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Shemot/Exodus 26:30 And you shall raise up the Tabernacle according to the plan you were shown on the mountain.
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The whole of this chapter (Shemot 26) is given over to the detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle itself, its boards and bars, sockets and hooks, its coverings and, of course, its curtain separating the Holy of Holies - or most holy place - from the Holy Place where the priests served each day. Each item is painstakingly described and dimensioned; modern blueprints could not go into more detail. While some of the furnishings and ritual objects in the tabernacle have less detail and their manufacture is sufficiently obscure that we might struggle to replicate them today, the Mishkan as it is here called, is clear enough to present no difficulty to skilled modern craftsmen. Nevertheless, this particular instruction generates some comment among the classical commentators.
Rashi starts by adding chronological detail: "after it will be finished, erect it." The Sifsei Chachamim expands this into, "Do not put it together in stages as its various components are completed. First make all of its parts and then put the whole thing together at once."FootNoreRef(1) Noticing that the verb for "you shall raise up", - the Hif'il 2ms affix form of the root , to arise or rise up, here with a vav-reversive to give a future tense - is singular and so appears to be addressing Moshe himself, Ibn Ezra explains that what HaShem really meant was: "Set up the Tabernacle - that is, have your experts do so." Or, he adds, "perhaps it meant that Moshe himself was to set up the Tabernacle the first time - with the help of others, for it took many hands to set up the Tabernacle."
In the previous chapter Moshe is told to follow the pattern - , a fs abstract noun from the root , to build, "exactly as I show you -- the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings -- so shall you make it" (Shemot 25:9, NJPS) - when constructing the Tabernacle. Now he is to work , according to its plan; coming from the root , to judge, mishpat (pl. mishpatiym) is usually translated as judgements or justice and represents the find legal judgements - the case law, if you will - needed to implement the broader brush strokes of the Torah. Here Moshe is referred to HaShem's fine detail and construction specific requirements. He has not only the plans, but also the architect's vision for how to implement the plans so that there need be no human guesswork affecting the task. No bodging2 or fudging3 on HaShem's work! Nahum Sarna writes that "the Tabernacle and its furnishings are conceived either as earthly replicas of celestial archetypes or as constructions based upon divinely given blueprints and pictorial representations."
Turning to the second verb in our text, - the Hofal 2ms affix form from the root , to see, so here, "you have been caused to see" or "you have been shown", possibly an affix of certainty because HaShem has determined that it will happen so rendered "you will be shown" - Rashi comments that although this verb appears to be out of time, since Moshe has not yet had this revelation, it should be read as "you will have been shown on the mountain" because - putting words in HaShem's mouth - "I intend to teach you and to show you the order of its erection before the time when you erect it." TheBaal HaTurim reports that this word appears only twice in the Tanakh, here and "It has been clearly demonstrated to you that the L-RD alone is G-d; there is none beside Him." (D'varim 4:35, NJPS). The Tur interprets these two texts together to mean that "you have been shown [the detail of the Tabernacle] on the mountain in order to know that HaShem, He is the G-d, and that there is none beside Him."
It is important that we appreciate that the level of detail and accuracy given for the building of the Tabernacle and its ease of duplication today by skilled craftsmen, strongly reinforce the veracity of the construction narrative given in these later chapters of Shemot. Richard Elliott Friedman comments that "this construction of the Tabernacle goes against the dominant view of biblical scholars for the past century: that the Tabernacle was not real, that it was simply a fiction, invented to stand for the second Temple in Jerusalem." Not only was the construction of the tabernacle within the capabilities of the ancient Israelites, both in the materials required and the skillsets needed to complete the work, but the narrative confirms the order of assembly and manufacture in a coherent and logical order. Everything proceeded under the hand of Moshe as directed by HaShem and His spirit empowered the workmen and craftsmen to produce excellence as Walter Brueggemann suggests: "The pattern given to Moshe intends that G-d's sanctuary be outfitted in the most luxurious way possible, because the sanctuary becomes the promise and embodiment of the new world of blessing and well-being."4
Rav Sha'ul urges believers to exercise the same level of excellence in their individual work, writing, "Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8-10, ESV). Notice the use of the word 'discern'; we are to follow the pattern that was set for us by Messiah Yeshua, obeying Him in all things and walking as He walked. This is the pattern that we are shown as we read the pages of the Bible, and the plan that is explained to us by the Holy Spirit as He brings to mind everything that Yeshua taught and did. If we do this, we are like the wise man who "built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock" (Matthew 7:24-25, ESV). We build a house, but we have to be sure of our foundation and our materials. We also have to be aware of the plan or design that the L-rd has for our lives and listen closely to the Spirit as He guides us.
The larger Body of Messiah is also called to build, but on a different scale, as we extend the kingdom of G-d, offering the good news of the gospel: G-d's invitation to all mankind to become part of His kingdom in Yeshua: "we are ambassadors for Messiah, G-d making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Messiah, be reconciled to G-d" (2 Corinthians 5:20, ESV). But how and where should we build? Are we to work on this estate or that, reaching the underprivileged or the overprivileged? What is the vision - to what is G-d calling each congregation or community? This too requires discernment to make sure that we have a clear view of G-d's plans and that we understand the detailed instructions and directions that He gives about how and when to do the building, the outreach, the proclaiming, the acts or mercy and so on. These are the building blocks of the kingdom that come in different size, shapes and colours; they need aligning, trimming, edging, tracing and fitting into the building. As the Psalmist tells us, "Unless the L-RD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1, ESV).
Who is called to build the house of G-d? Everyone who believes in Yeshua as Messiah and is being conformed to His likeness. As Sha'ul says, "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19, ESV). We are all a part of the economy of the kingdom; we all serve our Master and we all share in the duty of constructing the place for G-d to dwell. What is that? Sha'ul goes on: "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord" (vv. 20-21, ESV). And its purpose? "In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (v. 22, ESV). What is G-d doing? He is building another mishkan or Tabernacle where He can live among His people. The same skills of design, precision, craftsmanship and materials are required, so that we must always be asking ourselves these questions: Whose plan are we using? What is the quality of materials? Do we have the correct licences and permits? Are we and our workers safe and controlled in our individual tasks? The work of the kingdom requires no less!
1. - Sifsei Chachamimis a super-commentary on Rashi's commentary on the Torah, written by Rabbi Shabtai Bass in Amsterdam in 1680. It brings together many sources of explanation and comment to Rashi, as well as giving reasons for many of the verses and statements that Rashi makes.
2. - The Oxford Dictionary of English defines 'bodging' as "making or repairing (something) badly or clumsily."
3. - Likewise, the ODE defines 'fudging' as "presenting or dealing with (something) in a vague or inadequate way, especially so as to conceal the truth or mislead."
4. - Walter Brueggemann, "Exodus," in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Vol I, edited by Leander E. Keck, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 450-451.
Further Study: 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Ephesians 6:5-7
Application: How well are you building in your corner of the kingdom? Have you been inspected recently to make sure that your work is up to standard and your materials meet the Master's specification? Why not put a call in to Building Control and ask the Chief Inspector to go through your plans and paperwork with you to make sure that you are still on target and meeting the master design.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2021
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