Exodus 37

As you may know, our oldest son will be getting married soon. He already has a place for them to live, but I imagine that his wife-to-be has given him some input as to how the place should be decorated. If it were up to him, he might decorate with hubcaps, board games, and books. But I am pretty sure that his future wife might have some different ideas. And if he is a wise son, he should probably go along with her ideas… if he wants to have a happy relationship.

In Exodus 37, we read about Bezalel and Aholiab building several pieces of furniture for inside the tabernacle. While the tabernacle would not have anyone living in it, it was the physical place where God’s presence and glory would be. The Lord had given specific instructions about these things and was expecting his instructions to be carried out. These builders would be wise to do their work as God commanded… if they wanted to have a good relationship with the Lord.

As we go through the chapter, we will look at only four pieces of furniture. Because this could seem as exciting as reading a blueprint, let’s make things a little more interesting. As we look at each item, we will attempt to answer three questions: (1) How was it made? (2) What was it for? (3) Where else is it mentioned in the Bible? By doing so, we may get a better understanding of what God is saying in this chapter.

One other note about this chapter. Note that the priests would be the only ones who saw the interior of the tabernacle on a regular basis. While the people may have seen the items being carried, they were usually covered up. So everything written in this chapter would have revealed to the common Israelite what God wanted, what they had given their offerings for, and what it looked like inside this holy tabernacle dedicated to the worship of the one, true God.

  1. Making the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 37:1-9)

    a. How was it made?

    The Ark was made of acacia wood. “From a practical standpoint, acacia trees would have been one of the only types of trees growing in the wilderness regions traveled by Israel. In addition, acacia wood is dense and extremely strong, making it a great option for any type of wooden construction” (Gotquestions).

    Its dimensions were 2.5 cubits/3.75 ft long, 1.5 cubits/2.25 ft wide, and 1.5 cubits/2.25 ft tall. During a recent stay in New Stanton PA, my hotel room had a desk/table whose top had similar measurements. If you can find a large cardboard box, you might try to make a similarly shaped box to get a better idea of the size.

    The box-shaped ark was covered with gold and carried with acacia wood poles which were overlaid with gold. These poles went through golden rings which were attached to the sides of the ark. But the most interesting part of the ark was the mercy seat. This appears to be a lid that fit over the top of the ark. It was overlaid with gold and had two golden cherubim at either end, facing each other. Their golden wings stretched forward and covered the top.

    b. What was it for?

    The ark of the covenant had several purposes. First, the ark contained the stone tablets on which the Lord had written His laws. These were a reminder of the covenant between God and Israel. Later, the ark also contained a bowl of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded. Second, the ark and the mercy seat were the sign of God’s mercy towards the nation’s sins.

    “The term ‘mercy seat’ comes from a Hebrew word meaning ‘to cover, placate, appease, cleanse, cancel or make atonement for.’ It was here that the high priest, only once a year (Leviticus 16), entered the Holy of Holies where the Ark was kept and atoned for his sins and the sins of the Israelites. The priest sprinkled blood of a sacrificed animal onto the Mercy Seat to appease the wrath and anger of God for past sins committed. This was the only place in the world where this atonement could take place” (GotQuestions).

    Thankfully, we no longer have to sacrifice animals or rely on a high priest to do these things because Jesus offered His own blood once for all to atone for our sins. Now all those who put their faith in what He did, will be forgiven by God forever. See Hebrews 9:23-28 for an explanation of these things.

    c. Where else is it mentioned?

    It would appear that the ark of the covenant had one other purpose. That would be to signify the presence of God. In Joshua 6, the Lord sent Joshua to march around the city of Jericho before the walls fell flat. Joshua commanded the priests to carry the ark of the covenant with them along with seven priests blowing rams’ horns. We all know how that turned out. On the seventh day, the walls fell flat and Jericho was defeated.

    The same idea was tried during Eli’s time, but things turned out differently. Eli’s sons were wicked and so were the people. When the Philistines threatened to attack, the army had Eli’s son carry the ark of the covenant to the battle for moral support (see 1 Sam. 4). Thinking that the box would guarantee success, they marched into battle with confidence but were soundly defeated. They learned that God was not bound to a box. Instead, He binds himself to those who believe and obey Him.

  2. Making the Showbread Table (Ex. 37:10-16)

    a. How was it made?

    Its dimensions were 2 cubits/3 feet long, 1 cubit/1.5 ft wide, and 1.5 cubits/2.25 ft high. So, this was not a very large box. But it was plated with gold and had rings built into the sides to be carried by gold covered poles. But notice something else. This was a table, so the box had legs underneath it. On top of the table, there were golden dishes, cups, bowls, and pitchers.

    b. What was it for?

    This table was used to hold the showbread. The showbread were 12 loaves of bread which were “arranged in two piles of six loaves … covered with frankincense, and … served as a memorial food offering to the Lord” (GotQuestions). It appears that this bread was set in the first part of the tabernacle every Sabbath day (Lev. 24:8-9) and was only to be eaten by the priests. Perhaps this is why there were also dishes, bowls, and pitchers on the table.

    c. Where else is it mentioned?

    The most famous mention of the table of showbread is found in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. There we find David fleeing from Saul. When he arrived in Nob, he asked Abimelech the priest for bread to take with him. The only bread available was the showbread which had recently been replaced with fresh bread. Although this was not technically allowed, the priest let him have it because it was the only food available at the time. In Mark 2:23-28, Jesus validated David’s use of the bread because of the need of the moment.

  3. Making the Golden Lampstand (Ex. 37:17-24)

    a. How was it made?

    The Lampstand was made of a whole talent of beaten gold. According to biblestudy.org, a talent was “75 U.S. pounds.” At the current rate of $1,769.40 per ounce, this lamp would be valued at $2,123,280. That is a lot of gold! It had a central shaft with six branches coming out of its sides. As you read the description of the bowls, blossoms, and knobs, it may be difficult to understand what it looked like. However, the arch of Titus in Rome has a carving depicting the Lampstand being carried away when Jerusalem was conquered. The Lampstand had a central shaft with three U-shaped arms that all reach the same height as the central shaft. This may have been what it looked like.

    b. What was it for?

    The simple answer is that the lampstand was used to lighten the interior of the tabernacle. If you have ever been in a room with no windows or lights, you know that it is very difficult to see. “The top of the shaft and of each branch was to be made like an open almond flower; each flower held an oil lamp (Exodus 25:32, 37)” (GotQuestions). When each oil lamp was lighted, there would be enough light for the priests to do their priestly duties.

    c. Where else is it mentioned?

    The golden lampstand is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture except where its use and care are explained. However, when Solomon’s temple was built, the building was much bigger and required more light. Because of this, he built five lampstands on either side of the room (1 Kings 7:48-50).

  4. Making the Altar of Incense (Ex. 37:25-29)

    a. How was it made?

    The Altar of Incense was also made of acacia wood. Its dimensions were 1 cubit/1.5 ft long, 1 cubit/1.5 ft wide, and 2 cubits/3 ft tall and it had horns on it (probably on the corners). The entire box, including the horns, was covered with gold. The top had a molding around the edge. Two rings on each side were used to carry it with acacia poles covered with gold. The Incense used on this Altar was made according to the specifications listed earlier.

    b. What was it for?

    According to Exodus 30, the altar of incense was to be placed in front of the veil that covered the ark of the covenant. Every morning and at twilight, Aaron was to burn incense on it as a perpetual incense before the Lord. Apparently, the Lord wanted this sweet smell in the tabernacle for Himself and for the priests.

    c. Where else is it mentioned?

    The incense and altar of incense are mentioned in the sad story of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu. In Leviticus 10, we find that these two priests decided to offer their own incense instead of that which God had commanded. The result was that God judged their disobedience with fire from heaven. Their deaths showed that the Lord was to be regarded as holy in all that he commanded—even the type of incense he had prescribed.

    APPLIC. This is an important lesson for us as well. The Lord is holy and should be treated as such. He is not interested in us doing things our own way when He has given us specific instructions as to what He requires. He is to be obeyed because He is the Lord God Almighty. With that in mind, we should carefully consider what the Lord says and how He wants His work to be done. Only then will our service be pleasing to Him.


Do you remember the time before smart phones and television when the newspaper or travelogues were the only way to learn what things were like in other areas of the world? During the late 1800’s, Jules Verne wrote novels about different parts of the world to explain different customs, climates, and people. Those who read his writings learned something they would not otherwise have known.

If you are wondering why the Lord put this chapter in the Bible, you are probably not alone. You may look at this “dry” chapter and wonder why Christians should stop and read it. When you have those thoughts, think first of why the Israelites needed to know these things. They had given of their own wealth so that the tabernacle could be built. This chapter shows that their offerings were put to good use—just as God had commanded.

While the dimensions and uses of each item may not hold much meaning for Christians today, we can see several things in this chapter. First, God is holy and should be revered as such. When the Israelites brought their best to make each part of the tabernacle, they were showing their reverence for the great God who had rescued them from slavery in Egypt. Christians can have this same reverence for the God who rescued them from slavery to sin. He is still holy and deserves our reverence.

Second, God is precise and should be served the way He desires. When Bezalel and Aholiab made each part of the tabernacle, they followed God’s commands to the smallest details. Christians should consider what God has said in the New Testament and carefully follow it. This is not to say that we should be so concerned with detail that we miss the main idea. But how often do we overlook what God commands and do precisely what we want Him to mean instead of following what He actually says?


Many of the commentaries were unhelpful for this chapter as they treated it as a repeat of things covered in earlier chapters or made unsubstantiated allegories for the furniture of the temple. George Bush took several pages to explain the difference between gold plating and gilding but did not come to a conclusion as to which process was used.

Bush, George, Exodus Vol. 2, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1852, reprint 1976, pp. 275-79.

Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, p. 160-61.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. I, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 313-14.

“What is the Ark of the Covenant?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=1994 on 11/12/2022.

“What is the significance of acacia wood in the Bible?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=5446 on 11/12/2022.

“What is the significance of the lampstand in the Bible?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=6134 on 11/12/2022.

“What was the bread of the Presence (Exodus 25:30)?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=5576 on 11/12/2022.

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