Who were Bezalel and Oholiab in the Bible?Bezalel and Oholiab were Israelites who were instrumental in the construction of the tabernacle, or tent of meeting. After God rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, He instructed Moses to build a tent where His presence would reside while the Israelites traveled without a homeland (Exodus 25:8). The instructions God gave to Moses were highly detailed, including exact measurements and a long list of materials to be used. In addition, God also detailed who was to head up this monumental project. He said, "See, I have called by name Bezalel . . . I have appointed with him Oholiab . . . And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you" (Exodus 31:2, 6).
Bezalel was from the tribe of Judah and God "filled him with the Spirit of God," a rare occurrence in the Old Testament (Exodus 31:3). God also gifted him with special "ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft" (Exodus 31:3–5). So Bezalel's outstanding skill was God-given for the specific purpose of establishing the tabernacle.
Oholiab was from the tribe of Dan and was known as "an engraver and designer and embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen" (Exodus 38:23). So Oholiab was an artisan whose skill God planned to use in helping build the tabernacle. The biblical account records that God inspired both Bezalel and Oholiab to teach others (Exodus 35:34). Thus, they became leaders in the effort to complete the work of constructing the tent of meeting and all its accoutrements.
This tent of meeting had curtains, frames, bases, pillars, hooks, and other elements for its actual structure. But it also needed altars, tables, basins, lampstands, pots, shovels, and other furnishings for the interior. Plus, the priests needed special garments, a breastpiece, turbans, bells, and other adornments as well as holy anointing oil and fragrant incense. The Israelite people were to give of their own possessions toward this effort. They actually contributed so much that Moses had to ask them to stop because "the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more" (Exodus 36:7). With this abundance of material and God-given skill, Bezalel and Oholiab taught and led "everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work" (Exodus 36:2).
God stirred in the hearts of the people to desire to help build this tabernacle, both by being generous with their donations as well as generous with their time and abilities. While Bezalel is credited with constructing the Ark of the Covenant and many of the interior furnishings, it truly was a group effort. The recounting of this part of Israel's history concludes saying, "According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work" (Exodus 39:42).
There are so many things to learn from this account of Bezalel and Oholiab. First is that God stirs in the hearts of people to be involved in His work. No one should be coerced into giving or serving. When Paul was instructing the Corinthians he wrote, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). The Israelites generously gave an abundance toward the tabernacle and God stirred in their hearts to do the work as well, so none of it was coerced or under compulsion. Secondly, all skill can be used for God's glory. The tabernacle needed craftsmen like woodworkers, weavers, and metalsmiths as well as artisans like embroiderers and jewelers. There was purpose for the skills God had given the people. Thirdly, we see how much God values beauty and order. He detailed every part of the tabernacle in minutiae to Moses so that the tent of meeting would be an appropriate place to house His presence. It was not a simple or utilitarian design, but one filled with beauty and splendor. Fourthly, Bezalel and Oholiab were inspired to teach others. They were to equip the people and then delegate different tasks to those who were able to do them. Leadership includes enabling and encouraging others to join you in a task rather than trying to do all the tasks yourself. What an example the Israelites, including Bezalel and Oholiab, can be for us today!
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