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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 36

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-38


Exodus 36:1-3, Exodus 36:8-38

THE PROGRESS OF THE WORK, AND THE SUPERFLUOUS LIBERALITY OF THE PEOPLETHE LATTER HAS TO BE RESTRAINED (Exodus 36:3-7). Bezaleel and Aholiab felt that the time for action was now come. They at once addressed themselves to their task. Moses delivered into their hands all the various offerings which the people, rich and poor, had brought in (Exodus 35:21-29); and skilled workmen were immediately called upon to shape it for the designed uses. The fact of the work being commenced did not stop the inflow of gifts. More and yet more continued to be brought "every morning" (Exodus 36:3). At last it became clear that the supply had exceeded the demand; and the workmen reported so to Moses (Exodus 36:4, Exodus 36:5), who thereupon commanded that the offerings should cease (Exodus 36:6). The progress of the work is then reported in detail, and in the following order:—

1. The covering for the tabernacle (Exodus 36:8-13);

2. The goats' hair covering for the tent above the tabernacle (Exodus 36:14-18);

3. The outer coverings of rams' skins and seals' skins (Exodus 36:19);

4. The boards for the walls of the tabernacle (Exodus 36:20-30);

5. The bars for the boards (Exodus 36:31-34);

6. The veil of the most holy place (Exodus 36:35, Exodus 36:30);

7. The hanging for the entrance to the tabernacle (Exodus 36:37, Exodus 36:38).

The chapter, from Exodus 36:8, runs parallel with Exodus 26:1-37; differing from it mainly in describing as made that which in Exodus 26:1-37. is ordered to be made.

Exodus 36:1

Then wrought Bezaleel, etc. This is introductory to the entire sub-section, which extends to the end of Exodus 39:1-43. It means—"Then, under the direction of Bezaleel and Aholiab, began the work of constructing that place of meeting for which commandment had been given to Moses in the mount." The master-craftsmen, and those under them, "wrought," and took care that all was done according to all that the Lord had commanded. It is to mark the exactitude of the obedience that chs. 36-39, follow so closely, and with such minuteness, the wording of chs. 26-28.

Exodus 36:2, Exodus 36:3

Moses called Bezaleel, etc. Having received sufficient materials for a beginning, Moses summoned Bezaleel, Aholiab, and their chief assistants, to his presence, and delivered into their hands the various offerings—the wood, the metal, the precious stones, the thread, the goats' hair, the rams' skins, the seals' skins, etc. Upon these materials they proceeded at once to work. They brought yet unto him free offerings every morning. The people still continued to give. Freewill offerings kept continually flowing in. Morning after morning a fresh supply was brought to Moses, who passed it on to those engaged in the work.

Exodus 36:4, Exodus 36:5

At last, remonstrance had to be made. The workmen were cumbered with an overplus of material—an embarras de richesses—and came in a body to Moses, to make complaint. All the wise men came, every man from his work, with the cry "The people bring much more than enough—we are hampered in our work by the too great abundance—let an end be put to it."

Exodus 36:6

Moses accordingly had proclamation made through the camp, and so put a stop to further offerings.

Exodus 36:8-38

The remainder of this chapter requires no comment, since it goes over ground already covered. The passage from Exodus 36:8 to Exodus 36:18 corresponds exactly with Exodus 26:1-11; that from Exodus 26:19-34 with Exodus 26:14-29; that consisting of Exodus 26:35, Exodus 26:36, with Exodus 26:33, Exodus 26:34; and the two concluding verses with Exodus 26:36, Exodus 26:37. Under these circumstances a few mistranslations will alone be noticed.

Exodus 36:22

Two tenons, equally distant one from another. Rather, as in Exodus 26:17, "two tenons, set in order one against an other."

Exodus 36:27

For the sides of the tabernacle westward. Literally correct; but it would be more intelligible to render "for the side," or "for the back."

Exodus 36:32

For the sides westward. The same alteration should be made.

Exodus 36:33

He made the middle Bar to shoot through the boards. Rather, as in Exodus 26:28, "to reach from end to end of the boards."

Exodus 36:37

For the tabernacle door. Rather, as in Exodus 26:36, "for the door of the tent." Their chapiters and their fillets. Rather "their capitals and their rods." These had not been previously mentioned.


Exodus 35:3-7

Superabundant giving.

Too much is far better than too little. Let a great work be taken in hand, and it is impossible to anticipate the exact quantity of the material that it will require, or the exact cost of work and material together. Care should always be taken to have a margin beyond the supposed necessity. Unless this is done—

I. THE WORK IS APT TO BE SCAMPED AND STINTED TOWARDS THE CLOSE. Fear naturally arises lest the material or the money should not hold out; and economies are practised which detract from the beauty, the finish, the perfection of the construction. Or (which is worse) desirable, even necessary, adjuncts are omitted, given up as impracticable under the circumstances.

II. THE WORK MAY ACTUALLY HAVE TO BE LEFT UNFINISHED. All calculations of cost are uncertain. Prices rise while a work is in progress; material purchased, or presented, turns out to be defective, and has to be replaced by something better. Accidents occur. The actual cost of a work almost always exceeds the estimate—some-times greatly exceeds it. How often do we hear of there being a debt upon a building! This would occur far less frequently, if gifts and offerings kept flowing in until the authority entrusted with the work cried "Stop."

Superabundant giving shows a truly liberal spirit in those who give. It is not a very common thing. Cases are rare of its needing to be "restrained." The example of the Israelites should stir Christians to emulate them. While these poor wanderers in the desert were so generous, how is it that we are, for the most part, so niggardly?

Superabundant giving is a trial to those who receive the gifts. How easy to appropriate what is not required to our own advantage! Moses withstood this temptation. Bezaleel and Aholiab withstood it. It may be doubted whether all Christians have always done so. The gifts that flowed in at the shrine of Becket, at the exhibition of the holy coat of Troves, at the altar of St. Januarius, were intended as offerings for the service of the sanctuary. Were they always used for sacred purposes? Was there not often a superfluity, which men converted to their own benefit? There have certainly been those in modern times who have enriched themselves out of moneys subscribed for charitable purposes, as the records of our assize courts sufficiently show.

Exo 35:8 -38

Exactitude in obedience.

Kalisch observes on this passage, that, "though even literal repetitions of the same occurrence, or the same command, are not unusual in the Biblical style, yet the lengthened and accurate reiteration" which here occurs, is unusual and must have some special meaning. He himself considers that he has sufficiently accounted for it as intended to draw attention to the importance of the tabernacle in the Mosaic system, and the significance, and especially the symbolical character of the descriptions. To us it seems that there must have been some further reason for the phenomenon; and we are inclined to find it in the importance of the example which Moses here sets of exactitude in obedience. If any one might ever be supposed entitled to depart from the strict letter of observance, where the commands of God are concerned, it would be such an one as Moses, who had conversed as friend to friend with God, and had been twice summoned to a conference of forty days' duration. But Moses does not seem to feel that he is so privileged. The exact correspondency of paragraph with paragraph, verse with verse, clause with clause, word with word, seems intended to teach and enforce the lesson that what God commands is to be observed to the letter, down to its minutest point. Certainly, what these five concluding chapters of Exodus especially set forth, is the extreme exactitude which Moses and those under him showed in carrying out all the directions that God had given with regard to the tabernacle. If "fifty taches" were ordered (Exodus 26:6), "fifty taches" were made (Exodus 36:13); if "five pillars" were commanded here (Exodus 26:37), and "four pillars" there (Exodus 26:32), the five and the four were constructed and set up accordingly (Exodus 36:36, Exodus 36:38); if this curtain was to have a pattern woven into it (Exodus 26:31), and that curtain was to be adorned with embroidery (Exodus 26:36), the embroiderer's and the weaver's art were employed upon them as ordered (Exodus 36:35, Exodus 36:37). Nothing commanded was ever neglected; only in one or two cases (notably in verse 38) small additions were made, if not to the orders given, at any rate to the orders recorded. Generally, however, there was an entire effacement of self, a complete restraint of private fancy and private preference. Note—

1. The rarity of exact obedience;

2. The difficulty of it;

3. The scant praise which it obtains from men;

4. The certainty that it is approved in God's sight.


1. The obedience of Moses as here set out;

2. The perfect obedience of Christ.

"My meat is to do the will of him that sent me" (John 4:34). "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4).

Exo 35:8 -37

On Tabernacle symbolism see the Homiletics on Exodus 26:1-11.


Exodus 35:8

Exodus 39:43

The Tabernacle made.

These chapters recount how the tabernacle, etc; was actually made. On the several sections, see the Homiletics and Homilies on chs. 26-28. We have in them—

I. WORK DONE. The point to be observed here is that everything was done precisely according to the Divine directions. The makers turned not aside, either to the right hand or to the left, from what had been commanded them. They attempted no alteration on the plans. They did not try improvements; they added no ornaments. This was their wisdom, and secured for their work the Divine approval. Work for Christ should be done in the same way. We cannot improve upon his Gospel. We are not entitled to add to, or take from, his commands.

II. WORK INSPECTED (Exodus 39:33-43). When the work was finished the makers brought it to Moses, who looked upon it and pronounced that all had been done according "as the Lord had commanded" (Exodus 28:43). The day of inspection will come for our work also (1 Corinthians 3:14, 1 Corinthians 3:15). Happy for us if the same verdict can be passed upon it!

III. WORK BLESSED. "And Moses blessed them" (Exodus 28:43). "If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward" (1 Corinthians 3:14).—J.O.

Exo 35:8 -38

Jehovah's dwelling-place.

See homily on Exodus 26:1-37.—J.O.


Exo 35:1 -38

The work fails not either for gifts or skill.


1. He makes an immediate beginning. He might have doubted the people's liberality (so much was required) or the workmen's ability, and have waited; but it was enough that God had commanded the work. If Christ has commanded us to rear up a tabernacle for God in every land nothing should stay us. He will give offerings and men.

2. He followed the Lord's guiding. He called the men whom he had named and prepared. There must be obedience as well as faith, not calling those we would choose, but hailing gladly, and honouring, the men whom God has prepared.

3. The materials are committed to them. If we are to be built into God's temple we must obey them who have the rule over us.


1. The glory of a liberal spirit. There was no need of a second appeal. Though they knew that much had been contributed they still gave.

2. It consecrated the work.

(1) It was a joy for the workmen to labour amid that generous liberality.

(2) It was a joy to Israel and their children to remember the story of the tabernacle. To labourers in the Lord's vineyard it is a mighty consecration when hearts are yielded on every side and more is thrust upon them than they can well use for the Master; and the remembrance of such times is power and refreshing in after days.

III. THE WORK PROCEEDS; THE SKILL AND LABOUR FAILED NOT. First the framework of the tabernacle is reared and the inner curtains made and placed; then the outer curtains, and lastly the boards, and bars, and veils are set up. The heart is first gained for God, then more and more of light and power is poured upon the outer life till the whole "grows unto an holy temple in the Lord."—U.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 36". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/exodus-36.html. 1897.
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