Exodus 38

The Word Made Fresh

1Next, the altar of burnt offerings was constructed of acacia wood; seven and a half feet square and four and a half feet tall. 2A horn was at each corner, and the whole was overlaid with bronze. 3He made all the tools for the altar; pots, shovels, basins, forks, firepans, all made of bronze. 4A grating of bronze was suspended from its ledge to about halfway down. 5Four rings were cast of bronze and attached to the four corners of the grating to hold the carrying poles 6which were also made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze. 7The poles were passed through the rings to carry the altar with them. The altar was made of boards and was hollow. 8He made the bronze basin and a bronze stand on which to place it. The bronze came from the mirrors of the women who helped at the meeting tent entrance.

9Next, they set up the courtyard. The south side consisted of one hundred fifty feet of fine linen panels, 10supported by twenty poles on bronze bases, hanging from silver hooks. 11The north side was the same. 12The west end had ten poles and bases supporting fine linen panels hung from silver hooks, seventy-five feet long. 13The front of the courtyard on the east end was also seventy-five feet long. 14On one side were three poles on their bases holding twenty-two and a half feet of linen panels, 15and the same arrangement was made on the other side. 16All of the hanging around the courtyard were made of fine linen. 17All the bases were bronze, but the hooks and straps were silver. The poles were all capped with silver and had silver bands around them. 18The curtain across the entrance to the courtyard was sewn with blue, purple, and crimson yarns of fine linen. It was thirty feet long and seven and a half feet high like the panels around the courtyard. 19It was held by four posts on bronze bases with silver hooks, silver caps and bands of silver around them. 20This arrangement was supported by ropes secured with bronze pegs.

21Following is the list of all the things used in the sanctuary that Moses told them to record. The Levites compiled the list. Ithamar, son of Aaron, was put in charge of it. 22Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah was responsible for all the work the LORD had given Moses; 23and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, assisted him with the engravings and with stitching the designs of blue, purple, and crimson yarn in the fine linen.

24The gold that the people gave to be used in the work totaled 2200 pounds according to the official sanctuary scales. 25The amount of silver contributed was 7500 pounds. 26This averaged about half an ounce per man twenty years old or more who had crossed the Red Sea – 603,550 in all. 27Most of the silver was used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and the courtyard – one hundred bases in all. 28The rest was used for the hooks, caps, and bands for the posts.

29The bronze from the offering weighed 5,000 pounds, 30It was used to make the bases for the poles of the meeting tent; for the bronze altar, its grating, and all its tools; 31the bases for all the poles of the surrounding courtyard; and all the tent pegs of the sanctuary and the courtyard.

Commentary

1-7: You will notice that the order in which Bezalel makes things is not the order in which they are described earlier, but with respect to each item Bezalel is careful to make it exactly as prescribed. The altar of burnt offering is next to be built (see 27:1-8). The wording is not exactly the same, but the details are carried out meticulously.

8: The bronze basin for hand washing and its stand are described in 30:18. Curiously, no dimensions are given for it. Here we have the added detail that Bezalel uses the mirrors of the women who serve at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Several comments are in order. The mirrors are not of glass as we have today but are of polished bronze. The tent of meeting is the tent Moses uses as an office when he judges disputes, and as a sanctuary when he converses with the LORD; it is not to be confused with the tabernacle that has yet to be built. The most surprising thing perhaps is the mention of the women who serve at the entrance of the tent of meeting. I think this is the first time women have been mentioned as having specific responsibilities in running the camp.

9-20: Using acacia wood for the frames and pillars, bronze for the pillar stands, silver for the clasps, and fine twisted linen for the curtains, Bezalel makes all the panels for the enclosure of the court of the tabernacle and for the screen that serves as an entrance to the courtyard (see 27:9-19). It is a fairly large area; remember that a cubit is roughly 18 inches.

21-23: A summary of what has been done so far. Bezalel is the general contractor. Oholiab is the artistic design specialist. And here we are told that Ithamar, Aaron’s son, is in charge of the Levites. They are responsible for organizing the elements of the tabernacle as Bezalel completes each one.

24-31: The offering made by the people (see 35:20-29) is considerable. We are given a detailed account of the metal collected in the offering; gold, silver, and bronze.

Takeaway

When people work together to serve the LORD, marvelous things can happen. We tend to remember individual men and women whose lives and work are particularly outstanding, but little things done by many people also add up to greatness.