Exodus 31

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD said, “Moses, 2I have chosen Bezalel. He is the son of Uri, who is the son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. 3I have filled him with my spirit of wisdom and understanding and with skills in every kind of artistry. 4He is a master at designing and working with gold, silver, bronze, 5stone cutting and setting, woodcarving, and all craft. 6I have also chosen Oholiab, son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan to be his assistant, and I have given other craftsmen the skills to make everything I described for you — 7the meeting tent, the chest for the Law, the lid that covers it, all the furnishings to use in the tent 8including the table, its tools, the lampstand of pure gold and all its tools, the altar for incense, 9the altar for burnt offerings and all its tools, the basin and its stand, 10the clothing for Aaron and his sons for their work as priests, 11the oil for anointing them, and the special incense for the inner sanctuary. These artists will do everything just as I described them to you.”

12Then the LORD said, 13“Tell the Israelites to observe my sabbaths because it is a sign between us for all the generations after you that you have been set apart by the LORD. 14Keep the sabbath because it sets you apart. Anyone who disrespects it will be put to death, and anyone who does any labor on it must be separated from the people. 15Do all your work for six days, but rest on the seventh day, the sabbath. It is special to me. Whoever does any work on the sabbath must be put to death. 16So, make sure that you observe the Sabbath as a permanent agreement between us. 17It will always serve as a reminder between me and the people of Israel that I made heaven and earth in six days and rested on the seventh.”

18When God had said all these words to Moses on Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses the Law on two tablets of stone inscribed by God’s own finger.


1-11: Two men are called to serve as the chief artisans to fashion all the things to be used in the meeting tent and other preparations for the sanctuary. Bezalel is not mentioned before now, nor his father Uri, but Hur is a fairly common name and it may be that Bezalel is the grandson of that Hur who served as an aide to Moses during the battle with the Amalekites (17:12), and who was named a leader along with Aaron when Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days (24:14). If so, Bezalel must be a fairly young man. Nothing else is known of Oholiab or his father Ahisamach. Oholiab and Bezalel are to work together to design and make the intricate metal and millinery accoutrements for the tabernacle, and they are to teach their craft to others (35:34).

12-17: Once again Sabbath-keeping is emphasized. Of the Ten Commandments it is the one most often repeated. It is considered so important that violating it is to be treated as a capital offense. More than anything else it defines Israel as the LORD’s special possession among all the people of the earth. It is no wonder that the Jews gradually developed meticulous distinctions for what exactly can be done on the Sabbath and what is considered “labor.” Not only does Sabbath-keeping define them as God’s people, it directs them to mirror in their lives God’s own example in creation.

18: Having given Moses a number of regulations to give the people, and having given him the plans for the construction of the sanctuary and all its furnishings, and having given him directions for setting aside Aaron and his sons as priests, and having chosen Bezalel and Oholiab to be in charge of design and fabrication, God at last gives Moses two tablets of stone which contain the “covenant” — the Ten Commandments — written with God’s finger. Whether this is intended literally or figuratively is impossible to determine from the text. The expression “finger of God” is used in other places as a metaphor for the power of God (see Exodus 8:19, Luke 11:20), although “hand of God” is the more common expression.


You remember we noted, of all the ten commandments, keeping the Sabbath is the one that is mentioned most often in the Bible. It is a brilliant move on God’s part; every seven days our lives are disrupted enough to make God at least a passing thought. Keeping God and God’s presence in mind is a key to living in a way that is pleasing to God.