Carpenter and tentmaker
So many of God's faithful servants have been shepherds: Abel,
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David, to name but a few. In NT times, the
vocation of fisherman was prominent among the Lord's followers. Both these
secular occupations well fitted such men for the spiritual work they would do --
as "shepherds" of the flock of God, and "fishers of men". The connections in
Scripture between the literal and the typical in these cases are plentiful
indeed, and rich in spiritual instruction.
Taking our lead from such obvious patterns, what then should
we make of the livelihoods of God's two most prominent servants: Jesus the
carpenter (Mat 13:55; Mar 6:3) and Paul the tentmaker (Act 18:3)?
The thread starts in Exodus, where the LORD God commanded
Moses to build Him a tabernacle, "according to the pattern showed you in the
mount" (Exo 25:40; Heb 8:5). For this work, the LORD called and inspired
Bezaleel (Exo 31:2) and his assistant Aholiab to be "cunning" workmen in metal
and timber and fabric.
"Bezaleel" signifies "in the shadow (under the protection) of
El". He was of the tribe of Judah; the sun of Uri ("light"; the plural is
"Urim"); the grandson of Hur ("whiteness", "splendor"). He was definitely the
"artisan-in-charge": Aholiab was "given with him" (Exo 31:6; cp Ezo 38:23), "to
help him" (NIV).
Apparently Bezaleel was especially skilled in metal and stone
and wood, whereas his assistant Aholiab (the name itself signifies "the tent of
his father") was more adept in the working of fabrics and skins. The distinction
is borne out by a careful reading of Exo 35:30-35; 38:23. Together, they carried
forward the word of building the tabernacle.
A bit more about Bezaleel: Clearly, he stands in the narrative
as a type of Christ:
- He was a "carpenter". This is a Hebrew word, according to most authorities,
which signifies an artisan in metal and stone as well as wood (as does its Greek
equivalent, applied to Joseph and Jesus).
- His name ("in the shadow of El")
calls to mind Psa 57:1; 63:7; and especially Psa 91:1. Likewise, Jesus was and
is "under the protection of El", as Isa 49:1,2 and Joh 1:18 imply: "In the
shadow of His hand hath He hid me..." "The only begotten Son, who is in the
bosom of the Father..."
- He was of Judah!
- He was the son of Uri ("light")
and Hur ("splendor"). Likewise, Jesus was the son of "Light" (1Jo 1:5), and
himself "the Light of the world" (Joh 9:5), being the "brightness" of his
Father's glory (Heb 1:3)!
The Mosaic tabernacle, with all that pertained to it, was a
"figure" (Greek "parable") of the "greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made
with hands" (Heb 9:9,11). This spiritual "tabernacle", or temple, is of course
the ecclesia, built upon Jesus Christ the "foundation" (Eph 2:20-22; 1Co 3:16;
1Pe 2:5-7) and chief corner-stone (Psa 118:22,23). As Bezaleel labored to build
the literal tabernacle, so Jesus labored to build the spiritual. As Aholiab
assisted the "master builder", so Paul assisted Christ (cp 1Co 3:9-15; 2Co
The secular occupations of Jesus and Paul beautifully fill out
this picture: Jesus, like Bezaleel, the "artisan" in wood and stone and metal,
built the framework and foundation of the spiritual tabernacle -- the "center
pole" of his work being the cross of wood erected at Golgotha. He also "worked"
in metal -- the spikes with which he was nailed to the cross.
Afterward, Paul -- the New Testament "Aholiab" -- was chiefly
responsible for the "stitching together" of the skins and fabrics (the
individual ecclesias?) into whole coverings, to overlay the wooden framework.
Building up and binding together individuals into ecclesias, and ecclesias into
the One Body of Christ.
The "carpenter" and the "tentmaker" working together,
according to the pattern of the more perfect tabernacle!