Exodus 31 Commentary

Craftsmen for the work (31:1-11)

In building the tabernacle, the craftsmen were to follow strictly the God-given plan, but they still had plenty of opportunity to use their creative abilities. The power of God’s Spirit worked through human intelligence and ability. At the same time people had to remember that natural ability was not enough for the service of God. His Spirit was necessary in guiding the craftsmen so that everything might be in accordance with his purposes (31:1-6)

This combination of obedience and initiative in the work of the craftsmen applied not just to the tabernacle itself. It applied also to the priests’ clothing, the anointing oil and the incense (7-11).

The tabernacle and its services were similar enough to other ancient structures and religious practices for the Israelite people to understand them readily. Yet they were different enough to impress upon them the uniqueness of Yahweh and the faith by which they served him.

The weekly day of rest (31:12-18)

People might have thought that, because the tabernacle was a sacred structure, they could work on it on the Sabbath day. God reminded them to keep the weekly Sabbath as a holy day of rest. This rest was part of God’s plan for preserving the holiness of his people (12-17).

God then gave Moses the ten basic commandments of the covenant engraved on stone as he had promised (see 24:12; cf. Deut 10:4). Having received God’s instructions for his people, Moses went down from the mountain to put them into practice (18).

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