1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, 8 the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, 10 and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.” – Exodus 31:1-11 ESV
The Tabernacle and its furnishings had been designed by God but were to be handcrafted by men. For an earthly house for God to go from concept to concrete form, human hands would be required. Up until this point in the narrative, the Tabernacle was just an idea with no basis in reality. None of its furnishings had been fabricated. The curtains and veils had not been sewn. The timber for its beams had not been harvested or milled. Even the bronze, silver, and gold that would adorn the Tabernacle had not been collected, let alone smelted and purified for use.
There was much to be done, but before Moses could begin the process of enlisting workers and making assignments, God revealed the names of the two men who were to oversee the construction of His house. While Moses had been assigned the task of recording God’s plans for the Tabernacle, he would not be in charge of its construction. That responsibility would fall to two men who had been specially chosen by God: Bezalel and Oholiab.
It’s clear from God’s instructions, that the construction of the Tabernacle would require great skill and craftsmanship. This was to be no ordinary structure and its fabrication would involve a wide range of disciplines, including stone masonry, metallurgy, weaving, engraving, carpentry, embroidery, and tanning. To our knowledge, Moses had none of these skills and knew nothing about managing a massive construction project of this nature. While he had grown up in Pharaoh’s court and was intimately familiar with fine furnishing and opulent surroundings, nothing on his resume would have suggested that he was the man to build God’s house. He was a prophet with 40 years of shepherding experience.
But God’s plans for the Tabernacle included the men who would oversee its construction. They had been there all along. When Bezalel and Oholiab had walked out of Egypt along with the rest of the people of Israel, no one had any idea that they were to become two of the most important men in the entire nation, including themselves. They were just two more Israelites making their way to the land of Canaan along with their friends and family members. But God had plans for them. And God had equipped both of them for their future roles as His construction foremen.
“Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!” – Exodus 31:2-5 NLT
Bezalel was a highly gifted man with expertise in a wide range of disciplines. He was an artisan and craftsman with extraordinary talents and abilities that set him apart from his peers. But God makes it clear that Bezalel’s gifts were divinely ordained. This man had been prepared for this very moment by the Spirit of God. We are not given any information regarding Bezalel’s previous construction experience or how he made his living in Egypt. Perhaps he put some of his diverse skills to work on the many building projects that Pharaoh forced the Israelites to complete. But, according to God, Bezalel was born for this moment. His true purpose in life had been to oversee the construction of God’s house.
And even his name suggests the future role that God had for him. Bezalel means “”in the shadow (i.e. protection) of God.” This man had been sovereignly prepared and preserved by God for this moment in time. He didn’t just “happen” to be in the crowd that day. He hadn’t submitted his resume to Moses along with a host of other candidates. It’s likely that Moses didn’t even know Bezalel existed. But God did. And God had providentially equipped Bezalel with “ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship” (Exodus 31:3 ESV).
These words reveal that Bezalel’s expertise was divinely inspired. He had been given a supernatural endowment that enhanced his natural skills and abilities. This Spirit-empowered ability was going to allow him to take God’s design and bring it to fruition. The details that Moses had recorded would need to be interpreted and interpolated before they could become reality. Bezalel was not handed detailed blueprints and a lengthy list of design criteria. Much of the Tabernacle’s construction would be left to his Spirit-enabled imagination. Even artists who have tried to illustrate the Tabernacle based on the details found in Exodus have found it difficult to discern the exact nature of its final form.
But with the Spirit’s help, Bezalel would have the wisdom necessary to discern and carry out every detail of God’s plan. This was going to be a project of massive proportions that would require spiritual insight and practical skills. And Bezalel was just the man for the task. But he would not be alone. God had also chosen an assistant to serve alongside Bezalel.
“I have personally appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make.” – Exodus 31:6 NLT
Oholiab was to be Bezalel’s foreman, overseeing a team of “gifted craftsmen” who had each been divinely selected and equipped for their roles.
“The artistic gifts these men possessed all came from God. To be specific, they came from God the Holy Spirit. Presumably Bezalel and Oholiab already had some natural talent for the arts and crafts (which also came from God). However, they were being given a special commission, and with that commission came special gifts. They alone were called to build God’s holy tabernacle, and in order to do this work they were inspired in the true sense of the word: They were filled with the Holy Spirit.“ – Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved For God’s Glory
This was not a Habitat for Humanity building project where everyone grabbed a hammer and started pounding nails. This entire project could have become an unorganized mess had not God preordained the very men who would oversee its implementation and completion. And it should not be surprising that God had a well-thought-out plan in place for carrying out the construction of His house. He had left nothing to chance but, instead, He had preselected and supernaturally prepared those who would carry out the plans for the Tabernacle’s construction.
Every single item that God described to Moses was to be made by these men. That means that there was a wide range of talents represented among them. Some of them, like Bezalel, were multi-talented and capable of contributing in a variety of ways. Others were experts in a particular field and assigned a single task to complete. There were those who did menial tasks such as chopping down the trees to make the support beams for the Tabernacle. Others slaughtered the goats and rams, then tanned their hides to make the outer lining for the Tabernacle’s roof. Some worked with precious gems and metals. There were those who sewed and weaved the curtains, while another group built the furniture that would fill God’s house. It was truly a team effort that required constant oversight and careful attention to detail. Nothing was to be overlooked. There was to be no skimping or cutting of corners. Attention to detail was paramount and mistakes would not be tolerated. After all, every facet of this vast project would ultimately form the dwelling place of God Almighty.
The Tabernacle was God’s idea, and so was the manner of its construction. He left nothing to chance. He had raised up the men who would build the Tabernacle long before He gave the plans for its design to Moses. Even before He had called Moses to deliver His people from their captivity in Egypt, God had sovereignly ordained those who would build His house. And according to King David, God had these men and their future roles in mind before they were even born.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:13-16 NLT
Every individual who played a part in the building of God’s house was chosen for their role. Not only that, they were divinely equipped to contribute their part to the overall project. There was no skill missing. Not one part of the Tabernacle’s construction was left unaccounted for. At no point did Bezalel or Oholiel run out of materials or skilled workers. No one was forced to work outside their competency. God provided all they needed. And the apostle Paul reminds us that God has called and equipped another group of individuals to whom He has assigned another important task, the building of His Church.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10 ESV
God has chosen us and equipped us for service, just as He did with Bezalel and Oholiel, and Paul goes on to describe the purpose behind God’s supernatural endowment of His people.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV
God’s house built God’s way and all for God’s glory.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.