Exodus 39:32 & 43 – Tabernacle Completed

The Book of Exodus chapters 25 – 40 are mainly devoted to the description and building of the Tabernacle. In chapter 39 we are told about its completion.

Both Exodus 39:32 and 39:43 tell us that the building work was completed and that the work was done as God had commanded. What is the purpose of this repetition?

Exodus 39:32 Explained

Exodus 39

32. Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting finished; and the people of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they.

work Malbim points out that in this verse the word translated as “work” is the Hebrew word “avodah.” However, in Exodus 39:43 the word translated as “work” is “melacha.”

In this verse the word work / avodah is used to indicate the role that the entire Jewish people played in building the Tabernacle. Each person had a role in giving the needed materials and having the proper intentions with all that they did.

finished Chizkuni, based on Jewish tradition, says that the Tabernacle was completed on the 25th of Kislev.

(They began the work on the 11th of Tishrei, the day after Yom Kippur. As we read in Exodus 40:2, God commanded Moses to set up the Tabernacle on the 1st of Nisan.)

Daat Mikra suggests there was no need to tell us that the work was finished. The building of the Tabernacle required a limited number of activities and would eventually be completed.

Rather, the verse indicates the importance of what they had done and their joy in completing it. It also indicates that they did the work according to the plans they were given from the beginning without any deviation.

and the people of Israel did Rashi understands that 2 ideas are being presented in this verse. That’s why there is the duplication of “did” and “so did they.” First, they completed the work of building the Tabernacle. Second, they did the work as God commanded without any change.

Based on Rashi’s comment, here is how Rabbi Shraga Silverstein in The Rashi Chumash translates the end of the verse:
And the children of Israel did [the work]. As all that the Lord had commanded Moses; thus did they do.

and the people of Israel did Sforno points out that in fact all of the Jewish people were involved in building the Tabernacle. Some gave their property. Some did the actual building work.

Daat Mikra has a different approach than Sforno and writes that every person was credited with building the Tabernacle. Granted, not every person was involved in the actual building. The craftsmen who did the building, did so in the name of all of the people. Hence, every one is given credit for building the Tabernacle.

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Exodus 39:43 Explained

Exodus 39

43. And Moses looked upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded, so had they done it; and Moses blessed them.

work This is the translation of the Hebrew word “melacha.”

According to the Malbim, in this context, work / melacha means the activity of the craftsmen who constructed the Tabernacle.

Moses was able to see the result of what the craftsmen work. Based on what he saw, he proclaimed that they had done everything according to God’s commands.

Moses could not know that the people acted with proper intentions. Therefore, in Exodus 39:32, God, Who knows the heart, reveals that they acted properly.

they had done it They, the Jewish people, did it, every part of the work. They devoted themselves to the work with devotion and enthusiasm. [Hirsch]

as the Lord had commanded Hirsch comments that they subdued their enthusiasm and did everything according to the Divine command. The craftsmen did not follow their own ideas or creativity. They did as God commanded.

There are many opportunities in life for a person to be creative. However, the role of creativity is limited when we are talking about following God’s commandments.

and Moses blessed them Rashi: what was this blessing? May it be that the Divine Presence rests on the work of your hands. Then he said to them the words of Psalm 90:17 (one of the 11 psalms attributed to Moses).

Psalms 90

17. May the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands.

The phrase “work of our hands” is repeated. One time is a prayer that there should be God’s blessing on the work of the Tabernacle. The second is a blessing that the Divine Presence should rest on the Tabernacle.

and Moses blessed them Daat Mikra: he praised them and prayed for them that God would grant them a good reward.

Tabernacle in Timna Park
Model of the Tabernacle in Timna Park in Southern Israel.

The Tabernacle and God’s Presence

The commandment to build the Tabernacle was given in Exodus 25:

Exodus 25

8. And let them make Me a Sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.

The Tabernacle was to serve as God’s dwelling place on earth. But we all know, as King Solomon said during the dedication of the Temple, that no earthly, physical structure can contain God.

God told Solomon what was required to have the Divine Presence in the Temple.

1 Kings 6

12. Concerning this house which you [Solomon] are building, if you will walk in My statutes, and execute My judgments, and keep all My commandments to walk in them; then will I perform My word with you, which I spoke to David your father;
13. And I will dwell among the people of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.

The physical structure can serve as a symbol of God’s presence, but it does not guarantee His presence.

Hirsch Collected Writings Volume 3

Page 167: Moreover, God’s presence in our midst is not dependent on the existence of the Temple, but, in the final analysis, solely on whether we will sanctify and dedicate all of our lives to the fulfillment of His holy will, to the fulfillment of His law.

Whether or not God is truly in our presence depends on how we live.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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