral law is like the rafters, deep sunk in the building itself. These cannot be taken away without the ruin of the whole structure of revelation.

(2.) The ceremonial law is like the bright petals of a blossom, which drop off to make room for the fruit. But the moral law is like the stem, which upholds both blossom and fruit. For God is holy—God is good; and therefore the law of holiness and goodness must, like God, endure for ever.

“Thy God is good, His mercy nigh,

His love sustains thy tottering feet;

Trust Him, for His grace is sure,

Ever doth His Truth endure.


Sabbath! Exodus 35:2. The Sabbath was originally instituted as a day of rest; and was to be employed in the service of God. Of this latter circumstance the Jews had so far lost sight, that they substituted their own superstitious rites in the place of divine ordinances, and thus exchanged a spiritual for a merely ceremonial observance of the day. Concerning some of the superstitions which prevailed amongst the people, Basnage tells us that in the places where they had liberty, in the time of Maimonides, they sounded the trumpet six times to give notice that the Sabbath was beginning. At the first sound the countryman left his plough; at the second. they shut up their shops; at the third, they covered their pits. They lighted candles, and drew the bread out of the oven; but this last article deserves to be insisted on because of the different cases of conscience about which the masters are divided. When the sound of the sixth trumpet surprised those that had not as yet drawn out their bread from the oven, there the pious must leave it, &c.

“A Sabbath glory for the good

No night shall take away;

When shall Thy servant, Lord, attain

To that eternal day?”


Sabbath-Sanctuary! Exodus 35:2. The temple, says Hamilton, was a sacred place. In the Middle Ages it was usual to claim for churches the right of sanctuary; so that whosoever took refuge within the hallowed precincts was safe from the avenger. But it is not to a holy place, but to a holy day, that God has given this protecting privilege. Every seventh day was to be a sacred asylum for man and beast. Humboldt despised all religions and hated Christianity; yet he was forced to own that the “seventh day rest from labour” was an unspeakable blessing. But what Humboldt would not acknowledge, viz., its Divine authority, an eloquent Israelite has. Disraeli, in his “Tancred,” remarks that the life and property of Britain are protected by the law of Sinai. The hard-working people of England, he says, are secured a day of rest in every week by the Sinaitic Decalogue; for

“Sunday is the golden clasp

That binds together

The volume of the week.”


Sabbath-Service! Exodus 35:3. It is no easy matter to be everybody’s friend. Yet we do not fear to say that the friend we are introducing to our readers deserves that gracious name—we mean the Lord’s day. Our friend is most faithful and punctual; every seven days he comes round. However laborious our vocation, however painful our life, we are sure to see that friend reappear at the end of the week, inviting each of us to break for a few hours the monotony of our work, to give a new current to our thoughts, to put on our Sunday garments, and to enjoy necessary repose.

“Why do we heap huge mounds of years

Before us and behind,

And scour the Sabbath days that pass

Like angels on the wing!

Each turning round a small sweet face

As beautiful as near;

Because it is so small a face,

We will not see it clear.”

Verses 4-19



The instructions for the building and furniture of the Tabernacle were detailed in Exodus 25:0, &c. In this recapitulation, notice—

I. That the provision of the house of the Lord was obligatory. The command for worship, the time of worship, and the building for worship emanated from the same divine authority. Has, then, the obligation for the latter ceased? No! Christians should be cautious how they speak of the abolition of the Mosaic dispensation. Much of the terrible pest known as antinomianism is based on erroneous notions on this subject. True, as a dispensation it is abolished, inasmuch as we live under the dispensation of Christ. But many of the leading principles, provisions, and commands of the latter are based upon those of the former, and what has not, either by divine ordination or the necessities of the case been abrogated, is binding still. The law of our text—provision for public worship—has never been abolished, was sanctioned by Christ, practised by the Apostles, and has been recognised by the Church universal ever since. The command of our text is based—

1. Upon necessity.
(1.) The worship was a common worship, and therefore necessitated a place where people could meet together.
(2.) The worship was of perpetual obligation and frequent practice. Some provision must, therefore, be made against contingencies of weather, &c.
2. Upon utility. Private houses could not always be in a state of readiness, and must from their very nature lack those appliances without which order and decency would be impossible.

II. That the Lord’s house should be the result of the people’s free and generous will, Exodus 35:5. The principle held as good then as now, “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver,” &c. The people were not taxed for it. No Church rate was levied. No hand was laid on national property. To wrest contributions from unwilling and grudging hands for God’s service, is to overthrow the principles on which such service is founded, and to offer what God cannot accept. Here, as afterwards, such as had “a mind to work” were invited to work; such as were inclined to give were encouraged to give. No compulsion was used. God wanted a house. Moses told the people so. The voluntary principle was called into play, and was on this its first appearance successful, as it has been ever since, as it will be as long as the work is left to the faith and love of those to whom the appeal is made (Psalms 110:3).

III. That the Lord’s house was to be built and furnished intelligently, Exodus 35:10. The Jews built their Tabernacle with distinct reference to the purposes for which it was to be used. The “wise hearted,” therefore, and not merely the wealthy and the tasteful, were in special request. The necessity for “wise heartedness,” in building and furnishing God’s house, has not vanished with the “shadowy dispensation.” Let Christian architects and Church officers bear this in mind. If our tabernacles are specially for the teaching of God’s word, they should be so constructed that the preacher should be seen and heard by all.

IV. That the Lord’s house was to be complete.

1. The building was to be complete. “His tent, covering, taches, boards, bars, pillars, sockets,” &c., &c., were all to be finished and in their place. No man thinks of moving into a house until the house is complete. Is, then, that which is not good enough for man, good enough for man’s Maker? Christian men! let not the infidel and the worldling say as they pass by our slovenly and unfinished buildings, “These men began to build a tower for their God and were not able to finish.” We can finish our temples of mammon, our temples of gaiety, our temples of learning: let us not leave unfinished the sanctuary of our God.
2. The accessories were to be complete. The inventory here is perfect, down to the very pins and sockets. It may be said that this belonged to the “ceremonial law.” Well, is the abolition of that law in its technical details a reason why “beggarly elements” should be introduced into the Christian Churches, and ministers hampered, congregations inconvenienced, and the work of God generally retarded for the want of needful arrangement. Let trustees of Churches see to it that everything in the pulpit, choir, pews, and vestry, that is requisite for the decent, edifying, comforting worship of God, is provided. And let vergers, chapel-keepers, pew-openers, see that everything is in its place before the minister and congregation arrive.
3. The funds were to be complete. When the Tabernacle was “opened” it was out of debt. Christians did not learn from Jews the habit of spending money for God which their children would have to provide. It is a scandal to men, who would under no circumstances allow men to call themselves their creditors, to make them God’s creditors. If a congregation is poor, let them be satisfied with a modest building till they are rich enough to provide a more magnificent structure.

V. That the Lord’s house should be beautiful (1 Chronicles 16:29). It was only a tent, but it was the best tent in the whole camp. It was reared for the best purpose, the people therefore constructed it of the best materials they had, and on the best plans. True, it may be said that God is everywhere and may be worshipped anywhere. But everywhere is the temple God has erected for Himself, and has He not lavished magnificence and beauty on that temple? Look at its roof, its floor, its aisles! Let nature, then, be the model upon which churches should be constructed for the higher worship of the great Creator. And if the Jews thought it worth their while to make God’s house as splendid as their means would allow, let not Christians fall below their standard. There may be exceptions. The people may be poor. Churches may have to adapt themselves to circumstances. But let them be of the very best that can be afforded; and let those beware whose objection against the beauty of the Lord’s house is merely the selfish one, cost.

Remember—(i.) That God’s house is for His worship, not for lectures or theatrical displays. (ii.) That God’s house is for the preaching of His Word; (iii) and therefore, that God’s house demands our best efforts for its completion, and our reverent behaviour at its services.

J. W. Burn.



Moral Law! Exodus 35:1-35.

(1.) The ceremonial law was like a scaffolding around a building which is being slowly and gradually raised. When the building is completed, the scaffolding is taken away. But the moral law is like the rafters, deep sunk in the building itself. These cannot be taken away without the ruin of the whole structure of revelation.

(2.) The ceremonial law is like the bright petals of a blossom, which drop off to make room for the fruit. But the moral law is like the stem, which upholds both blossom and fruit. For God is holy—God is good; and therefore the law of holiness and goodness must, like God, endure for ever.

“Thy God is good, His mercy nigh,

His love sustains thy tottering feet;

Trust Him, for His grace is sure,

Ever doth His Truth endure.


Nature’s-Tabernacle! Exodus 35:4. Rightly considered, all nature is the tabernacle of God, constructed for His worship. The tabernacle of the wilderness has been called by an eminent writer a miniature model of the whole earth, just as he calls the people of Israel a miniature pattern of all nations. Every man has a part assigned to him in the erection and adorning of this wonderful tabernacle, whose floor is the green fields, whose walls are the rocks and mountains, and whose roof is the ever-changing sky. Every man who does a day’s work is a fellow-worker with God, in carrying out His great design in creation—in improving the face of nature—changing the wilderness into a garden, developing the latent resources and capabilities of the earth, converting its crude materials into shapes of beauty and forms of usefulness, in making the world fairer and richer, and better fitted to be the home of redeemed man, and the shrine of the Most High God. Therefore “Excelsior.”

“In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a moan—
‘Excelsior!’ ”


Love’s Service! Exodus 35:5-19.

(1.) He was busy preparing the home. All his thoughts day after day were on its beauty and decoration. And as the work advanced towards completion; as the rooms became richly yet chastely adorned in floor, and ceiling, and wall; as the garden parterres assumed an orderly and blooming appearance, he spent hours in wandering from room to room, and terrace to terrace, thinking—of what?—of whom! Of her whom he loved—on whom he had lavished his fondest affections, and for whose residence in that house he had been so busily occupied in preparation. He regretted none of these costly offerings at “Love’s Shrine.”
(2.) God bad condescended to be Israel’s God. He had promised to come and dwell with them. And they were building Him a house wherein to reside. Some there might be who grudged the costly beauties of the tabernacle, but most of the pious in Israel, who loved God with all their heart, would delight in making sacrifices for Him whom they loved. And as the home grew more and more ready for His Divine indwelling, how that love would fill their spirits with bright prospects of sweet fellowship and loving communion with Him when the house of God was ready. So the fabric of our soul’s holiness is being daily upreared and adorned for the Apocalyptic consummation.

“The mansion of creation’s Architect;
The palace of the Everlasting King;
Its gates of pearl, its edifice of gold;
Its very streets of pure crystalline gold.”


Midianite-Mines! Exodus 35:5. The Old Testament allusions to gold, silver, and other valuable metals, derive new interest from Captain Burton’s researches in Midian during the last six months. He has returned from his first expedition with twenty-five tons of specimens—including torquoise, alabaster, and sulphur. He also brought for the Egyptian Khedive, Midianite coins, inscriptions, fragments of glass and pottery; as well as a variety of relics from the thirty-two ruined cities which still exist in the land. He found evidences of ancient mining operations everywhere, traces of gold to an important amount, quartz threaded with veins of silver. Everywhere were evidences of great operations anciently conducted by practised miners—probably slaves—under skilled engineers. The stones

“Of purest crystal are from gloomiest mines,
The tenderest pearls are won from roughest seas.”

Religion-Sphere! Exodus 35:6-11. The Levitical economy teaches that the whole life is one, that true religion is the proper use of man’s whole being, and that it is not a thing merely of the Sunday and the sanctuary. By our Lord’s life on earth He imparted to the whole earth a heavenly character—made every spot of common ground an altar, every common mean a sacrament, every action of daily life a worship. Religion has its place in everything; even in our daily labours which we pursue. The inspiration of Aholiab in his trade shows the true design and meaning of work. Macmillan remarks, that natural, as well as spiritual talents, are the good gifts of God, that the right use of the powers of the artist, the musician, the poet, the artisan, the mechanic, the day labourer, is due to the inspiration of the Spirit.

“ ‘O dreary life!’ we cry, ‘O dreary life!’

And still the generations of the birds

Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live, while we are keeping strife

With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which
we may struggle!

Stone-Stability! Exodus 35:9.

(1.) Gems are steadfast and enduring. They are not composed of perishable materials—not even of rocks that wither and crumble away; but of that which endures. Jewels, as a class, are the most lasting of all earthly objects, the most beautiful, as well as the most imperishable, form in which matter appears. Gold will wear away, silver will tarnish, and wood will decay. The granite stone itself will disintegrate. But jewels will continue unchanged for thousands of years. They are, therefore, expressive types of stability and permanence.
(2.) Gospel truths have this virtue. They are no vague hopes, or shadowy dreams; but solid substantial realities, more enduring than the everlasting hills themselves. They are truths which will last when the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll and vanish away. They will come out of the last dread conflagration, when the earth and all therein shall be burnt up, all the purer, clearer, and more enduring for the fiery ordeal. Were Gospel truths destitute of this stability, they might retain their literary brilliancy, but they would lose their saving and consoling potency. It enabled Paul to say, “I know in whom I have believed.”

“The earth shall pass away,

The stars shall fall,

The heavens roll together

Like a parchment scroll;

But TRUTH shall live for ever,

And through endless ages give
Her blessings to the sainted,

And fail them never, never.”

Tabernacle-Furniture! Exodus 35:10-14. Amongst the existing memorials of ancient Rome is the triumphal Arch of Titus, reared to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem by that famous general. It represents in its basreliefs the golden candlestick, the table of shewbread, and other sacred articles which formed part of the spoils of the temple. These trophies were borne conspicuously in the triumphal procession with which Titus and his army were honoured on their return to Rome. The sculptures on the arch represent the procession, the figure of the candlestick being the most prominent of the sacred symbols.

“Their glory faded, and their race dispersed,
The last of nations now, though once the first,
They warn and teach the proudest, would they learn,
‘Keep Wisdom, or meet vengeance in your turn.’ ”


Divine Delectation! Exodus 35:10, &c. In the Canticles of Solomon we are told that He feedeth among the lilies.

(1.) Material! The Creator, it has been well observed by Macmillan, receives enjoyment from the beauties of creation. We are told authoritatively that He takes pleasure in the works of His hands; that for His pleasure they are and were created. Those countless objects of wonderful loveliness, in situations where no eye but His own can behold them, are sources of Divine delectation. Such are the wild flowers in pathless deserts, and on inaccessible mountain peaks.

(2.) Moral!, As the artist delights in exercising his talent in depicting the landscape—as the architect finds pleasure in exerting his skill in uprearing the gorgeous minster: so God not only delights in the scenes and objects of nature, in the formation of which He has exercised His divine wisdom and power, but also in the “beauties of holiness,” designed and upreared by His grace. In this respect God desired and delighted to see the Wilderness Tabernacle beautiful and glorious—as the emblem of the Church and Christian “comely with the come liness” which He has put on them.

“To-day I saw a dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie,
An inner impulse rent the vail
Of his old husk; from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings; like gauze they grew;
Through crofts and pastures wet with dew,

A living flash of life he flew.”


Verses 20-29



The wishes of God were made known in the previous section, and the people forth with resolved themselves into a committee of ways and means for carrying those wishes out. The action of the committee was—

I. Immediate, Exodus 35:20-21. They did not hold a meeting to take into consideration the recommendations, and adopt the report. Nor did they elect a chairman, secretary, and working committee, to advise when, where, and how measures were to be carried out, but went away at once and commenced the work, before their ardour evaporated in idleness and their determination in talk. Had they met but once and debated the question, the probabilities are, like their Christian successors, the work might never have been done.

II. Spontaneous and earnest, Exodus 35:21. They had but one public meeting, and that a very short one, and that without resolutions or amendment or exciting appeals. The cause itself was all the eloquence they wanted. God had graciously forgiven them, and had condescended to dwell amongst them, and wanted a house for that purpose. That was enough for them. Their gratitude to, and love of God, did all the rest. Should Christian people want other incentives than these? and should their contributions to building funds, &c., be less prompt, less free, less generous? Must Christian contributions, for God’s cause, be prompted by dinners, soirees, harangues, bazaars, when Jewish contributions were given because the people’s heart was stirred up, and their spirit made willing by the grandeur of the cause? (2 Corinthians 8:9-12).

III. According to individual ability. From gold and silver, down to brass and badgers’ skins. Nothing was too good or rich, nothing too poor. “They did what they could.” The poor did not draw back because of their poverty. The rich did not plead the many demands upon their wealth. God required then, as now, “according to what a man had, not according to what he had not.” God looks at quality as well as quantity, and has scales of His own in which to weigh the widows’ mites. The wisdom of this encouragement to poor as well as rich is obvious. Let the poor man feel that, because it has been raised partly by his exertions, the building belongs as much to him as to the rich man, and that he does not occupy its benches on sufferance or through charity.

IV. Self-denying. Many of these gifts for the sanctuary were the ornaments, luxuries, and comforts, and even the necessities of life. They felt that the work was worth the sacrifice. And what work? Let the Christian remember that the Tabernacle was mainly for domestic worship, not for teaching the will of God to the foreigner and idolater outside. When we consider, then, the work of Christian Churches, how that they are not merely or mainly for the comfort and edification of believers, but for the preaching of the Gospel for the lost and the depraved, how much more should we be willing to dispense with the superfluities of life, that the Word of God “may have free course and be glorified!”

V. Laborious. Their gifts did not supersede their individual exertion, Exodus 35:29. And those who could present no material gift gave their time and skill.

1. Let those who can work as well as give, do both. This applies particularly to women who, indeed, are specifically mentioned. The Church has wisely followed this example, and utilised this source of profit in Working-meetings, &c. Let them never go out of date. Not merely for the pecuniary profit, although that is by no means to be overlooked, but for the good feeling and sympathy that are established, and because of the interest in the Lord’s work that it develops.
2. Let those who can’t give, work. Many a little country chapel has been built by the exertions of its congregation in their overtime. Work is money, and work done for God is perhaps more prolific in blessing, and more acceptable to God. This applies to the children. Let them have a share in the work; and let them be able in after years to look back with satisfaction and gratitude that they were early in life instructed and encouraged to work for God.

VI. In conclusion—our text implies that some were unwilling, and did not embark on this glorious enterprise.

1. Some were selfish. They loved their property more than they loved their God.
2. Some may have argued, “Amongst such a vast congregation, one contribution will not be missed,” as many Christians do to-day.
3. Some may have argued, “We are poor, and our mite will be really nothing in aid of the undertaking.”
4. But all who failed to do what they could in this matter, necessarily failed to receive that special blessing which God has for, the “cheerful giver.”

J. W. Burn.



Moral Law! Exodus 35:1-35.

(1.) The ceremonial law was like a scaffolding around a building which is being slowly and gradually raised. When the building is completed, the scaffolding is taken away. But the moral law is like the rafters, deep sunk in the building itself. These cannot be taken away without the ruin of the whole structure of revelation.

(2.) The ceremonial law is like the bright petals of a blossom, which drop off to make room for the fruit. But the moral law is like the stem, which upholds both blossom and fruit. For God is holy—God is good; and therefore the law of holiness and goodness must, like God, endure for ever.

“Thy God is good, His mercy nigh,

His love sustains thy tottering feet;

Trust Him, for His grace is sure,

Ever doth His Truth endure.


Gift-Generosity! Exodus 35:21.

(1.) Dr. Fowler remarks that the servants of God should be as hearty as the servants of Satan have been. They gave their ornaments for the golden calf; now they give them to God. Let grace succeed sin, as Paul passed from a self-sacrificing persecutor to a self-denying and laborious preacher. God invites but does not compel. Every one is to do what he can. Christ’s kingdom rests on the affections. Its motive is love, its object is the perfection of love.
(2.) Spurgeon relates of a woman who was known to be very poor, that she offered at a missionary meeting to subscribe one penny a week to the mission field. When remonstrated with, that surely she could not afford such a sum in her great poverty, she replied, “I spin so many hanks of yarn a week for my living, and I’ll spin one hank more, which will be a penny a week for the Society.”

“To pass, when life her light withdraws,
Not void of righteous self-applause,

Nor in a merely selfish cause.”

Church Gifts! Exodus 35:21-22. Bickersteth says the urgent needs of the Church Missionary Society were set before his flock on November 25th; and, although his congregation was by no means a wealthy one, £100 was collected. A printed note was circulated during the week following, in which he asked for a great effort to be made to raise the sum of £300 in this emergency of Foreign Missions. On Sunday £300 were cast into the Lord’s treasury, including a cheque for £100—a roll of bank notes to the amount of £75, the proceeds of the sale of a silver bowl, and a little boy’s silver cup. There were also two small gold rings put in the plates, and two more silver mugs were since sent for sale. So that he had £400, or more than he asked for, to send to the Society for missions to the heathen.

“But what or who are we, alas!

That we in giving are so free!

Thine own before our offering was,

And all we have we have from Thee.”


Almsgiving, &c.! Exodus 35:21-22. Two women were one day discussing what constituted the true beauty of the hand. Differing in opinion, they selected a gentleman at umpire. It was a delicate matter. He thought of Paris and the three goddesses. Glancing from one to the other of the hands presented for examination, he replied at last, “Ask the poor, and they will tell you that there is a more beautiful hand than these.” Astonished at this reply, they inquired, “What hand?” To which he responded that the poor considered that the most beautiful hand in the world which was devoted to deeds of loving service and almsgiving. There is one hand more beautiful still—the hand that with a humble, grateful heart, brings gifts for the worship and service of God.

“At least not rotting like a weed,
But, having sown some generous seed,
Fruitful of further good indeed.”

Necklaces and Jewels! Exodus 35:22. Hengstenberg tells us that in Egypt costly and elegant ornaments abounded in proportion as the clothing was simple and scarce. Girdles, necklaces, armlets, rings and earrings of various kinds, suspended from the neck, are found represented in the paintings, and in fact still exist among the mummies—the excellence of the Egyptians in some of the nicer and more elaborate and useful branches of art. They imitated, with a skill not certainly surpassed by moderns, the amethyst, the emerald, and other precious stores; and they formed necklaces of all the hues of the rainbow. From these, it is plain—as a matter of history—that the Israelites received instructions in the art of making, as well as engraving, precious stones.

“The jasper, streaked with many a tender dye,
The sapphire, of celestial blue serene,
The agate, once Chalcedon’s peerless boast,
The melibean hyacinth, and last
The lucid violet of amethyst.”


Permanent Offerings! Exodus 35:22. Dr. Judson tells of a Karen woman who offered herself for baptism. After the usual examination, he inquired whether she could give up her ornaments for Christ. It was an unexpected blow. He explained the spirit of the Gospel, and appealed to her own consciousness of vanity. He then read to her the apostle’s prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:9. She looked again and again at her handsome necklace; and then, with an air of modest decision, she took it off, saying, “I love Christ more than this.”

“No love but Thine, but Thine can me relieve;
No light but Thine, but Thine will I receive;

No light, no love but THINE.”


Fine Linen! Exodus 35:25. In the tombs of Beni Hassan, there are pictures of the method of preparing and twisting the thread for the manufacture of the fine liner or byssus of which the priest’s garments were composed. The yarn was beaten with clubs, and the thread boiled in water, so as to soften it. Arsinoe, Pelusium, and Alexandria were celebrated for their weaving, which was principally done by men, and not by women. In agreement with this last fact, the preparation of the cloth for the sanctuary, and of the robes of the priests, was entrusted throughout to the care of men. The women did the spinning, and they bought of the people which they had spun.

“To toil in tasks, however mean,

For all we know of right and true,

In this alone our worth is seen;

’Tis this we were ordained to do.”


Spindle and Spinning! Exodus 35:25. In ancient times, and even in periods not long ago in our own country, the distaff and spindle formed as commonly the occupation in the higher ranks of society, as do the more elegant accomplishments of the present day. Even in the Augustan age of Rome, the Emperor usually wore no other garments than what were made at home by his wife, sister, or daughter. Irby and Mangles in their “Travels” say, that in Arabia, while the girls guard the flocks they have a bundle of wool at their backs for spinning. The spindle was probably the most ancient form of spinning apparatus. In India and other parts of the East, the art of spinning, so says the author of “Rays from the East,” is still of the most primitive kind. The Hindoo mother, placing her infant on the ground, will sit by the hour turning the simply-formed machine with her hand; at her wheel

“Spinning amain, as if to overtake
The never-halting time; or, in her turn,
Teaching some novice in the Eastern home
Her skill in this, or other household work.”

Tribute-Offerings! Exodus 35:29.

(1.) Gratitude! A slave in the Southern plantations was aided by a Canadian to escape from the horrible oppression of a slave-driver. He was enabled to procure employment in Canada, and, being a skilled mechanician by natural talent, he was able to command a liberal income. Every half-year a mysterious gift reached the home of the Canadian liberator—“Gratitude’s tribute for my freedom.” Freed from the bondage of Egyptian taskmasters, Israel had ample occasion to testify their gratitude to the Divine deliverer.

(2.) Gladness! Frequently, an announcement may be seen in the daily papers that the Queen has been graciously pleased to accept some subject’s gift, a book, or something else. The donor is glad to have his gift accepted by so great a personage as his sovereign. It becomes a red-letter day on which the donation was acknowledged. What gladness the Israelite donors ought to have felt in their hearts that the “King”—the “Divine King” in their midst, and heaven’s dread Sovereign-consented to receive their voluntary offerings!

“Pitying Lord, wilt Thou despise

This my sacrifice?

Tell me, Saviour, do I bring Anything?


Sacred Self-denial! Exodus 35:29.

(1.) In a happy rural parsonage were two children. The parish was a poor one, often visited with distress and disease. The elder girl delighted in deeds of loving service amongst the aged and needy the younger found pleasure in self-gratification. On one occasion came an urgent demand upon the charity of the charitable, and the love of the loving. The elder was desirous of helping in time of need, and gave up her trinkets and presents, with the consent of her another, to be appropriated to supplying the necessity. But the younger hugged her presents, and grudged to give her necklaces and ornaments. On the following Sunday, as they walked to the house of God, they presented a singular contrast, the one plainly attired, with no ornament of any kind, the other arrayed in all her prettiness of jewel and adornment—which was the happier! Churchgoers, who saw outwardly, may have thought the one in all her bravery; but her mother and her God knew otherwise.
(2.) So Moses and Jehovah saw that the hearts of those Israelites, who had cheerfully given up their armlets and amulets of gold and silver, their jewels and necklaces of precious stones, were happier far than those who still retained them. They may have derided their plainly-robed fellows for their over-devotion to God; but they could not have the inward sense of joy and satisfaction which springs from unselfish self-sacrifice for God. And when the givers and non-givers stood before the completed tabernacle, on whom would the Divine benediction rest. Thus will it be when the Church of Christ is perfect in the last day.

“Their earthly ministry approved, He’ll enroll
Their names among the citizens of heaven,
And freemen of His sinless universe.”

Verses 30-35



No more instructive chapter on human genius has ever been written than this. It tells us what genius is. It traces it to its origin. It describes its duties and responsibilities. It warns us of the dangers to which it is exposed. Bezaleel and Aholiab are representative men. They belong to a class which comprises the poets, philosophers, sculptors, artists, and skilled artizans of every age. The narrative suggests—

I. What genius is.

1. Wisdom der. from חָכַם. To fasten the attention upon, to judge, to decide; LXX. σόφια, Vulg. sapienta, and is employed in various instances to denote the highest exercise of the mind, and the prime qualification of the workman in any manner of work.

2. Understanding from תָּבַן. To see into or discriminate; i.e., the perceptive faculty; LXX. σύνεσις, Vulg. intelligentia.

3. Knowledge from יָדַע. To experience. Practical acquaintance with fact; LXX. ἐπιστήμη, Vulg. scientia.

4. All manner of workmanship, dexterity of hand. There is nothing equal to the Old Bible definitions. No modern dictionary could give a more accurate definition of genius than this.

II. That genius is the gift of God. “The Lord … hath filled him with the Spirit of God,”—the spirit of Elohim. The same spirit who inspired Balaam (Numbers 24:2), Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:1), Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20).

1. We must, of course, carefully distinguish between the inspiration of Moses, e.g., and that of Bezaleel. The one was inspired to reveal moral truth, binding on the hearts and consciences of men, the other to perform work of a very different character. Hence the former was, for the time being, infallible; the latter might neglect to employ his gifts, or divert them into an improper channel.

2. But never let us forget that genius is one of God’s mightiest gifts (James 1:17). The intellect in all its phases and faculties, is inbreathed by God, and is the highest tribute to His glory, and the strongest argument for His existence. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” but their proclamation is silence compared with the speculations of the philosopher, the imagination of the poet, and the discourse of the orator, with music, and sculpture, and song.

III. That genius only reaches its highest level when devoted to the service of God. “The Lord hath called by name,” &c.

1. Because it belongs to God and is in affinity with God. No degradation is more complete and disastrous than genius working apart from, or in antagonism to. God—Byron, Shelley, &c. The most splendid geniuses have been those who have walked humbly with their God—Moses, Isaiah, Paul, Augustine, Bacon, Newton, Faraday, &c.
2. Because the service of God is the noblest ministry in which it can engage. That is the delight of the unfallen intelligencies. It is a crime, therefore, to exclude the intellect from this province. God does not ask for our ignorance, He condemns it. The mind of man was created in order that it might be employed for God, and God has provided spheres for its exercise in His written word and in the worship of His holy name. And what loftier service can man render either to His God and to his fellow, than to unfold the truths that have been revealed for man’s guidance in this world, and his hopes for that which is to come?
3. Because in serving God its own highest interests are promoted. In God’s presence it is elevated and transfigured. When has poetry been so sweet, eloquence so rich, logic so subtle, eloquence so moving, philosophy so pure, learning so varied and so exact, and art so sublime, as when consecrated to God?

IV. That genius should not be above practical work. “To work in gold and silver,” &c. Carlyle has defined genius as “an infinite capacity for taking pains.” So says our text. An unproductive genius is inconceivable. Men of great intellectual powers have given way to idleness and have perverted their powers. But here they have failed. Then—

1. Genius must not be made an excuse for idleness. Because one man can do in three days what would take another man six, he must not lounge away the remaining time.
2. Genius must not be an occasion for imposition upon others. Aholiab had to perform the work allotted to him as much as the most illiterate Israelite. Yet this is a great danger. It is held by some, almost axiomatically, that “geniuses need not work. Let that be done by the hewers of wood and drawers of water while we do the thinking.”

V. That true genius is unselfish, Exodus 35:34. They were not to be miserly of their intellectual powers, but to impart their skill and knowledge, as much as possible, to others. It is not only theologians or lawyers who are to be charged with keeping the “key of knowledge.” Genius is a trust, and the man who devotes it to selfish uses, and neglects to improve others by it, commits a sin against God. In conclusion, Learn—

i. To cultivate gratitude to God for the existence of genius in the world, and for what genius He has given you. ii. To recognise your responsibility to God for what the genius of others has placed within your reach, and what your own genius enables you to do. Cultivate it in yourself, encourage it in others. iii. To feel the duty and privilege of laying all the stores of genius on the altar for the service of God.—J. W. Burn.



Moral Law! Exodus 35:1-35.

(1.) The ceremonial law was like a scaffolding around a building which is being slowly and gradually raised. When the building is completed, the scaffolding is taken away. But the moral law is like the rafters, deep sunk in the building itself. These cannot be taken away without the ruin of the whole structure of revelation.

(2.) The ceremonial law is like the bright petals of a blossom, which drop off to make room for the fruit. But the moral law is like the stem, which upholds both blossom and fruit. For God is holy—God is good; and therefore the law of holiness and goodness must, like God, endure for ever.

“Thy God is good, His mercy nigh,

His love sustains thy tottering feet;

Trust Him, for His grace is sure,

Ever doth His Truth endure.


Art-Inspiration! Exodus 35:30-35. Few minds are sunlike, sources of light to themselves and to others. Most are moons, which shine with a derivative and reflected light. Bezaleel and Aholiab drew their skill from Divine inspiration. Indeed, it has been said by Cicero that all great men are in some degree inspired. They are divinely qualified for their respective missions. Was not Gutenberg inspired to invent printing, with the view to a world-wide diffusion of the Word of Life? The history of nations and of the Church affords numerous illustrations of this species of inspiration in the raising up of special men to certain works when such needed to be done.

“Oh, I see the crescent-promise

Of the Spirit hath not set;

Ancient founts of inspiration

Well through all my labours yet!,”

Grace-Genius! Exodus 35:32.

(1.) Hume says that the richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest weeds; and instead of vines and olives for the pleasure and profit of man, produces to its slothful owner a plentiful crop of poisons.

(2.) But is Hume right? Is it not unsanctified genius which thus shoots up lank and long, rank and strong? Genius, under the influence of Divine grace, will never become the deadly Byronic euphorbia. However splendid talents may compel our admiration, they have no right to claim the general esteem of mankind, when their possessor exercises them without due regard of what is due to the welfare of the human race, and conducive to the glory of God.

“Yet man, dim-sighted man, and rash as blind,
Deaf to the dictates of his better mind,
In frantic competition dares the skies.
And claims precedence of the ONLY-WISE.”—Guyon.

Work-Results! Exodus 35:35.

(1.) The labours of Bezaleel and Aholiab, from a worldly point of view, were evanescent. The tabernacle, which they constructed with such rare skill, passed away. All its precious materials and workmanship disappeared like a beautiful dream of the morning, and not a trace of them now remains on the face of the earth. Yet, notwithstanding this, the work of Bezaleel and Aholiab was abiding in its spiritual results. Israel reaped the benefit of it through all their generations. We ourselves are better for it to-day. Our Christianity, our civilisation itself, is based upon the fleeting fabric which the Jewish artists created in the wilderness.
(2.) Our work may appear far less important and far more transient than theirs. Many of the tasks in which we engage serve very brief, and apparently trifling purposes indeed. But let us overcome this temptation by the thought that, while the outward aspects of our daily labours may pass away in the changes of time, the inward spiritual substance will remain. Their results will live and act for good or evil when that night has come upon us in which no man can work.

“In this glorious calling

Work till day is o’er;

Work, till evening falling.

You can work no more.

Then your labour bringing

To the King of kings,

Borne with joy and singing

Home on angels’ wings.”


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 35". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/exodus-35.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile