Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary

Verses 1-19 (Exodus 35:1-19)

It was said in general (Exod. 34:32), Moses gave them in commandment all that the Lord has spoken with him. But, the erecting and furnishing of the tabernacle being the work to which they were now immediately to apply themselves, there is particular mention of the orders given concerning it.

I. All the congregation is summoned to attend (Exod. 35:1); that is, the heads and rulers of the congregation, the representatives of the several tribes, who must receive instructions from Moses as he had received them from the Lord, and must communicate them to the people. Thus John, being commanded to write to the seven churches what had been revealed to him, writes it to the angels, or ministers, of the churches.

II. Moses gave them in charge all that (and that only) which God had commanded him; thus he approved himself faithful both to God and Israel, between whom he was a messenger or mediator. If he had added, altered, or diminished, he would have been false to both. But, both sides having reposed a trust in him, he was true to the trust; yet he was faithful as a servant only, but Christ as a Son, Heb. 3:5, 6.

III. He begins with the law of the sabbath, because that was much insisted on in the instructions he had received (Exod. 35:2, 3): Six days shall work be done, work for the tabernacle, the work of the day that was now to be done in its day; and they had little else to do here in the wilderness, where they had neither husbandry nor merchandise, neither food to get nor clothes to make: but on the seventh day you must not strike a stroke, no, not at the tabernacle-work; the honour of the sabbath was above that of the sanctuary, more ancient and more lasting; that must be to you a holy day, devoted to God, and not be spent in common business. It is a sabbath of rest. It is a sabbath of sabbaths (so some read it), more honourable and excellent than any of the other feasts, and should survive them all. A sabbath of sabbatism, so others read it, being typical of that sabbatism or rest, both spiritual and eternal, which remains for the people of God, Heb. 4:9. It is a sabbath of rest, that is, in which a rest from all worldly labour must be very carefully and strictly observed. It is a sabbath and a little sabbath, so some of the Jews would have it read; not only observing the whole day as a sabbath, but an hour before the beginning of it, and an hour after the ending of it, which they throw in over and above out of their own time, and call a little sabbath, to show how glad they are of the approach of the sabbath and how loth to part with it. It is a sabbath of rest, but it is rest to the Lord, to whose honour it must be devoted. A penalty is here annexed to the breach of it: Whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Also a particular prohibition of kindling fires on the sabbath day for any servile work, as smith?s work, or plumbers, etc.

IV. He orders preparation to be made for the setting up of the tabernacle. Two things were to be done:?

1. All that were able must contribute: Take you from among you an offering, Exod. 35:5. The tabernacle was to be dedicated to the honour of God, and used in his service; and therefore what was brought for the setting up and furnishing of that was an offering to the Lord. Our goodness extends not to God, but what is laid out for the support of his kingdom and interest among men he is pleased to accept as an offering to himself; and he requires such acknowledgements of our receiving our all from him and such instances of our dedicating our all to him. The rule is, Whosoever is of a willing heart let him bring. It was not to be a tax imposed upon them, but a benevolence or voluntary contribution, to intimate to us, (1.) That God has not made our yoke heavy. He is a prince that does not burden his subjects with taxes, nor make them to serve with an offering, but draws with the cords of a man, and leaves it to ourselves to judge what is right; his is a government that there is no cause to complain of, for he does not rule with rigour. (2.) That God loves a cheerful giver, and is best pleased with the free-will offering. Those services are acceptable to him that come from the willing heart of a willing people, Ps. 110:3.

2. All that were skilful must work: Every wise-hearted among you shall come, and make, Exod. 35:10. See how God dispenses his gifts variously; and, as every man hath received the gift, so he must minister, 1 Pet. 4:10. Those that were rich must bring in materials to work on; those that were ingenious must serve the tabernacle with their ingenuity; as they needed one another, so the tabernacle needed them both, 1 Cor. 12:12-21. The work was likely to go on when some helped with their purses, others with their hands, and both with a willing heart. Moses, as he had told them what must be given (Exod. 35:5-9), so he gives them the general heads of what must be made (Exod. 35:11-19), that, seeing how much work was before them, they might apply themselves to it the more vigorously, and every hand might be busy; and it gave them such an idea of the fabric designed that they could not but long to see it finished.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary