Bezalel – The Master Craftsman
by John C. Westervelt
In the third month after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they came into the arid wilderness of Sinai and camped in front of the mountain. After giving the law to Moses, the Lord told Moses to build the tabernacle. The structure needed to be portable since the tent dwellers would be wandering about the Sinai Peninsula. Still, the Lord’s instructions called for a large and elaborate tabernacle.
The Lord said, “See, I have chosen Bezalel of the tribe of Judah as a master craftsman, and I have appointed Oholiab of the tribe of Dan to help him.” The Lord filled these two with the Spirit of God and with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts. The Spirit instructed them regarding artistic designs for work in gold, silver, and bronze. He also tutored them in how to cut and set precious stones, work in wood, and engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. The Lord also gave Bezalel and Oholiab the ability to teach others the skills of craftsmen, designers, and embroiderers.
Moses spoke to all the congregation saying, “This is the thing the Lord has commanded: Let everyone with a willing heart bring gold, silver, and bronze, and fine linen dyed blue, purple, and scarlet, and goat hair, ram skins dyed red, and acacia wood. Let every skillful person among you join Bezalel.” Then everyone whose heart stirred them and everyone whose spirit moved them came bringing the materials and offering their services.
Under Bezalel’s direction, fine linen, dyed blue, purple, and scarlet, was sewn into curtains that were forty-two feet high and six feet wide. Cherubim were embroidered on the curtains. Five of these curtains were joined together to make one large curtain, and another five curtains were joined similarly. Blue loops were sewn every ten inches along the edge of the curtains. Fifty gold clasps connected the large curtains together by the loops.
The craftsmen working with wood received instructions to make fifteen-foot long acacia boards for the upright members of the tabernacle. These vertical boards were combined with horizontal bars to make a trellis-like structure to hold the curtains.
Bezalel built an ark of acacia wood just as Moses had described. It was 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches high. Bezalel covered the inside and outside with gold. This malleable metal was formed into thin sheets by hammering.
Under the direction of Bezalel and Oholiab, one group of craftsmen prepared clay molds for casting four gold rings for the ark. Two gold-covered acacia poles would be placed through the rings for carrying the ark, since human hands were not to come in direct contact with the ark. Another group gathered acacia wood to fire the furnace. Other workers used leather bellows to force air into the burning wood to reach temperatures above 1,945 degrees Fahrenheit to melt the gold for pouring into the molds. No job was too small for those who had committed their hearts to the task.
Bezalel built an altar for burnt offerings out of acacia wood and covered it with bronze. It was seven and a half feet square at the top, and four and a half feet high. The altar grating, pails, shovels, basins, and meat hooks were made of bronze. Early day metal workers had discovered that by adding up to four percent of tin to copper, they obtained bronze, which was a harder metal with a lower melting point than copper.
The Hebrews had joined together in building on faith. The people had given their most precious possessions - gold brooches, earrings, signet rings, and bracelets as well as their silver, bronze and linen. The craftsmen had labored with love in forming these materials into works of art. Only one year after the exodus from Egypt, all work was complete.
A worshiper entering the tabernacle viewed cascading blues, purples, and scarlets as the outside light filtered through the translucent fine linen curtains. All across the curtains were silhouettes of cherubim where the embroidery filtered out more of the light.
God was pleased with the effort extended and the sacrifice of love by His people as evidenced by the cloud of His presence coming to rest on the tabernacle.
Exodus 25-31, 35-40
Copyright 2003 by John C. Westervelt
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