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Shemot/Exodus 35:29 Every man and woman whose heart made them willing to bring for any of the work ... the Children of Israel brought a free-will offering to the L-rd.
This is the last verse of the portion assigned for the second
aliyah in the parasha when read in leap-years: Shemot
35:21-29. The first and last verses (21 and 29) form an
inclusio1 around the block; here the key words appear to
be people whose hearts or spirits moved them, made them willing. The block
features repeated vocabulary - men, women, offering, heart and so on - and is
a tightly composed echo of
21 3 2 22 3 2 23 1 1 24 3 2 25 1 1 26 1 27 1 28 29 2 2 14
The adjective , most frequently translated throughout the Hebrew Bible as 'all', is here also rendered 'any' or 'every'. Derived from the root , "to complete" (Davidson), its meanings range from "the whole" (as in , the whole earth), to 'all' (usually before a plural noun, such as , all the nations), 'every' (before a singular noun without the definite article , every man) and 'any' (for example, , anything). In this passage, we see 'all', 'any' and 'every'. Walter Brueggemann proposes that the high usage of the word "suggests that the offering and its intent are utterly comprehensive. On the one hand, the word is used to describe the participation of all the people. The contributors include men and women, leaders and people, and each gives at the point of personal strength, those who have goods and those who have skill. On the other hand, all is used for the totality of materials and the totality of the work to be done as well." He observes that "the recurring 'all' of comprehensiveness yield[s] a picture of a community alive, bestirred and energised to act well outside itself and well beyond any conventional practice."2
The verb , "to come or to enter" (Davidson) is used in its Qal voice to describe the movement of the people (vv. 21-22) and in its Hif'il, or causitive, voice - "to bring" - to show the movement of the gifts of materials. The people 'came' and 'brought' their offering. By using the same verb for both 'come' and 'bring' the narrator is showing how tightly the two functions are linked: everyone who came, brought something; no-one came empty-handed. At the same time, nothing was brought by people who didn't come; no-one sent an offering, they brought it themselves. This is a significant investment not only of value (gold and silver; blue, purple and scarlet yarn; acacia wood) but also of time and identity; the people gave of themselves as well as of their substance. Don IsaacAbravanel explains that our text - the closing verse for the block - "makes it clear that they all brought their contributions in order to serve G-d and not for show."
Verses 27-28 record the gifts brought by chieftains or princes of the tribes: precious stones for the High Priest's official garments and "spices and oil for lighting, for the anointing oil, and for the aromatic incense" (NJPS)). Some commentators criticise the chieftains for holding back while the people gave all the construction material, only being shamed into giving the highest-value items when there was nothing ordinary to give. Other commentators praise the chieftains for giving the gifts which only they could afford, so allowing a full range of giving from the people without disenfranchising anyone on the basis of wealth. RabbiHirsch draws this tension from our text verse, pointing out that the words, "'Children of Israel' seems to be in apposition to 'every man and woman' and stresses the contrast in the spirit in which the whole of the people brought their gifts, to that of the leaders. Towards G-d and the task He had set them, they all felt themselves as Children of Israel' as the completely equal children of the nation, and as such the brought Him their gifts."
Our text, then, serves to emphasise the togetherness which with the people acted and the way they thought of themselves as a people.Nechama Leibowitz uses an important word when she comments: "All classes and sections of the people, men, women, the leaders and wise-hearted, were united in 'bringing'". Unity is a much vaunted quality rarely achieved among believers - the plethora of different churches, synagogues and denominations shows that neither the Jewish or Christian world has the 'unity' thing sewn up. Yet unity is something that Yeshua and the New Testament writers seem to take for granted. Twice in His prayer for the disciples after the Last Supper, Yeshua prays for the disciples: "Holy Father, guard them by the power of Your name, which You have given to Me, so that they may be one, just as We are" (John 17:11, CJB) and "The glory which You have given to Me, I have given to them; so that they may be one, just as We are one - I united with them and You with Me, so that they may be completely one, and the world thus realize that You sent Me, and that You have loved them just as You have loved Me" (vv. 22-23, CJB). This is to be a key part of our witness in the world: our unity as followers of Yeshua compared with the disunity of the nations, bickering and fighting between themselves, down to neighbours in the same street and sibling rivalry in the same family. This is how the world knows that the people of G-d are different from everyone else; it how we show the presence and glory of Yeshua.
Rav Sha'ul clearly expects that believers in Yeshua will show that unity, despite the inevitable disagreements that are bound to crop up among people. He urges the Corinthians, "Nevertheless, brothers, I call on you in the name of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah to agree, all of you, in what you say, and not to let yourselves remain split into factions but be restored to having a common mind and a common purpose" (1 Corinthians 1:10, CJB). As the unity between the Father and Yeshua is an expression of who they are - "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30, CJB) - so the unity of believers is also predicated on who we are: "there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one" (Galatians 3:28, CJB. Although twelve tribes; although priests, Levites and Israel; the Torah brings an eloquent witness that when it came to building the Tabernacle and providing for its service - on behalf of the people - the whole people contributed and gave of themselves to ensure that nothing was lacking. G-d was glorified. Are we, as G-d's people in this generation prepared to show or capable of showing the same commitment and unity to glorify Him today?
1. - 'inclusio' is a literary device used in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Based on a concentric principle, also known as bracketing or an envelope structure, it creates a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section; typically, these are repeated phrases, although sometimes single words are used. The purpose of an inclusiomay be structural - to alert the reader to a particularly important theme - or it may serve to show how the material within the frame relates to the the block as a whole.
2. - Walter Brueggemann, "Exodus," in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Vol I, edited by Leander E. Keck, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 496.
Further Study: Ezra 1:5-11; 1 Corinthians 11:17-22; James 3:13-14
Application: How are you on unity with those of slightly different faith positions than yourself: Protestant vs. Catholic, Charismatic vs. Reformed, Lutheran vs. Methodist, Christian vs. Messianic Jewish. What might G-d be saying to you today about unity in worship and witness that will bring Him glory?
08:47 14Mar19 Brian and Anne Nelson: I find that the ONLY foundation in which to find unity is in Messiah Jesus/Yeshua Hamashiach. Practically, it is impossible without humility, daily repentance, and GRACE, GRACE, and yet still more GRACE, and then my heart still needs softening through His Love !! Please help me, dear Lord Jesus Christ to walk humbly before you, preferring my brother/sister to myself, by Your Mercy and Grace alone. Thank You, dear Father.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2019
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