I am cheating. Get mad, I don’t care. View it as working ahead, since I have a short vacation coming up where I will miss a few days.
But these chapters are not exactly thought provoking individually. Other than a short bit at the beginning and at the end, the entirely of this section could be summarized as “And so Bezalel and Oholiab made everything according to the plans Moses had given them.”
Because that’s what it is. It’s a detailed listing of how Bezalel and Oholiab make everything exactly as it was described in chapters 24-30. I know I said that Genesis 24 felt like someone was trying to make a NaNoWriMo deadline, but this feels even more like a copy-paste job to get the word count up.
Which got me to thinking, why? Why was this a vital bit of scripture to the people composing it? This portion, more than anything before, was a reminder of how much the Bible, and the Hebrew Bible in particular, wasn’t written for me. It wasn’t written with an American woman born in 1984 in mind. That doesn’t mean it can’t be useful for teaching, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness, but the scribes were writing for their immediate people. Those people might have something at stake in a detailed confirmation that the tabernacle was built exactly right.
In fact, as I read verse after verse through the whole section, rather than stopping at chapters, I started to feel like I had this visual construction of everything coming into place. And that reminded of my idea of the tabernacle as an archetype, something that isn’t built but is the perfect model of what God’s holy place should be like.
And that made me think, well, maybe this is how you build the tabernacle. You construct it liturgically whenever this passage is read in synagogue (once every 3 years is the rotation, I believe). Every last action and detail verbally rendered and recited, the tabernacle is created in the mind as it can’t be in real life. It’s an idea not unlike mental mandalas in esoteric Buddhism.
The only moments that sparked my interest aside from the overall sense of mental construction were two portions (36:1-7 and 38:24-31) that emphasized the amount of items turned over for construction. The first says that Moses eventually had to put a halt to donations because they had more than enough to complete everything. The latter tallies up the total amount of gold, silver, and bronze used in making all the items. It comes to about a thousand kilograms of gold, 3500 kg of silver, and 2400 kg of bronze. Which is a lot of heavy metals.
Now, I know I ragged more than a little in my last post on the idea that these donations were completely free will, but here’s an alternate perspective on that. Aaron made the Golden Calf out of donations of gold from the Israelites. I think what this passage is supposed to demonstrate is that the Israelites afterward gave far more gold, along with other precious items, to Moses in order to construct the right kind of worship place for God. It’s their act of repentance. And is that maybe what God really wanted in the end – and not Moses’ idea of randomly killing 3000 people?
The Japanese: kensetsu “construction” (36:1), taga “hoop” (36:29), keta “beam, girder” (36:38), hishaku “ladle, dipper” (37:16), gaku “calyx,” kaben “flower petal” (37:17), juunou “fire shovel” (38:3), sougaku “total amount” (38:24).
Another “remember old vocabulary test” that I largely passed.