The Architect of the Tabernacle

Bezalel.jpg

In Ex. xxxi. 1-6, the chief architect of the Tabernacle. Elsewhere in the Bible the name occurs only in the genealogical lists of the Book of Chronicles, but according to cuneiform inscriptions a variant form of the same, "Ẓil-BêI," was borne by a king of Gaza who was a contemporary of Hezekiah and Manasseh. Apparently it means "in the shadow [protection] of El." Bezalel is described in the genealogical lists as the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah (I Chron. ii. 18, 19, 20, 50). He was said to be highly gifted as a workman, showing great skill and originality in engraving precious metals and stones and in wood-carving. He was also a master-workman, having many apprentices under him whom he instructed in the arts (Ex. xxxv. 30-35). According to the narrative in Exodus, he was definitely called and endowed to direct the construction of the tent of meeting and its sacred furniture, and also to prepare the priests' garments and the oil and incense required for the service.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

The rabbinical tradition relates that when God determined to appoint Bezalel architect of the desert Tabernacle, He asked Moses whether the choice were agreeable to him, and received the reply: "Lord, if he is acceptable to Thee, surely he must be so to me!" At God's command, however, the choice was referred to the people for approval and was indorsed by them. Moses thereupon commanded Bezalel to set about making the Tabernacle, the holy Ark, and the sacred utensils. It is to be noted, however, that Moses mentioned these in somewhat inverted order, putting the Tabernacle last (compare Ex. xxv. 10, xxvi. 1 et seq., with Ex. xxxi. 1-10). Bezalel sagely suggested to him that men usually build the house first and afterward provide the furnishings; but that, inasmuch as Moses had ordered the Tabernacle to be built last, there was probably some mistake and God's command must have run differently. Moses was so pleased with this acuteness that he complimented Bezalel by saying that, true to his name, he must have dwelt "in the very shadow of God" (Hebr., "beẓel El"). Compare also Philo, "Leg. Alleg." iii. 31.

Bezalel possessed such great wisdom that he could combine those letters of the alphabet with which heaven and earth were created; this being the meaning of the statement (Ex. xxxi. 3): "I have filled him . . . with wisdom and knowledge," which were the implements by means of which God created the world, as stated in Prov. iii. 19, 20 (Ber. 55a). By virtue of his profound wisdom, Bezalel succeeded in erecting a sanctuary which seemed a fit abiding-place for God, who is so exalted in time and space (Ex. R. xxxiv. 1; Num. R. xii. 3; Midr. Teh. xci.). The candlestick of the sanctuary was of so complicated a nature that Moses could not comprehend it, although God twice showed him a heavenly model; but when he described it to Bezalel, the latter understood immediately, and made it at once; whereupon Moses expressed his admiration for the quick wisdom of Bezalel, saying again that he must have been "in the shadow of God" (Hebr., "beẓel El") when the heavenly models were shown him (Num. R. xv. 10; compare Ex. R. 1. 2; Ber. l.c.). Bezalel is said to have been only thirteen years of age when he accomplished his great work (Sanh. 69b); he owed his wisdom to the merits of pious parents; his grandfather being Hur and his grandmother Miriam, he was thus a grand-nephew of Moses (Ex. R. xlviii. 3, 4). Compare Ark in Rabbinical Literature.

Tabernacle

Tabernacle

The Tabernacle (Hebrew: מִשְׁכַּן‎‎, mishkan, "residence" or "dwelling place"), according to the Hebrew Bible, was the portable earthly meeting place of God with the children of Israel from the time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan. Built of woven layers of curtains along with 48 standing boards clad with polished gold and held in place by 5 bars per side with the middle bar shooting through from end to end and other items made from the gold, silver, brass, furs, jewels, and other valuable materials taken out of Egypt at God's orders, and according to specifications revealed by Yahweh (God) to Moses at Mount Sinai, it was transported [1] by the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness and their conquest of the Promised LandSolomon's Temple in Jerusalem superseded it as the dwelling-place of God some 300 years later.

The main source for the account of the construction of the Tabernacle is the biblical Book of Exodus, specifically Exodus 25–31 and 35–40. It describes an inner shrine, the Holy of Holies, which housed the Ark of the Covenant, which in turn was under the veil of the covering suspended by four pillars and an outer chamber (the "Holy Place"), containing beaten gold made into what is generally described as a lamp-stand or candlestick featuring a central shaft incorporating four almond-shaped bowls and six branches, each holding three bowls shaped like almonds and blossoms, 22 in all. It was standing diagonally, partially covering a table for showbread and with its seven oil lamps over against it to give light along with the altar of incense.[2]

This description is generally identified as part of the Priestly source ("P"),[2] written in the sixth or fifth century BCE. However whilst the first Priestly source takes the form of instructions, the second is largely a repetition of the first in the past tense, i.e., it describes the execution of the instructions.[3] Many scholars contend that it is of a far later date than the time of Moses, and that the description reflects the structure of Solomon's Temple, while some hold that the description derives from memories of a real pre-monarchic shrine, perhaps the sanctuary at Shiloh.[2] Traditional scholars contend that it describes an actual tabernacle used in the time of Moses and thereafter.[4]According to historical criticism, an earlier, pre-exilic source, the Elohist ("E"), describes the Tabernacle as a simple tent-sanctuary.[2]