“Here we see that it is true that a handicraft has a golden ground. For God is favorable to manual labor and furthermore demands it. And in this passage it is evident that He will also crown laborers with His grace. Not only are preachers and scholars to receive the Holy Spirit, but so are godly laborers who must make a living in the bitter sweat of their face.”
With these words, Valerius Herberger described the great gifts shown to two lesser known figures from the book of Exodus: Bezalel and Oholiab. Bezalel and Oholiab are introduced in Exodus 31 as master craftsmen whom God has given extraordinary gifts in order that they would build everything necessary for worship in the Tabernacle, including the Tabernacle itself. Specifically, God granted them the Spirit of God, wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and all manner of workmanship (Exodus 31:3).
It is notable that in this list, only one item refers to the actual skills necessary to build the tabernacle, namely, “all manner of workmanship.” The rest of the items on this list refer to intangibles, things that are tough to qualify but are no doubt necessary. Wisdom and understanding are both necessary for building, as the Scriptures themselves make clear,“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding is it established,” (Proverbs 24:3, ESV). Such human wisdom in building is simply assumed by Jesus: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). This is indeed the first important question, whether the money is in place to build, or not. We see this play out with Bezalel and Oholiab. Once Moses relates in Exodus 35 that the Tabernacle would be built, he asked all those of a willing heart to bring forth offerings to the Lord to help pay for the construction of it.
Exodus 35: 4-9: 4 Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. 5 Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats’ hair, 7 tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins;[a] acacia wood, 8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.
First, the offering is gathered. The words of Jesus describing wisdom play out. Then, the craftsmen (Bezalel and Oholiab) are called by the Lord to begin construction. There are many different skills necessary for their work, including not only work in metal work, but also embroidery, woodwork, and cutting precious stones (Exodus 35:32-33). The talents of these two men fill what we are tempted at times to think of as, “the boring part of Exodus,” (Exodus 35-40). And yet, is it not significant that Bezalel, being the primary workman behind the Tabernacle, High Priest’s garments, Ark of the Covenant, etc. was of the Tribe of Judah? While most of the book of Exodus features heroes from the tribe of Levi (Moses and Aaron), the last five chapters of Exodus focus on the manual labor of Bezalel, a member of the same tribe as Jesus according to the flesh. The Tribe of Judah always produced good craftsmen, as can be seen in 1st Chronicles 4:14 and 4:21. What a glorious type and mystery that the tribe who produced Bezalel and so many other fine craftsmen would eventually bring forth Jesus, who allowed Himself to be known publicly as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). Not only is He the Builder, but also the stone which the builders have rejected, now become the Cornerstone (Psalm 118:22).
What can be learned about building projects from Bezalel and Oholiab? First, that offerings are necessary for any building and that it is necessary to know first that there is enough money to complete the project. Yes, wisdom and understanding about how buildings are built and operated once they are built. But before any of these items it is necessary to pray for the first gift given to Bezalel: the Spirit of God, (Exodus 31:3). Let us commend Zion’s building project to God in our prayers, and entrust our worries and concerns to Him first before anyone else, and ask for wisdom in constructing it. The words of Psalm 127 are exceedingly appropriate:
“Unless the Lord build the house, those who built it labor in vain,” (Psalm 127:1).
Vicar Joseph Greenmyer
  Herberger, Valerius, The Great Works of God Parts Five and Six: The Mysteries of Christ In the Book of Exodus, trans. Matthew Carver (Fort Wayne, IN: Emmanuel Press, 2018), 522-523.