Chapter 36

For a man to be “wise of heart” means that he is in possession of valuable skills. The craftsmen Bezalel, Oholiab, and other artisans could be described in this way, especially since YHWH, by means of his spirit, had enhanced their abilities, granting them the wisdom and understanding to be able to construct the sanctuary or tabernacle according to the pattern he had provided to Moses. Besides possessing the required skills, the craftsmen were motivated in their inmost selves (their “heart”) to participate in the work that needed to be done. Along with Bezalel and Oholiab, these were the skilled workers whom Moses summoned and to whom he gave everything that the “sons [or people] of Israel” had voluntarily contributed. Every morning the people continued coming to bring their contributions until they had brought much more than was actually needed. Upon learning from the men doing the work about what had happened, Moses proclaimed throughout the camp of Israel that the men and the women should stop bringing more contributions for the work. (36:1-7)

For the supporting structure of the tabernacle, the skilled artisans made a covering of fine twisted linen, of blue (or blueish purple), purple (red purple), and scarlet yarn, embroidered with cherubs. The covering itself consisted of two large sections, with each section being made up of five cloths. Each cloth measured 28 cubits in length and 4 cubits in width (42 feet x 6 feet [c. 12.8 meters x c. 1.8 meters]), and five of these cloths were joined together to form one large cloth. The two large cloths were joined by means of 50 gold clasps that connected the 50 loops of blue (or blueish purple) yarn on the edge of one large cloth with that of the matching 50 loops on the edge of the other large cloth. (36:8-13 [37:1, 2, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

The second covering for the tabernacle consisted of goats’ hair. In design, this longer covering was much like that of the shorter linen covering, a covering that did not reach down to the ground by at least one cubit [18 inches [c. 46 centimeters]) on each side. The second covering consisted of two sections made from eleven cloths, with each one of the eleven cloths measuring thirty cubits by four cubits (45 feet x 6 feet [c. 13.7 meters x c. 1.8 meters]). Five of the cloths were joined to form one large cloth, and the six remaining cloths were joined to make the other large cloth. The two large cloths were joined with 50 copper (or bronze) clasps that connected the 50 loops on the edge of one large cloth with that of the matching 50 loops on the edge of the other large cloth. Being two cubits (36 inches [c. 92 centimeters]) longer than the linen covering, the second covering did hang down to the bottom of the north and south sides of the tabernacle. Next came a covering of tanned (or red) rams’ skins and finally another covering of skins. There is uncertainty about the material from which the fourth covering was made. According to the Septuagint rendering of Exodus 26:14, they were hyacinth-colored skins. Although not mentioned in the account, ropes must have been attached to the last covering, and these ropes would have been securely fastened to tent pins in the ground. (36:14-19; see the Notes section.)

The supporting structure for the four coverings of the tabernacle consisted of wooden frames overlaid with gold. Each frame measured 10 cubits (15 feet [c. 4.6 meters) in length and in height, and 1.5 cubits (27 inches [c. 69 centimeters]) in width. On both the north and the south sides, twenty frames were attached by means of tenons to forty silver bases or sockets, and on the west side (or rear) of the tabernacle, there were six of these frames and two silver bases or sockets under each frame. Additionally, two frames served as corners at the rear of the tabernacle, with only a half cubit (9 inches [c. 23 centimeters]) adding to the inside dimension of the structure. Both of these frames also had two tenons that fitted into silver bases or sockets. The frames were held together with five bars each. Gold rings on each frame accommodated the bars, with each bar in the middle position on the north, west, and south sides running from one end to the other end. The position of the four other bars on the three sides is not specified in the account. (36:20-34 [38:18-21, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

The tabernacle consisted of two sections — the Holy and the Most Holy. A fine twisted linen curtain, of blue (or blueish purple), purple (or red purple), and scarlet yarn, embroidered with cherubs, separated the two compartments. This curtain hung from gold hooks attached to four gold-overlaid wooden pillars or posts that were secured in four silver bases or sockets. A screen at the entrance of the tabernacle was made like the curtain that separated the Holy from the Most Holy, but it hung from gold hooks attached to five gold-overlaid wooden pillars that were secured in five copper or bronze bases or sockets. (36:35-38 [37:3-6, LXX])


For the contents of this chapter, compare the commands for tabernacle construction set forth in Exodus chapter 26.

There is archaeological evidence for a cubit of approximately 17.5 inches (44.5 centimeters), but 18 inches (c. 46 centimeters) for a cubit (as commonly found in many reference works) is used in Werner Bible Commentary because it reduces the number of fractions involved when calculating cubit measurements in inches, feet, centimeters, and meters.

The wood used for the frames is commonly considered to have been acacia wood because of its suitability for the framework of the tabernacle and its availability on the Sinai Peninsula.

In the Septuagint, the arrangement of the text differs significantly from that of the Masoretic Text,