31:1 1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 31:2 “See, I have chosen 3 Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31:3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God 4 in skill, 5 in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds 6 of craftsmanship, 31:4 to make artistic designs 7 for work with gold, with silver, and with bronze, 31:5 and with cutting and setting stone, and with cutting wood, to work in all kinds of craftsmanship. 31:6 Moreover, 8 I have also given him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, and I have given ability to all the specially skilled, 9 that they may make 10 everything I have commanded you: 31:7 the tent of meeting, the ark of the testimony, the atonement lid that is on it, all the furnishings 11 of the tent, 31:8 the table with its utensils, the pure lampstand with all its utensils, the altar of incense, 31:9 the altar for the burnt offering with all its utensils, the large basin with its base, 31:10 the woven garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons, to minister as priests, 31:11 the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the Holy Place. They will make all these things just as I have commanded you.”
31:12 12 The Lord said to Moses, 13 31:13 “Tell the Israelites, ‘Surely you must keep my Sabbaths, 14 for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 15 31:14 So you must keep the Sabbath, for it is holy for you. Everyone who defiles it 16 must surely be put to death; indeed, 17 if anyone does 18 any 19 work on it, then that person will be cut off from among his 20 people. 31:15 Six days 21 work may be done, 22 but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, 23 holy to the Lord; anyone who does work on the Sabbath day must surely be put to death. 31:16 The Israelites must keep the Sabbath by observing the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 31:17 It is a sign between me and the Israelites forever; for in six days 24 the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” 25
[31:1] 1 sn The next unit describes the preparation of skilled workers to build all that has been listed now for several chapters. This chapter would have been the bridge to the building of the sanctuary (35-39) if it were not for the idolatrous interlude. God called individuals and prepared them by his Spirit to be skilled to do the work for the tabernacle. If this were the substance of an exposition, it would clearly be a message on gifted people doing the work – close to the spiritual lesson of Ephesians 4. There would be two levels of meaning: the physical, which looks at the skilled artisans providing for a place to worship Yahweh, and the spiritual, which would bring in the Spirit-filled servants of God participating in building up his kingdom.
[31:3] 4 sn The expression in the Bible means that the individual was given special, supernatural enablement to do what God wanted done. It usually is said of someone with exceptional power or ability. The image of “filling” usually means under the control of the Spirit, so that the Spirit is the dominant force in the life.
[31:3] 5 sn The following qualities are the ways in which the Spirit’s enablement will be displayed. “Skill” is the ability to produce something valuable to God and the community, “understanding” is the ability to distinguish between things, to perceive the best way to follow, and “knowledge” is the experiential awareness of how things are done.
[31:4] 7 tn The expression is לַחְשֹׁב מַחֲשָׁבֹת (lakhshov makhashavot, “to devise devices”). The infinitive emphasizes that Bezalel will be able to design or plan works that are artistic or skillful. He will think thoughts or devise the plans, and then he will execute them in silver or stone or whatever other material he uses.
[31:6] sn The verse means that there were a good number of very skilled and trained artisans that could come to do the work that God wanted done. But God’s Spirit further endowed them with additional wisdom and skill for the work that had to be done.
[31:12] 12 sn There are some questions about the arrangement of the book. The placement of this section here, however, should come as no surprise. After the instructions and preparation for work, a Sabbath day when work could not be done had to be legislated. In all that they were going to do, they must not violate the Sabbath,
[31:13] 14 sn The instruction for the Sabbath at this point seems rather abrupt, but it follows logically the extended plans of building the sanctuary. B. Jacob, following some of the earlier treatments, suggests that these are specific rules given for the duration of the building of the sanctuary (Exodus, 844). The Sabbath day is a day of complete cessation; no labor or work could be done. The point here is that God’s covenant people must faithfully keep the sign of the covenant as a living commemoration of the finished work of Yahweh, and as an active part in their sanctification. See also H. Routtenberg, “The Laws of Sabbath: Biblical Sources,” Dor le Dor 6 (1977): 41-43, 99-101, 153-55, 204-6; G. Robinson, “The Idea of Rest in the OT and the Search for the Basic Character of Sabbath,” ZAW 92 (1980): 32-42; M. Tsevat, “The Basic Meaning of the Biblical Sabbath, ZAW 84 (1972): 447-59; M. T. Willshaw, “A Joyous Sign,” ExpTim 89 (1978): 179-80.
[31:14] 16 tn This clause is all from one word, a Piel plural participle with a third, feminine suffix: מְחַלְלֶיהָ (mÿkhalleha, “defilers of it”). This form serves as the subject of the sentence. The word חָלַל (khalal) is the antonym of קָדַשׁ (qadash, “to be holy”). It means “common, profane,” and in the Piel stem “make common, profane” or “defile.” Treating the Sabbath like an ordinary day would profane it, make it common.
[31:15] 23 tn The expression is שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן (shabbat shabbaton), “a Sabbath of entire rest,” or better, “a sabbath of complete desisting” (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 404). The second noun, the modifying genitive, is an abstract noun. The repetition provides the superlative idea that complete rest is the order of the day.
[31:17] 25 sn The word “rest” essentially means “to cease, stop.” So describing God as “resting” on the seventh day does not indicate that he was tired – he simply finished creation and then ceased or stopped. But in this verse is a very bold anthropomorphism in the form of the verb וַיִּנָּפַשׁ (vayyinnafash), a Niphal preterite from the root נָפַשׁ (nafash), the word that is related to “life, soul” or more specifically “breath, throat.” The verb is usually translated here as “he was refreshed,” offering a very human picture. It could also be rendered “he took breath” (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 345). Elsewhere the verb is used of people and animals. The anthropomorphism is clearly intended to teach people to stop and refresh themselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally on this day of rest.
[31:18] 26 sn The expression “the finger of God” has come up before in the book, in the plagues (Exod 8:15) to express that it was a demonstration of the power and authority of God. So here too the commandments given to Moses on stone tablets came from God. It too is a bold anthropomorphism; to attribute such a material action to Yahweh would have been thought provoking to say the least. But by using “God” and by stating it in an obviously figurative way, balance is maintained. Since no one writes with one finger, the expression simply says that the Law came directly from God.