Exodus 30-31 Holy Crafts, Man

Questions: Do material objects have a purpose? Why do we each have certain skills? Does God really care about art? “Read More” to pursue answers.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Exodus 30:1-31:18

And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: [of] shittim wood shalt thou make it.

As God reviews the construction details for the altar and its accouterments, I was struck most by the recurring theme of exclusiveness:

* The Altar

: Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.

* Census

: When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when [thou] numberest them.

* The Washbasin

: When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not;

* The Oil:

This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations. Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make [any other] like it, after the composition of it: it [is] holy, [and] it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth [any] like it, or whosoever putteth [any] of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.

* The Incense:

And [as for] the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.

* The Craftsman:

See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set [them], and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.

* The Assistant:

And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee;

* The Sabbath:

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it [is] a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that [ye] may know that I [am] the LORD that doth sanctify you.

Granted, there’s a lot more going on in these two chapters, but that idea of being holy — sacred, set apart, called out, exclusive — was what struck me the most. It ties in with the idea of purpose as being central to our existence — and God being central to our purpose :

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to fully enjoy him forever.
I actually detect two kinds of sacred purpose in this list. On the one hand, we have things that were specifically created in this context for a well-defined purpose, such as the altar, oil, and incense; those items carry the severest penalties for misuse.

Yet, there’s another kind of sacred at work here, with regards to people. Clearly, Bezaleel must’ve had some kind of life, employment, and existence prior to this chapter. Yet, it is only here that he discovers his “life’s work”, for which everything prior had been mere preparation. That is, he had more than one purpose, but his ultimate purpose was found in God’s altar. Similarly, the ultimate reason for doing a census was to honor God, not glory in our own strength.

That seems the biggest takeaway from this brief excursion into carpentry: God has a purpose for all things — whether it be gifts, money, sex, power, or furniture — and it is literally a matter of life and death to honor that purpose.


God, teach me your purpose for my life, and all the resources you’ve blessed me with. Forgive me for glorifying created things rather than the creator, who is forever praised. May I always give you your due, and rest in the reality of submitting to your purposes. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

About the Title:

In addition to referring to the sacred nature of both crafts and workers, today’s title is a play on the term/brand Craftsman, as well as homage to Robin’s catchphrase in the Batman universe.