Dealing with the Details of Exodus

Not the real ark.

The parts of Exodus that we are more familiar with are likely the dramatic activities in the front half of the book. We know Moses and Pharaoh, the plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea. But once the people stop moving and the book deals more with the details of God’s directions to Moses, we don’t follow that as well. Yet there is much to learn from what God has to say to Moses.

So don’t let the details of cubits and gold keep you from reading. Perhaps pick up a different translation. Here’s the beginning of chapter 26 in the ESV:

Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be the same size. 3 Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. 4 And you shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set. Likewise you shall make loops on the edge of the outermost curtain in the second set. 5 Fifty loops you shall make on the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite one another. 6 And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to the other with the clasps, so that the tabernacle may be a single whole.

And here are the same six verses in the Message version:

“Make The Dwelling itself from ten panels of tapestry woven from fine twisted linen, blue and purple and scarlet material, with an angel-cherubim design. A skilled craftsman should do it. The panels of tapestry are each to be forty-six feet long and six feet wide. Join five of the panels together, and then the other five together. Make loops of blue along the edge of the outside panel of the first set and the same on the outside panel of the second set. Make fifty loops on each panel. Then make fifty gold clasps and join the tapestries together so that The Dwelling is one whole.

There are great strengths to a version like the ESV. But having to do mental math about a cubit to try to understand the size of a tapestry can be distracting. Those distractions can even tone done what we are reading. God is giving instructions to Moses for something radical! God is going to dwell right in their midst within this tabernacle/Dwelling, with himself intensely present above the ark of the covenant. He wants this structure built to precise specifications because the details are symbolic. The tabernacle and the practices related to it are to remind the people of God’s desire to be with them and of the original garden when that was true. It should be beautiful. Yet it also reminds them that even though their sin now separates, God has provided a way to dwell in their midst. And this central structure (literally to be at the center of their encampments), would one day help the people understand what Jesus would come and fulfill.

For a bit more help on the where we’re going in this second half of Exodus, here’s another great video from The Bible Project.

2 Replies to “Dealing with the Details of Exodus”

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