For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

31:1.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


31:2.  “See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:”


Bezaleel means in God’s shade; Uri, my light; Hur, white; and Judah, he shall be praised.  God’s having called Bezaleel reminds us that it is folly to attempt to do God’s work apart from His call and His enablement, see Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called,, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified,” and again, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” Romans 11:29.


The meanings of the names of Bezaleel and his ancestors are replete with spiritual instruction, for those who would do God’s work must be like Bezaleel: they must dwell in God’s shade, i.e., they must walk in fellowship with Him, their every thought, word, and deed being according to His Word. 


And they must manifest the character of Uri: they must walk in the light of His presence, this being possible only as they obey His Word, relative to which it is written, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” Psalm 119:105.  Such obedience will produce the righteousness suggested in the meaning of Hur, i.e., white, the end result being the glorification and praise of God indicated in the meaning of Judah, he shall be praised.


31:3.  “And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,”


It is to be noted that being filled with the Holy Spirit is not the same as being indwelt by Him.  At the moment of conversion very believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and will enjoy that experience until he goes home to heaven; but His filling fluctuates in proportion to the degree that we allow Him to control our lives, for it is to be remembered that He will never impose His control against our will.  We diminish His filling when we grieve Him by doing what He forbids, and when we quench Him by refusing to do what He commands.


Bezaleel’s being filled with God’s Spirit made him wise, skilful or expert, and knowledgeable relative to every type of craftsmanship, today’s counterpart of this endowment being the spiritual gifts given believers  by God.  There is however, a difference, Scripture indicating that during this present age each believer is given only one spiritual gift; note e.g., 1 Timothy 1:14, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee,” and 2 Timothy 1:6, “... stir up the gift of God, which is in thee ....”   


31:4.  “To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,”


To devise means to invent, fashion, produce; and cunning means ingenious, skilful, masterful.


The order in which the metals are listed is also instructive, for gold represents Divine glory; silver, redemption; and brass, judgment.  God is glorified by man’s obedience; but only the redeemed man, i.e., the believer, can yield that obedience; and he who will not glorify God must then suffer His judgment as portrayed by the brass.


31:5.  “And in cutting of (precious) stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.”


Believers are likened to precious stones, see Malachi 3:16-17, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.  And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”


“... to set them.”  Precious stones are almost invariably set in gold, and this setting of them teaches typologically that as the obedient believer glorifies God, so will God glorify that same submissive saint eternally, as it is written, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified,” Romans 8:29-30.


“... and in carving of timber.”  Timber is a type or symbol of man, so that this carving speaks of the process by which God fashions the believer into the likeness of Christ: He cuts away all that is unnecessary in the believer’s life, so that that man or woman becomes daily more closely conformed to Christ’s image, see again Romans 8:29.  We have a part in that conformity, as exhorted in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye my prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”


“... to work in all manner of workmanship” means that Bezaleel would be endowed with the ability to work in every medium.


31:6.  “And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee;”


Aholiab means tent of father; Ahisamach, brother of support; and Dan, a judge, judging.  All of these meanings have a good connotation, tent of father suggesting submission to God; brother of support speaking of helpfulness; and a judge or judging indicating wise discernment. 


Concerning wisdom it is written, “The fear (reverential awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Proverbs 9:10, the propriety of the meaning declaring the truth that the wholesome fear of offending God will preserve us from the folly of disobeying Him, for obedience brings blessing; disobedience, chastisement and loss.


31:7.  “The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle,”                


The tabernacle was the symbolic dwelling place of God in the midst of His redeemed people Israel.  It was a type or figure of the Church.  The making of it speaks symbolically of the building up of God’s house, which during this present age of grace is the Church, the divided state of which declares all too clearly that this command is more often breached than obeyed.


The mention of the mercy seat is the clear reminder that as God has been merciful to us, so are we to extend mercy to others as commanded in Luke 6:36, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”


“... and all the furniture of the tabernacle,” embraces symbolically everything related to the life of the Church, no facet of which is exempt from this command.


Furniture, in the present context, means fittings, utensils, vessels, appurtenances, instruments.


31:8.  “And the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick with all his furniture, and the altar of incense,”


Since a table is associated with eating, the mention of the table first, teaches the imperative of nourishing our souls with the pure spiritual food of the Scriptures as commanded in 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”  God’s reprimand of those who fail to thus nourish their souls is recorded in Hebrews 5:12-14, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.  For everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”


The candlestick or lampstand speaks of testimony or profession, the need of maintaining a vibrant witness being declared in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”


Its being called the pure candlestick refers to its being made of pure, i.e., unalloyed gold, reminding us that we who are God’s witnesses here on earth are also to be pure: there is to be nothing of the world in our lives beyond what is required by our need to earn a livelihood, our principal work being to be witnesses for the Lord.


An altar is inseparable from sacrifice; and incense speaks clearly of worship, so that the lesson of the altar of incense is that worship requires the sacrifice of time and energy, which in our unconverted state, were given to the pursuit of the world’s wealth and pleasure.  He who would offer acceptable worship must spend time with God in the study of Scripture, meditation, and prayer.


31:9.  “And the altar of burnt offering with all his furniture (vessels, utensils, etc.,) and the laver and his foot,”


Every sacrifice placed on the brazen altar (the altar of burnt offering), was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, offering Himself without spot to God the Father, first for His glory, and then for the expiation of our sins.


The laver and its foot - the foot being either the base of the laver, or a separate small basin used to take water from the laver, and with which the priests were to wash their hands and feet - are a type of the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the water of life, see John 4:7-15.


31:10.  “And the cloths of service, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, to minister in the priest’s office,”


Nothing is known of “the cloths of service,” but it seems that they may have been towels with which the priests dried their hands and feet after washing at the laver.


31:11.  “And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.”


This indicates that part of the priests’ work was the blending of the anointing oil, and the compounding of the sweet incense burned on the golden altar.  The blending of the anointing oil seems to speak of the need to be submissive to the Holy Spirit, not just in connection with worship and service, but in everything we do; while the preparation of the sweet incense clearly speaks of the need to prepare ourselves to sit at the Lord’s Table on the first day of each week to remember His death, and present our worship.


In connection with this latter preparation a word of caution may not be inappropriate.  We should devote adequate time to reading, prayer, and meditation relative to what we might present in worship during the Lord’s Supper, but we must never insist on making that presentation apart from the clear leading of the Holy Spirit.  If what is on my mind isn’t along the same lines as the worship already offered, there is the very real danger that it is not being indited by the Holy Spirit, and will therefore mar rather than contribute to the worship of the company as a whole.


31:12.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


31:13.  “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.”


The reference here is primarily to the seventh day of the week, see e.g., Leviticus 23:3, though that doesn’t exclude its application to the other sabbaths designated by God.  It takes us back to Gen 2:1-3 when He, having completed His restoration of the ruined earth, rested on, and sanctified (set apart) the seventh day to be a weekly sabbath of rest.


The importance of the weekly sabbath is that it foreshadows the eternal rest into which the believer enters through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Society’s desecration of the seventh day is an affront to God because it signifies man’s rejection of the rest secured for believers through the Lord’s vicarious death.


31:14.  “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.”


The severity of the penalty for desecration of the sabbath is related to the fact that it is a symbolic rejection of the eternal rest secured for believers through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He, who, by rejecting Christ as his Savior, refuses to enter into that rest, will be cast into the never ending torment of the terrible lake of fire, there to weep and wail and gnash his teeth, and never know rest.


31:15.  “Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.”


The twice repeated “shall surely be put to death” emphasizes the awful consequence of failure to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and warns of the dreadful folly of hoping to enter heaven on the basis of good works.  The warning is repeated in the literal language of the NT in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”


31:16.  “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.”


The children of Israel, God’s redeemed earthly people, typify believers of this present age of grace, and the command to Israel to keep the sabbath translates into God’s instruction to us to rest in the enjoyment of Christ’s perfectly completed work.  All that was needed to secure the redemption of our souls was completed at Calvary when the Lord said, “It is finished,”


As to whether a literal weekly sabbath or day of rest is to be kept today, godly men differ, but two facts argue very strongly in favor of its being so kept: God Himself rested on the seventh day, see Genesis 2:1-3, and also Romans 14:5-6.  When giving the Ten Commandments He appointed the seventh day as a day of rest, and since the other nine commandments apply to every dispensation, this command relative to the seventh day obviously applies also.  The word perpetual in the present context means eternal.


31:17.  “It is a sign (symbol)betweeen me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”


As has been discussed already, man’s resting on the seventh day of the week is a symbol of the eternal rest into which every believer enters when He trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.


Relative to God’s having made heaven and earth in six days, see the commentary on Genesis by the present writer, and available on this web site.


“refreshed” is associated with the pleasure given by a soft wind after toil.


31:18.  “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”


The tables were the two stone tablets upon which God Himself had inscribed the Ten Commandments, their being engraved on stone declaring their immutability and eternality. 


The significance of their being given on mount Sinai, meaning my thorns, is related to the fact that thorns are the evidence of the earth’s cursed state, see Genesis 3:17-18, Sinai, in the present context, being symbolic of that sinful condition.  Those tables of stone declared the inflexible criterion of Divine righteousness, and reveal to every honest man the impossibility of his ever meeting that standard, and impelling the same cry as fell from the lips of the Philippian jailor, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  The answer given by Paul is the same as is given to every other who sees himself as a condemned sinner in God’s sight: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved ....” Acts 16:30-31.

[Exodus 32]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough