A great deal of fine work God had ordered to be done about the tabernacle; the materials the people were to provide, but who must put them into form? Moses himself was learned in all the learning of the Egyptians, nay, he was well acquainted with the words of God, and the visions of the Almighty; but he knew not how to engrave or embroider. We may suppose that there were some very ingenious men among the Israelites; but, having lived all their days in bondage in Egypt, we cannot think they were any of them instructed in these curious arts. They knew how to make brick and work in clay, but to work in gold and in cutting diamonds was what they had never been brought up to. How should the work be done with the neatness and exactness that were required when they had no goldsmiths or jewellers but what must be made out of masons and bricklayers? We may suppose that there were a sufficient number who would gladly be employed, and would do their best; but it would be hard to find out a proper person to preside in this work. Who was sufficient for these things? But God takes care of this matter also.
I. He nominates the persons that were to be employed, that there might be no contest about the preferment, nor envy at those that were preferred, God himself having made the choice. 1. Bezaleel was to be the architect, or master workman, Exod. 31:2. He was of the tribe of Judah, a tribe that God delighted to honour; the grandson of Hur, probably that Hur who had helped to hold up Moses’s hands (Exod. 17:1-16), and was at this time in commission with Aaron for the government of the people in the absence of Moses (Exod. 24:14); out of that family which was of note in Israel was the workman chosen, and it added no little honour to the family that a branch of it was employed, though but as a mechanic, or handicraft tradesman, for the service of the tabernacle. The Jews’ tradition is that Hur was the husband of Miriam; and, if so, it was requisite that God should appoint him to this service, lest, if Moses himself had done it, he should be thought partial to his own kindred, his brother Aaron also being advanced to the priesthood. God will put honour upon Moses’s relations, and yet will make it to appear that he takes not the honour to himself or his own family, but that it is purely the Lord’s doing. 2. Aholiab, of the tribe of Dan, is appointed next to Bezaleel, and partner with him, Exod. 31:6. Two are better than one. Christ sent forth his disciples who were to rear the gospel tabernacle, two and two, and we read of his two witnesses. Aholiab was of the tribe of Dan, which was one of the less honourable tribes, that the tribes of Judah and Levi might not be lifted up, as if they were to engross all the preferments; to prevent a schism in the body, God gives honour to that part which lacked, 1 Cor. 12:24. The head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee. Hiram, who was the head workman in the building of Solomon’s temple, was also of the tribe of Dan, 2 Chron. 2:14. 3. There were others that were employed by and under these in the several operations about the tabernacle, Exod. 31:6. Note, When God has work to do he will never want instruments to do it with, for all hearts and heads too are under his eye, and in his hand; and those may cheerfully go about any service for God, and go on in it, who have reason to think that, one way or other, he has called them to it; for whom he calls he will own and bear out.
II. He qualifies these persons for the service (Exod. 31:3): I have filled him with the Spirit of God; and (Exod. 31:6) in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom. Note, 1. Skill in common arts and employments is the gift of God; from him are derived both the faculty and the improvement of the faculty. It is he that puts even this wisdom into the inward parts, Job 38:36. He teaches the husbandman discretion (Isa. 28:26), and the tradesman too; and he must have the praise of it. 2. God dispenses his gifts variously, one gift to one, another to another, and all for the good of the whole body, both of mankind and of the church. Moses was fittest of all to govern Israel, but Bezaleel was fitter than he to build the tabernacle. The common benefit is very much supported by the variety of men’s faculties and inclinations; the genius of some leads them to be serviceable one way, of others another way, and all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, 1 Cor. 12:11. This forbids pride, envy, contempt, and carnal emulation, and strengthens the bond of mutual love. 3. Those whom God calls to any service he will either find, or make, fit for it. If God give the commission, he will in some measure give the qualifications, according as the service is. The work, that was to be done here was to make the tabernacle and the utensils of it, which are here particularly reckoned up, Exod. 31:7 And for this the persons employed were enabled to work in gold, and silver, and brass. When Christ sent his apostles to rear the gospel tabernacle, he poured out his Spirit upon them, to enable them to speak with tongues the wonderful works of God; not to work upon metal, but to work upon men; so much more excellent were the gifts, as the tabernacle to be pitched was a greater and more perfect tabernacle, as the apostle calls it, Heb. 9:11.