We have come to a portion of Exodus that many readers (and even many commentators) skip or skim through quickly. The trouble is, Exodus 35-40 quotes verbatim many portions of Exodus 25-31. We have seen all of this before.
The question of why the book takes the trouble to rewrite all these passages will be addressed in the next sermon on Exodus 36b-37. I purposefully tabled the issue in this week’s sermon, even though there was quite a bit of parallel material in the text. Below you will find how many of the verses match up with their counterparts in earlier passages of Exodus from the passage we examined from Exodus this morning.
(Note: all English verses are taken from the ESV. Yellow highlight indicates an exact replica in the Hebrew.)
|Exodus 35:4 Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel,
“This is the thing that the LORD has commanded.
5 Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution:
gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats’ hair, 7 tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, 8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.
|Exodus 25:1 The LORD said to Moses,
2 “Speak to the people of Israel,
that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. 3 And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them:
gold, silver, and bronze, 4 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, 5 tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, 6 oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.
In this passage, the text of Exodus 35 presents the list of materials the Israelites are to collect verbatim with the list in Exodus 25 (there are two extra “and”s in chapter 35, only one of which is represented in the ESV). Pay close attention to the command-fulfillment element of the text when comparing 25:1-2 with 35:4. Chapter 25 opens with Yahweh commanding Moses to speak to Israel that they take up a contribution. Chapter 35 opens with Moses doing exactly that, and letting the people know that this was the Lord’s command all along. This command-fulfillment theme will be prominent in the rest of Exodus.
You may also notice a slight difference in wording when comparing 25:2 with 35:5. 25:2 talks about the heart being “moved” whereas 35:5 talks about the heart being “generous.” Both come from the same root in Hebrew. 25:2 is a verb – the heart must “move” in order for the people to give their offerings. 35:5 is an adjective, describing the condition of the heart – it is a “moved heart.” Perhaps this subtle shift puts some extra emphasis on the Lord’s work in that heart in Exodus 35, which is of course needed much more after the sinfulness of the Israelites is revealed in Exodus 32-34.
|Exodus 35:30 Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, 32 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.||Exodus 31:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.|
These two texts parallel each other almost exactly, with a few minor deviations. First, again we see the command-fulfillment theme in the opening verses. In 31:1, the Lord is speaking to Moses. In 35:30, Moses is speaking God’s words to the Israelites (the word for “speak” is actually different in Hebrew, but this does not affect the meaning in this context, other than one being a slightly less authoritative speaking). There are also minor differences with the shift from first to third person verbs (“I have filled him” vs “he has filled him”).
The only major difference here is the word “skilled” in 35:33, which is absent from 31:5. The Hebrew literally reads here, “in every work of thought.” This word may have been added here to emphasize that the work that goes into the building of the Tabernacle requires the careful implementation of a design or plan (see NET Bible notes).
Note also that the ESV translates the exact same Hebrew word in two different ways between these verses. In 35:31 it translates “with skill,” and in 31:3 it translates “with ability.” There is no difference in the Hebrew, and this may simply be the English translator’s mistake or inconsistency.
This entire discussion prepares us for what is to come. The next two sermons will focus on the bulk of the repetitive material in Exodus. There will be some surprises, and certainly plenty of theology to discuss (as well as application, both personal and corporate). So hopefully this gets our feet wet for a section of Exodus that has great potential, too often untapped.