V 1-3 God had just finished giving Moses the pattern for the Tabernacle’s design (Ex. 25:8-9). Moses was a prophet, but the tabernacle needed an artist. So, God called two men to serve as his holy artists, Bezalel and Oholiab. They were called by name (Exod. 31:2, 6). Bezalel means “in the shadow of God.” They were gifted with “skill, ability and knowledge” to do all kinds of artwork (Exod. 31:3). When God calls a person to service it is a personal call utilizing their unique gifting empowered by His Spirit. Joshua and Micah are both said to have been filled with the Spirit of God to do God’s work (Deut. 34:9; Mic. 3:8). Bezalel was the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. So, his grandfather Hur was described in ch. 17 where, together with Aaron, they held Moses’ hands up in the battle against Amalek (17:8-16). Aaron and Hur were also charged with the responsibility of the overseeing Israel when Moses was up mt. Sinai (24:14). Today all members of the New Covenant community are filled with the Spirit of God. This is the first mention of the filling of God’s Spirit in Scripture and indicates how central the tabernacle was to God’s plan. The same Spirit who created the world equipped Bezalel and Oholiab with the skill needed to build the tabernacle. The New Covenant Mishkan is described as God’s dwelling place, a building in which each of His children are as stones being fitted together. “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah.
V 4-5 Bezalel’s skill and ability were in several areas. He was equipped to design and work in metal: gold, silver, and bronze; to design and work in both cutting and setting stones; to design and work in wood; and various other crafts. He oversaw all the work on the Tabernacle. To achieve this goal, his gifts are described in a threefold manner. 1) Wisdom which was required in the making of the garments for the High Priest where the workers were “filled with the spirit of wisdom” (28:3). Wisdom would be required in translating the plans given to Moses into the Tabernacle building and furnishings. This wisdom was also needed how to guide and lead the team of workers. 2) Understanding which includes discernment and insight. Understanding the materials, he would be working with. 3) Knowledge which covers the technical knowledge of construction necessary in a building project.
V 6 The skills of Aholiab covered metal work, weaving, and embroidery (38:23). He seems to serve under Bezalel, as his name is always placed after Bezalel. But Scripture records no jealousy or challenge to Bezalel’s authority. Humanly speaking he was a strange choice since he was from the tribe of Dan. In the marching order of the tribes, Judah, Bezalel’s tribe, came first and Dan came last (Num 10:25). When the land was apportioned between the tribes, Dan was the last to be given a land (Josh 19:40ff), and in the tribal genealogies of 1 Chronicles 2-9 Dan was omitted. In the list associated with the 144,000 in Revelation 7:4-8 Dan is not mentioned. It was Dan who began idolatry in Israel when they captured and moved to Laish (Judg. 18:30), and under Jeroboam the first king of divided Israel and a golden calf was set up at Bethel in the territory of Dan (1 Kings 12:29). There is a great contrast between the kingly tribe of Judah and the tribe of Dan. Jacob the father of the twelve, refers to Dan as “a serpent by the way” (Gen 49:17). This teaches us that God’s choice of men is such that one’s background neither qualifies nor excludes from the work of God. God see not as man sees. In vv 7-11 the items to be made are listed.
V 12-17 The Sabbath appears a second time here. It was last referred to in Ch. 20 at the giving of the Law at Sinai. It appears now at the end of the instructions regarding the Tabernacle. This is significant since the Tabernacle was a picture of God resting in His dwelling place in the midst of His people. God clarifies a further the reason for the Sabbath, as a sign “between me and you throughout your generations” (v. 13 & 17). This is the second sign that had been given to Israel as a token of their relationship with the Lord. The first was circumcision (Gen 17:11). Circumcision was a sign not outwardly seen, but Shabbat was a visible sign. It was a sign between the Lord and Israel and also a sign to others. It was a reminder that the Lord had set Israel apart, distinguishing them from all other nations and giving them a blessing. It was a day to enter into God’s rest. No other nation had such a day. Most would see it as a “waste” of time and money when work could be done. But those that would trust and obey would learn that time set aside for the Lord was never wasted.
There was a punishment for not keeping the Sabbath “Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death (14). Breaking the Sabbath put the person outside the protection and blessing of the covenant and caused him or her to be “cut off from among his people”. This seems too harsh for the crime to our sensibilities, but Israel was called to a higher standard because of God’s call on them to be His covenant people and priests to the nations. To whom much is given much is required. The first example of this punishment being carried out was in the case of the man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36).
The reason for the sabbath commandment is found in v. 17 “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed”. This confirms that the days of Genesis 1 were days of twenty-four hours, defined as having evenings and mornings. In creation, the Lord rested on the seventh day because He could look back on a completed work that was done perfectly and declared that His work was “very good.” Israel was given the privilege to enter His rest. We are later told in the unfolding revelation of God (through the Scriptures) that the Sabbath was a picture of a greater rest that was to come for God’s people. God promised through Jeremiah that He would make a New Covenant not like the covenant made at Mt. Sinai Jer. 31:31-33). God would send the messenger of the covenant ““Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 3:1). This messenger of the Covenant is Yeshua the Messiah who provided for our atonement for sin. Which resulted in our reconciliation to God and an everlasting Sabbath rest in Him. Hebrews 3-4 teach us that the Sabbath foreshadowed an everyday rest in Messiah which is a foretaste of the heavenly rest we will have in His presence in heaven.