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Shemot/Exodus 25:3 And this is the portion that you shall take from them: gold, silver and bronze ...
HaShem is speaking here and instructing Moshe about the contributions of material for the building of the Tabernacle. We have already discussed (Terumah 5764) the way that the contributions were to be given - voluntarily, without any coercion, from the heart - but now HaShem is being more specific and listing the materials that will be needed. The Bekhor Shor comments that while "in other cases, one might contribute anything and it would be sold and the money applied to the temple expenses, in this case, only the material actually used for the Tabernacle were accepted." (quoted by Michael Carasik). So the list of items in this verse and those following is prescriptive. The Ramban confirms this by pointing to the way the text starts: - this is the offering; while the Sforno adds, "He commanded that they should not accept any item of monetary value such as fruit, pearls or precious stones which were not the stones for the ephod. They should accept only offerings that could directly be used for the Sanctuary."
Starting in this verse, the following verses list fifteen commodities: "gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, goats' hair; tanned ram skins, dolphin skins, and acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense; lapis lazuli and other stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece" (Shemot 25:3-7, JPS). Thirteen are to be used in the construction of the Tabernacle, its furniture, the ritual vessels and priestly garments; two - the oil and the spices - are to be used in performing the daily ritual of the cult, the worship of G-d. Nahum Sarna) points out that the metals in the text are listed in decreasing order of value; the word is variously translated copper (JPS), bronze (NASB, ESV, CJB) or brass (KJV), and is usually taken to be an alloy of copper and tin widely used in the Ancient Near East. He also notes that iron is conspicuously absent, "either on account of its great rarity at this time or because its utilisation for more efficient weapons of death made it incompatible with the spiritual ends that the sanctuary was intended to serve."
We have then, in a compact list of seven verses, fifteen constituents to the construction and operation of the Tabernacle. Moshe may accept only these gifts and no other; no substitution or monetary gifts are allowed - any bartering because someone wanted to give but didn't have the requisite items had to be done off-stage and the donation given in the specified currency. At the same time, each of the items on the list is also essential to the process: none may be absent or missing, none may be in surplus while another is insufficient. In order to make the Tabernacle and all its accompanying articles, the exact materials in the correct ratio and quantity must be present; they were all necessary to make the whole. When enough material had been given, the artisans who were engaged with the tasks reported that there was enough, and "Moshe thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: 'Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!' So the people stopped bringing: their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done" (Shemot 36:6-7, JPS).
There are a number of other places in the Scriptures where lists of essential elements are combined to make a whole. At the feast of Tabernacles, the people are told. "On the first day you are to take choice fruit, palm fronds, thick branches and river-willows, and celebrate in the presence of ADONAI your G-d" (Vayikra 23:40, CJB). Known simply as the lulav (although, strictly, that is the name of the palm fronds) and the etrog (a citron fruit), these four components must be present to wave before the L-rd in the sukkah and make the Sukkot blessing. Jewish folklore is full of tales about the lengths (and expense) to which Jews will go in order to have a valid set of the four species so that they may fulfill this commandment. The rabbis also have a number of ingenious explanations of the four species (see, for example, Sukkot 5770) that emphasise how important each one of the symbols and each one of the people are in the making of the whole.
Similarly, Rav Sha'ul writes about both the gifts and the fruit of the Ruach. To the Corinthians, he explains the unity of G-d: "Now there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. Also there are different ways of serving, but it is the same Lord being served. And there are different modes of working, but it is the same G-d working them all in everyone" (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, CJB) before listing the spiritual gifts: "To one, through the Spirit, is given a word of wisdom; to another, a word of knowledge, in accordance with the same Spirit; to another, faith, by the same Spirit; and to another, gifts of healing, by the one Spirit; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the ability to judge between spirits; to another, the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues; and to yet another, the ability to interpret tongues" (vv. 8-10, CJB), and immediately following the list with the unity of believers "For just as the body is one but has many parts; and all the parts of the body, though many, constitute one body; so it is with the Messiah" (v. 12, CJB). Messiah has only one body and all believers are needed to make it up in its fullness.
To the Galatians, Sha'ul speaks about the fruits of the Spirit. After a list of behaviours which demonstrate those people who are not a part of the kingdom of G-d, he writes: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control" (Galatians 5:22-23, CJB), immediately following the list with the exhortation, "Since it is through the Spirit that we have Life, let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day" (v. 25, CJB). To have life, we must encourage and develop all the spiritual fruit within our lives; not just one or two, perhaps the ones we find easiest, but the whole set are to be evident in the way we walk, talk, think and interact with other people. None are optional.
A shorter list is found in the letter to the Ephesian community: "[Yeshua] gave some people as emissaries, some as prophets, some as proclaimers of the Good News, and some as shepherds and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11, CJB). Known as the five-fold ministries, these qualities or characters are to be a part of every local group of believers. They may not necessarily be precisely five separate people, set in as elders over a congregation; sometimes one person may carry out more than one of these functions, at others, several people may perform one function together. What is important is that all five ministries are exercised within each expression of the body of Messiah. Sha'ul makes that clear when he explains the purpose of the ministries: "Their task is to equip G-d's people for the work of service that builds the body of the Messiah, until we all arrive at the unity implied by trusting and knowing the Son of G-d, at full manhood, at the standard of maturity set by the Messiah's perfection" (vv. 12-13, CJB). Unless all five ministries are present and working together, the people of G-d will not be fully built up but will be spiritually lacking or deformed in some way; they will not reach their full potential either as individuals or as a group.
So just as HaShem gives Moshe a definitive list of materials that would be required for the building and functioning of the Tabernacle - the physical expression of His presence in the midst of the people - He also gives other lists of gifts, behavioural characteristics, qualities, ministries and even - by extension - people, that are essential to build up and operate the body of Messiah - the physical expression in this age of His presence in the world. To each believer, G-d says: heaven won't be complete if you aren't there! To all of us, He says: bring what you have, for everything will be needed! To those with ministry gifts or abilities (that's all of us, really), He says: use your gift to the very best!
Further Study: Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 3:15-17
Application: Do you struggle each day wondering just why G-d chose you and what on earth you are supposed to do about it? Know that you are chosen for a purpose, that you have an exact fit and function in the body of Messiah that no-one else can fill. Know that G-d wants you to be fully engaged, to the very most that is in you, in building the kingdom of His Son both here in this life and in the world to come!
© Jonathan Allen, 2011
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