The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Exodus 36

Exo 36:1

Exo 36 -- Exo 39: These chs describe the manufacture of the tabernacle and its furniture -- the pattern for which Moses had received when he was in the mount. Earlier, the order in which the elements of the tabernacle were described was from the center out, the construction begins at the outside and works inwards. Reason: when the instructions were given, it was from God's point of view; when the work was done, it was from man's point of view!

Vv 1,2: "We have here a double insight into what makes people give their time and work to the service of the LORD. On the one hand (v 1), it is God who put the wisdom into their hearts, and on the other (v 2) it was everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to the work. These two are synonymous because the man whose heart is right before the LORD will do His will as if it was his own. We do well to remember that we do nothing in our own strength and there is certainly no room for pride in ourselves if we work the works of God. All must be done in humility and reverence of His great creative power by which all things consist" (PC).

Exo 36:2

TO WHOM THE LORD HAS GIVEN SKILL AND ABILITY: Those who have received ability from the Lord are at the same time being called to the building of the LORD's "tabernacle" -- which is the house in which he dwells, the community of believers.

AND WHO WAS WILLING TO COME AND DO THE WORK: Ability and willingness, along with resolution, are the tools to be desired in the call of workers in the vineyard, of builders in God's house. The talents we are entrusted with must not be tucked away in a napkin, but put to use. Why do we have our gifts, if not to do good with them?

Exo 36:3

The materials which the people had contributed were delivered by Moses to the workmen. They could not "create" a tabernacle -- they could not make it out of nothing -- they could not work, unless they had something to work with and upon. And so the people therefore brought the materials and Moses put them into the hands of the builders.

Exo 36:5

Morning after morning (v 3) the people brought more freewill offerings, until there was more than enough. What a testimonial to their loving service, and to their desire to forward the work of the building. Like the Macedonians at a much later date, "their overflowing joy... welled up in rich generosity... [and] they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will" (2Co 8:2-5).

Exo 36:6

"NO MAN OR WOMAN IS TO MAKE ANYTHING ELSE AS AN OFFERING FOR THE SANCTUARY." AND SO THE PEOPLE WERE RESTRAINED FROM BRINGING MORE: The reason being given in the following verse: "because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work." "I'm sure people haven't changed that much. If this was one of our ecclesias, this superabundance would have been provided by those who are the regular workers, those who get stuck in to ecclesial activities right from the start. There would have been some, surely, who, when hearing the request from Moses to stop providing as there was enough, would be in the embarrassing position of not even having started. There has to be a lesson here for us. Consider Heb 3:7-15, with particular attention to the word 'Today' " (PC).

Exo 36:10

Vv 10-18: Notice the repeated use of the words for "join" and "together" in this section -- an allusion to the unity of the Body of Christ.

Exo 36:19

SEA COWS: Heb "tachashim". Translated, variously, "sea cows" (NIV; WEB); "dugongs" (mg); "porpoises" (NASB); "seals" (JPS); or "badgers" (KJV; Roth). The general scholarly consensus on the word is that it is Egyptian in origin. The Arabic word "duhas" refers to a dolphin. They are common in the Red Sea; their skins are used for clothing by the Bedouin. The word has also been connected to an Egyptian word for "leather" (BDB). This is followed by NRSV and NET ("fine leather").

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