Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 31

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1-2
Exodus 31:1-2. See, I have called Bezaleel — The grandson of Hur, probably that Hur who had helped to hold up Moses’s hands, chap. 17., and was at this time in commission with Aaron for the government of the people in the absence of Moses. Aholiab, of the tribe of Dan, is appointed next to Bezaleel, and partner with him. Hiram, who was the head workman in the building of Solomon’s temple, was also of the tribe of Dan, 2 Chronicles 2:14.

Verse 3
Exodus 31:3. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God — And, Exodus 31:6, In the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom. Skill in common employments is the gift of God; it is he that puts even this wisdom into the inward parts, Job 38:36. He teacheth the husbandman discretion, Isaiah 28:26; and the tradesman too, and he must have the praise of it. Although it is probable that the arts were carried to a great height at this period in Egypt; yet, considering the state of slavery in which the Israelites had been held there, and the hard labour to which they had been compelled, it is not to be supposed that many of them had made any proficiency therein, or were qualified for such curious workmanship as had been prescribed. But that God who often chooses the weak things of the world to confound the wise; who took the apostles from their fishing-boats, and from other low occupations, and enabled them to speak fluently and correctly in the languages of all nations to which they were sent to preach; endued the persons here mentioned with the skill requisite for the work to which they were appointed. A late commentator remarks here, “Neither Moses nor Aaron, nor any of Aaron’s sons, were appointed to this service; the honour already conferred must suffice for them, and if they attended to their proper work, they would find that also sufficient. Nor were Moses’s sons appointed; for it was the Lord’s will that his disinterestedness and divine legation should appear illustrious in the obscurity of his posterity.”

Verse 5
Exodus 31:5. In cutting of stones — That is, in cutting and setting the precious stones, and in graving on them what God commanded. In carving of timber — Rather in cutting of timber, as the same word is rendered in the beginning of the verse; for we do not read of any carved work about the tabernacle.

Verse 8
Exodus 31:8. The pure candlestick — Bright, resplendent, being of pure gold, and always kept clean and bright, Exodus 29:37; Leviticus 24:4.

The same original word occurs Exodus 24:10, where the divine glory is compared to the body of heaven in its clearness or splendour.

Verse 10
Exodus 31:10. The clothes of service — Wherewith the ark, the table, the candlestick, and golden altar, were covered when the camp removed, Numbers 4:6.

Verse 13
Exodus 31:13. Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep — This had been mentioned thrice before, Exodus 16:23; Exodus 20:8; Exodus 23:12; but seems here to be repeated lest they should think the sacred work enjoined in this chapter would warrant their breaking in upon the holy rest of that day. Wherefore the clause had better be translated, Nevertheless my sabbaths shall ye keep; for אךְach is often an exceptive particle, and is so rendered here by Arias, Montanus, Le Clerc, Junius, and Tremellius. It is a sign between me and you — Some late commentators have quoted Poole here, as follows: “The sabbath is a five-fold sign; 1st, Commemorative of God’s creation and dominion over them and all things, to whom they hereby profess their subjection. 2d, Indicative, showing that they were made to be holy, and that their sanctification could be had from none but God, as it here follows and from the observation of God’s days and appointments. 3d, Distinctive, whereby they owned themselves to be the Lord’s peculiar people, by a religious keeping of those sabbaths, which the rest of the world grossly neglected, and profanely scoffed at. 4th, Prefigurative of that rest which Christ should purchase for them, namely, a rest from the burden of the ceremonial, and the curses and rigours of the moral law, as also from sin and the wrath of God for ever, Hebrews 4:5 th, Confirmative, both assuring them of God’s good will to them, and that, as he blessed the sabbath for their sakes, so he would bless them in the holy use of it, with temporal, spiritual, and everlasting blessings; and assuring God of their standing, and that they would stand to the covenant made between God and them. So that this was a mutual stipulation or ratification of the covenant of grace on both sides.” Certainly the institution of the sabbath was a great instance of God’s favour, and a sign that he had separated them from all other people; and their religious observance of it was a great instance of their duty to him. God, by sanctifying this day among them, let them know that he sanctified them, and set them apart for his service, otherwise he would not have revealed to them his holy sabbaths, to be the support of religion among them. The Jews, by observing one day in seven, after six days’ labour, testified that they worshipped the God that made the world in six days, and rested the seventh; and so distinguished themselves from other nations, who, having first lost the sabbath, the memorial of the creation, by degrees lost the knowledge of the Creator, and gave the creature the honour due to him alone.

Verses 14-16
Exodus 31:14-16. It is holy unto you — That is, it is designed for your benefit as well as for God’s honour; it shall be accounted holy by you. It is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord — It is separated from common use to the service of God; and by the observance of it we are taught to rest from worldly pursuits, and devote ourselves, and all we are, have, and can do, to God’s glory. It was to be observed throughout their generations, in every age, for a perpetual covenant — This was to be one of the most lasting tokens of the covenant between God and Israel.

Verse 17
Exodus 31:17. On the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed — And, as the work of creation is worthy to be thus commemorated, so the great Creator is worthy to be imitated by a holy rest on the seventh day. The expression, was refreshed, is spoken after the manner of men. It seems to signify that delight and complacency with which God surveyed all his works, and pronounced them good, Genesis 1:31. Of this divine pleasure we may form some faint idea, by comparing it to that solace and refreshment which a benevolent mind enjoys upon bringing into execution some noble and arduous, some generous and well concerted plan for advancing the glory of God and good of mankind.

Verse 18
Exodus 31:18. He gave unto Moses the two tables of testimony — After his forty days’ stay upon the mount, God dismissed him, giving him the ten articles of the moral law, written upon two tables of stone, to be delivered to the people, and to be laid up in the ark, as the standing record of the divine will relating to the principal branches of their duty. In the most ancient times, it must be observed, laws were wont to be engraven upon tables of brass, marble, wood, &c. These tables of stone, it appears, were not prepared by Moses, but probably by the ministry of angels. They were written with the finger of God — That is, by his will and power immediately, without the use of any instrument. They were written in two tables, being designed to direct us in our duty toward God and toward man. They were called tables of testimony, because this written law testified the will of God concerning them, and would be a testimony against them, if they were disobedient.