BiND: Day 7
Any of today’s reading sound familiar? This is the kind of thing that often drives people crazy about the Bible—first it talks about everything that should be done, then recounts the doing. So the people who were given gifts by God were empowered to do the work, and then they did it according to the plans God laid out for Moses. Ever wonder what it might be like to not argue over the color of the paint or carpet? I think this is it—every single detail is laid out, and the tabernacle, also called the Tent of Meeting (where God meets with the people) is constructed (and talked about) in each painstaking detail. Wondering what a cubit is? Best scholarly guesses suggest that it’s about the length from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger—about 18 inches. So the ark of the covenant, the altars, etc, are not all that large—which is probably good since the whole thing had to be moveable and since the Israelites are going to carry everything around with them for a couple of generations!
I think it’s interesting to note a couple of things from today’s reading. First, we have the second giving of the 10 commandments (after Moses tossed aside the first two tablets in anger), and they’re not the same commandments that they were earlier! These ten include instruction in what scholars call “cultic ritual”—keep the festival of unleavened bread and of first fruits, redeem your firstborn, don’t appear before God empty handed, and keep the Sabbath. Interestingly, at the end of this it says these are the “ten commandments” (which in Hebrew is the “ten words.” I’m curious about what happened to the 8 originals that aren’t included in this rendition.
One of the commandments given in this renewed covenant is “no one shall appear before me empty-handed.” It seems the Israelites take this to heart, because when Moses starts asking for offerings to make the tabernacle, everyone brings their jewelry, their yarn and skins and metals and money and wood, as well as their time and their talent. In fact, they receive so much and the people continue to give so much each day that the workers told Moses, “the people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do”—and Moses had to order people to STOP bringing their offerings! “What they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work.” Wow. That was some stewardship campaign! Can you imagine if communities of God’s people had more than enough to do the work the Lord has commanded them to do? I imagine that if those were Presbyterian communities, they’d find more work! 🙂
I noticed a few other interesting tidbits while reading: I was imagining all the things Aaron and his sons had to wear (including robes splattered with blood) and thinking that it’s conceivable that our current system of hoops that need jumping for ordination might actually be easier. And I again noticed just how much livestock is commanded to be burnt-offered every day—two year-old lambs each day! The Israelites must have had a significant herd (granted, there were thousands of people so of course the herds were significant, but still—wow). I think that the Israelites’ camp in the wilderness would have been either the hardest or easiest ever place to be a vegetarian—it must have smelled like meat/blood/burnt stuff all the time.
Last but not least, note that when God was angry with the people for making a golden calf (while they didn’t even know how long Moses was going to be gone, so for all they knew he could have died up there), God said “I will not go up among you, for I should consume you on the way”—God can’t even be in the midst of the people because they caused God so much anger. But then when the tabernacle was completed and assembled, the cloud of God’s glory settled on it and in it and around it, so thick that even Moses couldn’t get in (though he’d previously gone in to talk with God face-to-face, “as one speaks with a friend”). God’s glory, seen in fire and cloud, does come to stay with the people after all.
photo is of a reconstruction of the ark of the covenant, by ArkoftheCovenant, from Flickr.