Exodus 37-39: Bezalel gets ‘er done

Leave a comment

Exodus37These three chapters are literally a rehashing of Exodus 25-31. The only substantial difference is that all the “you shalls” have been replaced with “he dids.” These are pretty much among the top most boring things I’ve ever read, even worse than the begats in Genesis (which I think get so much attention because too few people get through them enough to reach the tail end of Exodus).

So rather than just making a bunch of posts about how boooooored I am, I decided to just combine Exodus 37-39 and knock them all out in one go. If you’re following at home and worried that I’m messing up your reading rhythm, don’t worry. You’ve already read these chapters back when we were doing Exodus 25-31. Take a vacation instead. Maybe find some Sabbath breakers to kill.

If I were really dedicated, I might do a line by line comparison between the instructions and the execution. But I won’t.

The only thing of note is that Exodus 38:24-26 gives us the results of the census we heard about in Exodus 30. The results? We have 603,550 men over the age of 30. So let’s take this opportunity to do a little math!

  1. Let’s assume that there is a roughly equal number of men and women over the age of 20. This gives us 1,207,100 adult Hebrews.
  2. Let’s be generous and say that each of these couples has only one child. Some may not be married or have had kids yet, while some undoubtedly have more than just one, so I think that an average of 1 child per 2 adults is a pretty generous assumption. This gives us 1,810,650 Hebrews.
  3. We know that there were 70 Hebrews who entered Egypt with Jacob (Gen. 46:27).
  4. God told Abraham that the Hebrews would spend 400 years in Egypt (Gen. 15:13), but after the fact, we’re told that they were there for 430 years (Exod. 12:40). I’m inclined to assume that God was rounding when he spoke to Abraham, but that the Exodus number is the exact one.
  5. Let’s assume that the Hebrews typically started having kids at 15. Again, I think we’re being generous, but let’s just go with that.
  6. Next, we need to Google “How to calculate exponential population growth.”
  7. Realize that you don’t understand the explanation at all.
  8. Give up.
  9. Cheat and simply conclude that the birth rate would have to be pretty incredible for the population to grow by that much in so few years.

Exodus 36: Bezalel and Oholiab get to work

Leave a comment

If you remember, collecting the materials for God’s little building project is a “freewill offering” (Exod. 36:3) to be collected from “every man whose heart makes him willing” (Exod. 25:2), and Moses has no trouble whatsoever getting all the stuff together.

Exodus36In fact, the Hebrews are so excited about God’s Extreme Makeover: Tabernacle Edition (h/t: David Plotz for that joke) that they just keep bringing stuff, way more stuff than could actually be used on this project. In a move the Vatican might learn from, Moses says to his people: “Let neither man nor woman do anything more for the offering for the sanctuary” (Exod. 36:6). A “thank you” would have been good, but I’m just glad that he didn’t threaten to kill anyone who tries to give him more linen or gold earrings.

After that, we just get a really long description of Bezalel and Oholiab working (though, for some reason, the text completely neglects to make a joke about Bezalel using his BeDazzler, but whatever).

Exodus 35: Gathering resources

1 Comment

We had a brief respite of interesting chapters, but now we’re back – neck deep – in the priestly tradition. Yaaarrgh.

We start off with yet another reminder to keep the Sabbath and a warning that anyone who fails to do so “shall be put to death” (Exod. 35:2).

Freewill Offering for the Tabernacle Exodus 35:22-29Let’s reflect for a moment on the Walton family, John Schnatter, and other explicitly Christian business owners who have been in the news recently for complaining that the U.S. government isn’t respecting their piousness, and let’s thank them for taking their faith so profoundly to heart that they are willing to reduce their market competitiveness by making sure that all their employees have the Sabbath off from work.

With the warning about honouring the Sabbath over with, we jump right into a really long-winded way of saying that the Hebrews are following the instructions from Exodus 25-31. Buckle up, ’cause it’s gonna be a wild ride!

The Tabernacle

As we covered in our reading about the design for the tabernacle, this thing would be terribly impractical for a nomadic/travelling group of people. So while Collins points out that tent-shrines for deities were A Thing in the Semitic world, this one is just way too big and elaborate and “may reflect a later, settled shrine, possibly at Shiloh, where the tabernacle is set up in Josh 18:1 […] Alternatively, it may be an ideal construction, imagined by later Priestly writers. It does not correspond to what we know of the Jerusalem temple, although it incorporates some of its features, notably the statues of winged cherubim guarding the mercy seat (Exod. 25:21)” (p.75).

Exodus 31: God gives ability to all able men

Leave a comment

So we have all the instructions for God’s little building project, now we need contractors to do the work. God tells Moses that he heard of this one guy who did an amazing job on his friend’s rec room, so they should hire him. Enter Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.

Exodus 31 2-8 Bezalel and Oholiab making the Ark of the CovenantBut since one guy can’t do all that work alone, God decides that they have enough shekels in the budget to bring in an assistant. So they also hire Oholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.

Of course, these are just going to be leading the construction project. God wants this to be a group effort, a real bonding experience for the Hebrews. So he gets together all the able men and gives them all ability (Exod. 31:6), which seems rather unimpressive.

There seem to be two ways we can read this:

  1. God collects all the able-bodied men and gives them the artistic ability necessary to pull off the job, or
  2. God collects all the men who already have artistic ability and reminds them that they only have it thanks to him.

Either way, it’s a fairly unimpressive feat. This is God’s own book, a book where he feels comfortable being described as personally bringing down plagues and slaughtering innocent children and parting a sea, yet even here he can’t bring himself to heal amputees.

You need a day off

But with all that work ahead of them, Good Guy God takes the time to remind everyone not to work too hard and to take the Sabbath off. Of course, a good boss would probably realize that his contractors will be happy with a day off and just leave it at that, but God just don’t play that way.

No, God needs to threaten to punish anyone who tries to work overtime.

So what’s the punishment for overtime? Well, it’s either being “put to death” or being “cut off from among his people” (Exod. 31:14). This is made even more confusing because the two punishments are listed together in the very same verse.