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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 31

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verses 1-2


2. I have called by name The artistic construction of the house of God is no ordinary work, and after its plan and dimensions and the most minute details of its furniture and materials had been given to Moses, Jehovah designated a chosen architect, as called and qualified (Exodus 31:3) for carrying out the plans and specifications. This distinguished workman was Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. Aaron and Hur had stayed up the hands of Moses during the conflict with Amalek, (Exodus 17:10-13,) and now the grandson of that Hur is made the chief assistant of Moses in the construction of the tabernacle. May not the piety of the grandfather have had something to do with the mechanical ability of the grandson?

Verse 3

3. Filled him with the spirit of God There is no need of explaining this as equivalent merely to the phrase “a divine spirit,” or translating “a spirit of God.” The Holy Spirit of God is intended, which quickened all Bezaleel’s mental faculties, and enriched him with such a degree of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge that he was recognized as divinely gifted with the required qualifications for all manner of workmanship which the construction and erection of the tabernacle called for.

Verses 4-5

4, 5. To devise cunning works To plan and execute designs; to think out and elaborate such works of art in metal, stone, and wood, and other material, as would be required in the sanctuary, or in connexion with its services .

Verse 6

6. Aholiab The grandson of Hur was not to be alone in this responsible work of the sanctuary . A representative of the tribe of Dan was to be associated with him in the labour and responsibility . From Exodus 35:35, and Exodus 38:23, we infer that Aholiab had more particular charge of the textile fabrics, and the weaving and embroidering, but Bezaleel had superintendency of all. With these were associated also others who were wise hearted, that is, skilled to perform similar artistic work; for many workmen would be needed for the preparation of all that was shown to Moses in the mount. With this account of the call and qualifications of the workmen is joined a brief recapitulation (Exodus 31:7-11) of the several articles which have been described in the foregoing chapters.

Verse 10

10. Clothes of service These are perhaps best understood of the ministerial official robes of the high priest, described in Exodus 28:6-38, as distinguished from “the coat of fine linen,” (Exodus 28:39,) and the other garments worn in common by Aaron and his sons, (Exodus 28:40-43. ) Others understand by these clothes of service the inner curtains of the tabernacle, or the cloth wraps in which the vessels of the tabernacle were bound up when they were carried from place to place in the march to Canaan. The passage might also be translated, “And the clothes of service, even the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons;” thus making the clothes of service include the holy garments both of Aaron and his sons.

Verses 12-13

THE SABBATH LAW, Exodus 31:12-17.

13. My sabbaths ye shall keep How repeatedly the sanctity of the sabbath day is affirmed! In Exodus 20:8-11, (where see notes,) we have it formally enjoined in the decalogue . In Exodus 23:12, it is again set forth in connexion with the law of the sabbatic year, and so again and again throughout the Pentateuch . In Exodus 35:2-3, it introduces the account of the preparations for building the tabernacle, as if resuming the narrative broken off at the conclusion of this chapter to introduce the account of the idolatry of the people at Sinai . Hence it has been supposed that a special reason for the emphasizing of the sabbath law in this connexion was to deter the people from labour on the tabernacle on that day, which in their zeal to complete the sanctuary they might have presumed to do, even in violation of the former commandment . The expression my sabbaths gives emphasis to the thought that the weekly sabbath was a peculiar treasure of Jehovah .

It is a sign Old as the creation, (comp . Exodus 31:17 and Genesis 2:2-3, and note on Exodus 20:11,) and a constant reminder that God and his people may enjoy a common rest.

Verse 14

14. Surely be put to death It is to be noted that all the commandments of the first table have the death penalty attached to their violation, and so it is taught that the wilful breaking of any of these laws was to be treated as a capital crime . None of them are so regarded under the Gospel . Idolatry, image-worship, blasphemy, sabbath-breaking, and dishonouring of parents are nowhere under a Christian civilization punishable with death. Has God therefore changed? No, but man has changed, and under the discipline of a dispensation “written and engraven in stones,” (2 Corinthians 3:7,)

“the ministration of death” has accomplished its work, and elevated the moral sense of man to a higher plane. With the higher and clearer revelations of divine truth the lower forms of the ancient moral discipline have been superseded. So, too, the avenger of blood is no longer tolerated, and the lex talionis is abolished by the light and methods of a higher civilization. But it would be in the highest degree absurd to argue, that because the ancient penalty of the sabbath law is no more in force, therefore the sabbath itself is no longer binding. Equally absurd is the notion of some modern critics that, because the sabbath law is variously repeated in the Pentateuch, with reasons and penalties in one place which are not found in another, therefore, these laws are of diverse authorship, and contradictory. A legislature may modify, change, or supplement its own action in the progress of a single session; much more may we suppose that the legislation through Moses would have received many supplements under his own immediate direction. Thus every new association or event which could be made to enhance in the people’s minds the sanctity and worth of the sabbath would and should have been utilized for such a worthy end.

Verse 18

THE TWO TABLES, Exodus 31:18.

18. Two tables of testimony These were soon broken, (Exodus 32:19,) and others were subsequently hewn, (Exodus 34:1-4. ) Their size must have been smaller than the dimensions of the ark in which they were deposited, and sufficiently small and light for Moses to carry in his hand . They were doubtless some two or three inches in thickness, to prevent their being easily broken; but they need not have been one foot square to contain all the words of the decalogue . See, further, note on Exodus 32:15. The fact that they were written with the finger of God is no greater a miracle than that they should have been spoken “out of the midst of the fire . ” Deuteronomy 4:12. But the ministry of angels may be assumed as one of the means by which these tables, as well as the utterance of the words, were produced . See note on Exodus 20:1. The expression finger of God is simply an anthropomorphic way of designating the divine agency in the preparation of the tables, and is not designed to teach that the infinite Being has a physical “body or parts.”

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 31". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/exodus-31.html. 1874-1909.
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