Monday, August 02, 2004

Exodus 31

In this chapter, after additional comments about who is to do the work on the holy artifacts, we emerge from the long description of the accouterments of the Tabernacle, additional prescriptions are applied to the Sabbath, and Moses is given the two Tablets of Testimony containing the Ten Commandments, preparatory to returning from the mountaintop.

Individuals of two tribes are given the tasks of creating the holy artifacts. Bezalel of the tribe of Judah, the largest tribe, is made master jeweler and craftsman, while Oholiab of the tribe of Dan, the smallest tribe, is chosen as his assistant. The name Bezalel can be read to mean "In the shadow of God" (

As to the observance of the Sabbaths, anyone who works on the Sabbath is to be cut off from his people and put to death (it not being entirely clear how the latter could be accomplished without also accomplishing the former.) The rationale given is that the Israelites are to emulate God in His creation of the earth. In Deuteronomy 5:15, the reason given is that the Israelites are to observe the Sabbath because they are indebted to God for their release from captivity (

This is a very hard teaching. It is difficult to see how a loving God could want the farmer to abandon his crops to rot to honor the Sabbath, or how He could want the doctor to withhold life-saving treatment. It is especially difficult to understand why people would be put to death or expelled from the community for failing to uphold the Sabbath.

The New Testament reinterprets the meaning of the Sabbath. Jesus challenges the Jews as to why He should not heal on the Sabbath, and says that the Sabbath was made to serve Man, not Man to serve the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). And Paul gives what should be the ultimate refutation. In essence, he asks, why should six days should be made less holy than the seventh? (Rom. 14:5) For a believer, trying to make every day a Sabbath, a day of holiness and rest from worldliness, is a goal worth striving toward.


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