Image Credit: James Tissot, Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle (1900)
Read and Discuss Chapter 26:1-36
- To make the Holy furnishings described in chapter 26 would have required several hundred pounds worth of gold, silver, bronze; several thousand feet of embroidered cloth, leather, and dolphin skins! Also, several thousand lengths of blue, purple, and crimson yarn, and a small acacia wood forest. Where did all these materials come from? Egypt? The Desert? Heaven?
Other Things to Discuss, Time Permitting
- Compare the description of the Priestly Vestments (clothes) in Chapter 28 with modern day clergy attire (or ceremonial outfits for musicians, military, scholars). Why such attention to ornamentation? What does it accomplish or mean?
- In chapter 28, there is mention of the Urim and Thumim stones, and also twelve stones bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel--all of which were carried in the "breastpiece of judgment." Extra Research: What were these stones for?
- Chapter 29 describes the process of sacrificial offerings, which were widespread in many early cultures and religions. What is it about the destruction/burning of certain things (and the smearing of blood) that appealed to God in the minds of ancient peoples? What sacrifices do we make today, and for what/whom? Lookup the Hebrew word for sacrifice, Korban, and its root word, karov.
- Chapter 30:11-16. Is God against progressive taxation (and in favor of the census)? Also see Chapter 30:17-21 for God's approach to hand sanitizing: Wash or Die!
- What's the value in setting something (or someone) apart as "holy?" What's the danger?
Questions to consider for Week 8 (chapters 31-35)
- In chapter 31, a man named Bezalel (which means "in the shadow of God") is filled with "divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft." What is the role of artisans and craftsmen in our religious observances today? In our culture? Is there still a connection between these things and the divine?
- Chapter 32 details the incident of the golden calf--what commandment(s) does this violate? How does it contrast with the construction of the cherubim and seraphim in the previous week's reading? And once again, where does all the gold and jewelry come from?
- Is Aaron guilty, innocent, complicit, or somewhere in between when it comes to accommodating the people's request and honoring his brother's (and God's) leadership? Consider his actions carefully and sequentially. Does he have an agenda?
- In chapter 32:27-29, Moses (or God?) commands the Levites to kill 3,000 individuals, including their own brothers, friends, and neighbors. This sounds brutal to modern readers, but consider the US Civil War (which also pitted families against one another), or the US decision to bomb civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII, Japanese interment camps, etc. (or more recently the treatment of immigrants and their children) Does "national security" ever justify significant violence? If so, what are the acceptable boundaries and limitations? What level of violence (or even loss of freedom) would you be willing to accept in exchange for your own safety and security?
- Several times in chapters 33-34, Moses "negotiates" with God, something that occurs often in the Old Testament. Are humans capable of changing God's mind? Or is this a "test" of Moses' leadership? Or something different altogether? How does this square with our present-day understanding of prayer?
- Bonus research: Google search "Moses with Horns" for an interesting and long-standing misinterpretation of 34:29-35 (your Bible footnotes may also shed light on this). If this passage was mistranslated for hundreds of years, what might we be mistranslating in the Bible today?
- There is a lot of repetition in Chapter 35 from previous chapters. What do you make of this? Is it simply the renewal fo the covenant between God and the people, or possibly something more?