The books referenced in these notes are:
1. New American Commentary: Exodus by Douglas Stuart
2. IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas
3. The Stone Chumash, edited by Nosson Scherman
4. NIV Application Commentary: Exodus by Peter Enns
This…the LORD commanded: This is Moses following the orders given him in Ex 25. Note:
1.Service for the tabernacle was to be voluntary: everyone…willing. This matches the language used of holy war (Deu 20:5-9) and is paralleled by Paul in the NT (2 Cor 9:7)
2.The design of the tabernacle was entirely God’s plan. God tells humans how to worship him properly, humans do not decide how to worship Him on their own.
3. 35:5-9 is pretty much a repetition of Ex 25:3-7.(Stuart)
Gold, silver, bronze: The most precious metals and alloys of the ancient world, used as “money” and to adorn royalty and temples. These and some other of the riches of the Israelites presumably came from the Egyptians. These metals would be used to cover the wooden framework of the tabernacle and the table, altars, and the ark, as well as used purely to make the plates, dishes, bowls, the lampstand, and the ark’s mercy seat. (Ex 12:35-36)(BBCOT)
colored yarn, fine linen, and goats’ hair: Colored yarns were expensive in ancient times because the dyes were made from sea creatures and plants, which needed much gathering to color even one garment. The colors are mentioned by their value: blue, purple, and red. Fine linen is the best material, what Egyptian court officials would wear. These fabrics were used for the temple curtains and the priestly garments.(BBCOT, Stuart)
red dyed ram skins: Tanning required lime, tree bark, plant juices, and lots of water. The red skins were either dyed or became red in the tanning process, or both. (BBCOT)
Manatee skins: Exactly what animal skin the Hebrew here refers to is not sure. It might be dolphins or a sort of manatee. Jewish tradition says it was an extinct multicolored animal. A similar word in Akkadian refers to yellow or orange stone.(BBCOT, Stone Chumash)
The skins provided weather cover for the tabernacle (Ex 26:14) (Stuart)
Acacia wood: A hard, durable, lightweight wood commonly found in Egypt and Sinai. “Lightweight” is important in a portable tabernacle. Wood provided the frame for the tabernacle rafters, tables, and altars.(Enns, BBCOT, Stuart)
Lamp oil, anointing oil, incense:The oil both fueled the tabernacle lampstand lamps and provided the main ingredient to the anointing oil, which had spices like myrrh, cinnamon, cane, and cassia (Ex 30:23-25). The incense recipe is in Ex 30:34, but we can only be sure of frankincense’s identity.(BBCOT, Stuart)
Onyx stones: We aren’t sure what stones these are suggestions include lapis lazuli or some white/black striped stone.(BBCOT)
(1) A sacred vestment originally designed for the high priest (Exo_28:4; Exo_39:2), and made “of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen,” held together by two shoulder-pieces and a skillfully woven band which served as a girdle for the ephod. On the shoulderpieces were two onyx stones on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is not known whether the ephod extended below the hips or only to the waist. Attached to the ephod by chains of pure gold was a breastplate containing twelve precious stones in four rows. Underneath the ephod was the blue robe of the ephod extending to the feet of the priest. The robe of the ephod was thus a garment comprising, in addition to the long robe proper, the ephod with its shoulderpieces and the breastplate of judgment.
(2) From the historical books we learn that ephods were worn by persons other than the high priest. Thus, the boy Samuel was girded with a linen ephod while assisting the aged high priest (1Sa_2:18); the priests at Nob, 85 in number, are described as men wearing a linen ephod (1Sa_22:18); and David was girded with a linen ephod when he danced in the procession that brought the ark into Jerusalem (2Sa_6:14). The ephod was considered appropriate for the king on this solemn and happy occasion; but it would be reading into the narrative more than it contains to infer that lay worshippers were regularly clothed with the ephod; nor are we to suppose that priests other than the high priest were accustomed to wear ephods as rich and elaborate as that of the high priest. Abiathar, who became high priest after the assassination of his father by Doeg, probably brought to the camp of David the ephod worn by the high priest in his ministrations at Nob (1Sa_23:6), and through this ephod David sought in certain crises to learn Yahweh’s will (1Sa_23:9; 1Sa_30:7). Some have argued that the ephod, which Abiathar brought in his hand, was an image rather than a priestly garment, but there seems no sufficient reason for regarding it as other than a vestment for the high priest. The ephod behind which the sword of Goliath was kept wrapped in a cloth may well have been a garment suspended from the wall or itself wrapped in a protecting cloth (1Sa_21:9).
(3) The ephod mentioned in Jdg_17:5; Jdg_18:14 f; Hos_3:4 is associated with teraphim and other idolatrous images. We may frankly confess that we do not know the shape, size and use of the ephod in these cases, though even here also the ephod may well have been a priestly garment. The same remark holds good of the ephod made by Gideon, and which became an object of idolatrous worship in Israel (Jdg_8:27). It has been argued that a vestment would not cost seventeen hundred shekels of gold. Possibly Gideon set up an apparatus of worship containing other articles just as the mother of Micah began with the promise to make a graven image and a molten image, and afterward added an ephod and teraphim (Jdg_17:1-5). Moreover, if gems and brilliants were put on Gidcon’s ephod, who can say that it did not cost seventeen hundred shekels?(ISBE)
The ephod is a kind of garment mentioned in the O.T., which differed according to its use by the high-priest, by other persons present at religious services, or as the object of idolatrous worship.
1. Ephod of the High-Priest: Supplementing the data contained in the Bible with those gleaned from Josephus and the Egyptian monuments, we may distinguish in the ephod three parts: a kind of waistcoat or bodice, two shoulder-pieces, and a girdle. The first of these pieces constituted the main part of the ephod; it is described by some as being an oblong piece of cloth bound round the body under the arms and reaching as far as the waist. Its material was fine-twisted linen, embroidered with violet, purple, and scarlet twice-dyed threads, and interwoven with gold (Exodus 28:6; 39:2). The ephod proper must not be confounded with the “tunick of the ephod” (Exodus 28:31-35), nor with the “rational of judgment” (Exodus 28:15-20). The tunick was worn under the ephod; it was a sleeveless frock, made “all of violet”, and was put on by being drawn over the head, something in the manner of a cassock. Its skirt was adorned with a border of pomegranates “of violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, with little bells set between”, whose sound was to be heard while the high-priest was ministering. The “rational of judgment” was a breastplate fastened on the front of the ephod which it resembled in material and workmanship. It was a span in length and width, and was ornamented with four rows of precious stones on which were inscribed the names of the twelvfe tribes. It held also the Urim and Thummim (doctrine and truth) by means of which the high-priest consulted the Lord. The second part of the ephod consisted of a pair of shoulder-pieces, or suspenders, fastened to the bodices in front and behind, and passing over the shoulders. Each of these straps was adorned with an onyx stone engraved with the names of six of the tribes of Israel, so that the high-priest while ministering wore the names of all the tribes, six upon each shoulder (Exodus 28:9-12; 25:7; 35:9; 39:16-19). The third part of the ephod was the cincture, of the same material as the main part of the ephod and woven in one piece with it, by which it was girt around the waist (Leviticus 8:7). Some writers maintain that the correct Hebrew reading of Ex., xxviii, 8, speaks of this band of the ephod; the contention agrees with the Syriac and Chaldee versions and with the rendering of Josephus (cf. Exodus 28:27 sq.; 29:5; 39:20 sq.). It must not be imagined that the ephod was the ordinary garb of the high-priest; he wore it while performing the duties of his ministry (Exodus 28:4; Leviticus 8:7; 1 Samuel 2:28) and when consulting the Lord. Thus David learned through Abiathar’s ephod the disposition of the people of Ceila (1 Samuel 23:11 sq.) and the best plan of campaign against the Amalecites (1 Samuel 30:7 sqq.). In I K., xiv, 18, it appears that Saul wished the priest Achias to consult the Lord by means of the Ark; but the Septuagint reading of this passage, its context (1 Samuel 14:3), and the text of Josephus (Ant. Jud., VI, vi, 3) plainly show that in I K., xiv, 18, we must read “take the ephod” instead of “bring the ark”.
2. The Common Ephod: An ephod was worn by Samuel when serving in the time of Heli (1 Samuel 2:18), by the eighty-five priests slain by Doeg in the sanctuary of Nobe (1 Samuel 22:18), and by David dancing before the Ark (2 Samuel 6:14). This garment is called the linen ephod; its general form may be supposed to have resembled the ephod of the high-priest, but its material was not the celebrated fine white linen, nor does it appear to have been adorned with the variegated colours of the high-priest’s ephod. The Septuagint translators seem to have intended to emphasize the difference between the ephod of the high-priest and that worn by David, for they call this latter the idolatrous ephod.
3.The Idolatrous Ephod According to Judges, viii, 26 sq., Gideon made an ephod out of part of the spoils taken from the Madianites, their golden earlets, jewels, purple raiment, and golden chains. All Israel paid idolatrous worship to this ephod, so that it became a ruin to Gideon and all his house. Some writers, following the Syriac and Arabic versions, have explained this ephod as denoting a gold casing of an oracular image. But there is no other instance of such a figurative meaning of ephod; besides, the Hebrew verb used to express the placing of the ephod on the part of Gideon denotes in Judges, vi, 37, the spreading of the fleece of wool. The opinion that Gideon’s ephod was a costly garment like that of the high-priest, is, therefore, preferable.(The Catholic Encyclopedia)
Breastplate of the High Priest
prest: The Hebrew word חשן, ḥoshen, rendered in the King James Version “breastplate,” means really a “pouch” or “bag.” The references to it are found exclusively in the Priestly Code (Exo_25:7; 28; Exo_29:5; Exo_35:9, Exo_35:27; 39; Lev_8:8). The descriptions of its composition and particularly the directions with regard to wearing it are exceedingly obscure. According to Ezr_2:63 and Neh_7:65 the Urim and Thummim, which were called in the priestly pouch, were lost during the Babylonian exile. The actual pouch was a “span in length and a span in breadth,” i.e. about 9 inch square. It was made, like the ephod, of “gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen” (Exo_28:15 f). In it were twelve precious stones, in rows of four, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Apparently the pouch had two rings (perhaps four) through which passed two gold chains by which it was fastened to the ephod supplied for the purpose with ouches or clasps. The pouch was worn by the high priest over his heart when he entered the “holy place” “for a memorial before Yahweh.” The presence of the high priest, the representative of the people, with the names of the separate tribes on his person, brought each tribe before the notice of Yahweh and thereby directed His attention to them. The full designation was ḥōshen mishpāṭ, “pouch of judgment” or “decision.” It was the distinctive symbol of the priest in his capacity as the giver of oracles. As already suggested the priestly pouch contained the Urim and Thummim which were probably precious stones used as lots in giving decisions. In all probability the restored text of 1Sa_14:41 preserves the true custom. On one side stood Saul and Jonathan, and the people on the other side. If the result was Urim, Saul and Jonathan would be the guilty parties. If the result was Thummim, the guilt would fasten on the people.(ISBE)
Bezalel: Along with his unique skills from the spirit of God, Bazalel is unusual in being a Judahite. Levites alone were usually in charge of all aspects of the tabernacle. Yet Bezalel was a Judahite, and Oholiab a Danite, and Joshua was a Ephraimite. Only priesthood was restricted to the Levites; the rest of the leadership in Israel aimed for the best people.(Stuart)
Filled with God’s spirit: It’s a mistake to connect this use of filled with the Spirit with later ideas of ecstatic experience, displaying certain signs, etc. Instead here and in many other places in the Bible (Mic 3:8, Luk 1:15-17, Luk 1:67, Lk 1:41-45, Eph 5:18-19) being filled with the Spirit means gifted to do what God requires of one. In Bezalel ‘s case the gift is to be a great and gifted craftsman, because God needs an expert to help build His tabernacle. It is not that such gifts are necessarily just dropped upon people from on high either, but are capable of being sought for and developed (1 Cor 12:31; 14:12).(Stuart)
Another gift from God is that both Bezalel and Oholiab, his partner in the tabernacle building project, are also gifted teachers of their crafts. That is a blessing and a gift, because very often those best at things are terrible at teaching what they do so well.
Translations are obscure here. Many say that Bezalel and Oholiab have the whole range of skills of craftsmen, designers, weavers, and embroidery. A few translations say that the people Bezalel and Oholiab will train have been given all these skills. When compared back to the parallel verse at 31:6 it seems clear the various skills are given to the various people who will construct the tabernacle and all its furnishings and the priestly vestments.
A summary verse that tells that God has given a design for the tabernacle to the people, and has ensured the design will be followed by granting the various workers the skills necessary to match the actual construction to God’s design.