10 He also made the table of acacia wood. Two cubits was its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 And he overlaid it with pure gold, and made a molding of gold around it. 12 And he made a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and made a molding of gold around the rim. 13 He cast for it four rings of gold and fastened the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 14 Close to the frame were the rings, as holders for the poles to carry the table. 15 He made the poles of acacia wood to carry the table, and overlaid them with gold. 16 And he made the vessels of pure gold that were to be on the table, its plates and dishes for incense, and its bowls and flagons with which to pour drink offerings.
17 He also made the lampstand of pure gold. He made the lampstand of hammered work. Its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers were of one piece with it. 18 And there were six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 19 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 20 And on the lampstand itself were four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, 21 and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out of it. 22 Their calyxes and their branches were of one piece with it. The whole of it was a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. 23 And he made its seven lamps and its tongs and its trays of pure gold. 24 He made it and all its utensils out of a talent of pure gold.
25 He made the altar of incense of acacia wood. Its length was a cubit, and its breadth was a cubit. It was square, and two cubits was its height. Its horns were of one piece with it. 26 He overlaid it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And he made a molding of gold around it, 27 and made two rings of gold on it under its molding, on two opposite sides of it, as holders for the poles with which to carry it. 28 And he made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold.
29 He made the holy anointing oil also, and the pure fragrant incense, blended as by the perfumer. – Exodus 37:10-29 ESV
Seven different times in these verses, Moses mentions Bezalel using “pure gold” to overlay or fashion the various objects he was creating. Many of these items, like the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of Shewbread, and the poles used to carry them, were made of wood. But they were covered in a thin veneer of gold leaf that transformed them into objects of beauty and great worth. Though made of common materials, their appearance was greatly altered and enhanced by Bezalel’s careful addition of the gold overlay. These sacred objects were meant to symbolize God’s power to take that which was ordinary and transform it into something holy and set apart for His use.
The table that Bezalel created was to sit just outside the Holy of Holies in the Holy Place. But it was nothing more than a well-made wooden box, 36 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 27 inches tall. It was not impressive in and of itself. But when the gold veneer was added, it took on a different appearance. The ordinary was transformed into the extraordinary. The commonplace became uncommonly beautiful and worthy of being set apart for God’s use. In some ways, what the layer of gold did to the Ark of the Covenant and the Table of Shewbread was exactly what happened to Moses when the glory of God transformed his face. During his 40-day encounter with God on Mount Sinai, Moses’ countenance was dramatically altered so that his face literally glowed. This ordinary and highly flawed man had been radically transformed by God. To the people of Israel, he no longer appeared as the Moses they had grown to know. They were terrified by his glowing face and he was forced to cover it with a veil.
But God is in the transformation business. He had taken Moses, who had been nothing more than a common shepherd and a convicted murderer, and transformed him into the man who would stand before Pharaoh and deliver the people of Israel out of their captivity in Egypt. The timid and tentative Moses had to be divinely altered so that he might accomplish that task the Lord had assigned for him to do. Moses was still Moses, with all his faults and failings, but he had been transformed by the power of God and equipped with all the resources he needed to accomplish the will of God.
There was nothing special about the table that Bezalel crafted, but the layer of gold leaf he affixed to it gave it an aura of worth and value beyond comprehension. It’s value increased dramatically and made this ordinary table worthy of occupying the inner recesses of God’s house. And on this golden table would be placed the Bread of the Presence – a memorial food offering to the Lord. This was to be God’s dining table. But the bread placed on the table was meant to symbolize God’s presence. It was to be baked from the finest flour and placed on the table each Sabbath day.
“You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the Lord. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the Lord regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the Lord‘s food offerings, a perpetual due.” – Leviticus 24:5-9 ESV
God graciously allowed Aaron and his sons to eat the Bread of the Presence that sat on the golden table in the Holy Place. But they had to be wearing their designated priestly robes and had to have gone through the proper purification ceremony. Their divinely-designed garments, like the gold leaf on the table, not only altered their outer appearance but transformed them from their normal, ordinary state to that of set-apart servants of God. They were worthy of entering His presence and sharing a meal from His table.
Located in the windowless recesses of the Tabernacle, the table was illuminated by a special lampstand that Bezalel also handcrafted. But unlike the Table of Shewbread, the lampstand was to be made from nothing but gold. There would be no wooden substructure. Bezalel “made the lampstand of pure, hammered gold. He made the entire lampstand and its decorations of one piece—the base, center stem, lamp cups, buds, and petals” (Exodus 37:17 NLT). It is estimated that this ornate object was crafted from 75 pounds of the purest gold. As a skilled metallurgist, Bezalel would have gone to great lengths to ensure that the gold he used to craft this lampstand was only of the highest quality. He would accept no impurities and imperfections. As the sole source of light within God’s house, this lamp had to be both functional and beautiful. It would burn 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the oil used to light its flames would be of the highest quality as well. Its rays would illuminate the darkness of the Holy Place, reflecting off the golden Table of Shewbread and the Altar of Incense.
This lamp was covered in golden blossoms and buds, symbolizing life. So, it represented both light and life, and offered a fitting image of the one who would eventually come to earth as the light of life.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5 ESV
The lamp contained no wood. It was made of the purest gold and, therefore, of extraordinary value and worth. There was no gold leaf veneer covering an inferior interior. Like Jesus, who referred to Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12), this lampstand was perfectly pure and holy. The apostle Paul described Jesus as sinless.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
His light was pure and able to illuminate the darkness of sin that pervaded the lives of men. He gave light to the world and life to all those who would step into His glorious presence.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… – John 1:9-12 ESV
The final piece of furniture Bezalal crafted for the Holy Place was the Altar of Incense. Just 18 inches square and 36 inches high, this wooden altar was far from impressive in size. Yet, it too was covered in a layer of gold and equipped with carrying poles that were veneered with a fine layer of gold leaf. But this diminutive piece of furniture had a significant role to play in God’s house. It was from this altar that the priests would burn sweet-smelling incense to the Lord. And even the recipe for this incense was proprietary in nature, and only to be used within the confines of the Tabernacle. It was to represent the prayers of God’s people and illustrated their dependence upon Him.
Glistening gold, brightly shining light, sweet-smelling incense. All of these elements were to reflect the glory of God, but it must not be missed that they emanated from ordinary objects made by human hands. Yet, God transformed them from their ordinary, pedestrian state to that of holy and set-apart objects worthy of use in His house. God had communicated their design and designated the nature of their purpose. He made sure that they would be holy and distinct, perfectly unique, and totally dedicated to His use.
The apostle Paul reminds us that, as Christians, we too have been set apart for God’s use. We have been transformed from ordinary, sin-stained people into His holy temple. He has covered us in the righteousness of His Son and transformed us into objects of beauty and holiness, worthy to be used for His glory.
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? – 1 Corinthians 3:16 NLT
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT
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.