Exodus 35-40: The Tabernacle & Priesthood Pt. 2

Original Publication Date
October 10, 2015
Jan 10, 2023 1:16 AM
ExodusChapter Study
Bible References
Exodus 35-40
Table of Contents
This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on October 10, 2015 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.


In Exodus 24-31, God explains to Moses how to build the tabernacle, who should build the tabernacle, who he wants as priests, what the priests should wear, and who should make the garments. These things are placed on hold (at least in the narrative) when Moses discovers the idolatry of the Israelites. Chapters 31-34 are focused on their act of sin and the repentance process. In Exodus 35, we are taken back to the task of constructing the tabernacle and installing Aaron as priest.

Much of the material in these chapters seems redundant, since Moses is simply confirming that they built everything to God's specification. However, there are bits of new information in these verses and it is important to note the diligence the Israelites took in maintaining God's standard.

Photocredit: FreeImages.com/Alvaro Prieto
Photocredit: FreeImages.com/Alvaro Prieto


The Israelites bring the materials for the tabernacle as willing offerings, per God's request. They actually bring much more than what is necessary, to the point Moses has to restrain them from giving. I think it is interesting that when Moses realized they had enough for what God commanded, he began refusing the offerings; this is the opposite of some pastors I've seen today that are making millions of dollars but still harassing people about how much they give. In any regard, Exodus 38 gives us a summation of the tabernacle's worth in gold, silver, and brass. I converted the Bible weights to kilograms and researched today's value (as of October 2015). Note that the values for today are estimates as the conversions from talents/shekels to kilograms is not perfect and I had a hard time finding a price for brass today so I used scrap yellow brass, which may not be what the Israelites used. Based on the estimation, the tabernacle was worth about $38,847,410.47—$38+ million.[10]

💎 Precious Metal
⚖️ Amount Offered
💰Price Today (10/10/2015)
29 talents and 730 shekels (~994.88 kg[1])
100 talents and 1775 shekels of silver (~3420.13 kg[1])
70 talents and 2400 shekels (~2408.22 kg[1])

Number of Men

Moses records the number of men over the age of 20, to be 603,550. This is one of the "unsolved" mysteries of the Bible (unsolved meaning there is no consensus). Scholars estimate that if the number of men over the age of 20 totals 603,550, that there must have been close to 2 million Israelites wandering in the desert. Since no other army during that time could have matched that number, there would have been no reason for them to fear approaching armies, nor would it be miraculous that God led them to victory. Further, people cite the lack of evidence of their settlements in the wilderness which they believe should have been apparent with such a number, as well as, the sanitation problems of living in such close quarters, without plumbing at that.[8]

Some place the blame on mistranslation. They point to the Hebrew word eleph, which is translated to thousand in English. The word originally was connect to the head of cattle, then came to mean the quota of a village or clan. In modern times it has come to mean a sizable army which became tangled with the meaning of thousand, hence its translation in the Bible. These scholars argue that this is a translation error.[5]

A comment below this argument poses another interesting possibility: the number is actually the total of the census they owed. This person cites Exodus 30:11-15 as the basis for his argument. In these verses God instructs Moses to take the sum of Israel according to their number to pay ransom for their souls. Every man above 20 yeas old was to pay 1/2 a shekel or 10 gerahs. Supporting arguments for this theory include the fact that Numbers 1:20-46 lists the number of each tribe, all of which are divisible by 10. The likelihood of this is very slim. Also, one of the meanings of the word eleph, used in these passages is quota from a clan. The 10 gerahs would be a quota from a family or a single adult male and would explain why all the tribes populations were divisible by 10. This would mean that there were 60,355 men who were in the army instead.[6]

Another scholar suggests that this is not the sum of the living Israelites but the includes those who died as well. No evidence is given to support this theory in the article.[7]

Another scholar argues that nothing is wrong with the number given and insists that there was in fact 603,550 men. This scholar argues the logic of reducing the number against evidence of such mass deaths (the 3,000 slain by the Levites, for example). The author also comments on the usage of the word eleph and the amount of space needed for such a large number of people.[9]

God's Arrival

God instructs the Israelites to set up the tabernacle on the first day of the firth month. This timing coincides with the beginning of their Exodus, marking the one year anniversary of their delivery from Egypt. It also meant the tabernacle was constructed just in time for The Passover. Think about that, in just one year's time, the Israelites went from slaves to being able to give about $38.8 million worth of gold, silver, and brass for the the tabernacle. This is the God we serve.

Once the tabernacle was complete, God descended to the tabernacle as a pillar. When He rose from the tabernacle, they continued their journey. However, while He remained in the tabernacle, the Israelites did not move.

References and Footnotes

  1. "Convert Weight and Mass Units Instantly". Convert-Me.com. 2015
  2. "New York Silver Spot Price". JM Bullion. October 2015
  3. "New York Gold Spot Price". JM Bullion. October 2015
  4. "Yellow Brass Scrap Price". Scrapmonster.com. September 2015
  5. Wood, Bryant. "The Number of Israelites in the Exodus". Associates for Biblical Research. April 2009
  6. Bruce, Dan. "Comment on The Number of Israelites in the Exodus". Associates for Biblical Research. June 2013
  7. "The Population at the Exodus". Associates for Scriptural Knowledge. Appendix 6. 2014
  8. Rudd, Steve. " How many Hebrews were in the Exodus". Bible.ca. 2015
  9. Samuel, Michael. "How Many Israelites Actually Left Egypt? (Part 1)". 2013
  10. Apparently a church tried to “replicate” Solomon’s Temple in Brazil; it’s estimated cost was $300mil placing it on the list of top 10 most expensive religious buildings.

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