Introducing Bezalel: A Temple-Building Son of Judah

Introducing Bezalel

One of the main characters in Exodus is a man whose name only appears three other times in the whole Bible, and then only in genealogies in Chronicles and Ezra.  His name is Bezalel and he plays an enormous role in the construction of the tabernacle. Exodus 31:1–5 introduces him saying,

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship,  to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

Though Moses is given the vision of the tabernacle (Exod 25:40), and the people are called to furnish the materials (25:1–8; 35:4–9), it is the Spirit-endowed skill possessed by Bezalel that made it possible for the tabernacle to be constructed.  This is re-emphasized in Exodus 35:30-35, but it is Exodus 38:22 that I want to highlight.  There Moses records that “Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses.”

Now it is obvious why Bezalel is mentioned in Exodus.  He is the chief foreman on the tabernacle project.  He is given skill and the wisdom of the Spirit to accomplish the task.  However, the more amazing point is this: Why is it important that Bezalel’s family lineage be mentioned?  Of course, it is nice to know a little background on the guy, but is that it?  I think there is something more going on… what you might call prophetic typology.

Type, Ectype, and Archetype

Can you think of anyone else from the tribe of Judah, who obeyed God’s law to build a tabernacle?  How about David and his son Solomon.  In the history of Israel, it is recorded that God gave David a vision of the temple, and that David passed on this architectural plan to Solomon (1 Chron 28:11-19).  Moreover, like Bezalel, YHWH gave Solomon unsurpassed wisdom in order to construct the tabernacle (1 Kings 3:10ff).  Thus, in a very real way, Solomon with his Spirit-endowed wisdom was a greater Bezalel.  Bezalel was the type; Solomon the ectype, or to say it another way, a greater installment of the temple-builder par excellence who was still to come.

In the New Testament, we find that the temple-building typology of Bezalel and Solomon is picked up in Jesus Christ.  Jesus who is a son of David, and a son of Judah (Matt 1:1-17) is the one who perfectly obeys the law of Moses (Matt 5:17).  Moreover, as Matthew describes “something greater than Solomon is here” (12:42b).  Then in Matthew 16:18, Jesus himself says that he is building a church, one that will never be destroyed by death, sin, or Satan.  He alludes to the “rock” which conjures up pictures of the temple mount, and he says that he is going to found his temple/church on Peter and the other apostles. (See G. K. Beale on how Matthew 16:18 relates to the temple mount, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God187–88).

Thus, in his death, Jesus becomes the cornerstone of a new temple.  Indeed, Paul uses temple imagery to describe what Jesus is doing by the Spirit.  He writes in Ephesians 2:19–22,

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The confirmation of the Bezalel-Solomon-Jesus typological structure finds further support in Hebrews, where the author compares and contrasts Moses and Jesus (Heb 3), and says that our Christ is not simply a servant in the house, he is “the builder of the house” (v. 3).  Accordingly, he deserves greater glory—more glory that Moses (and by extension Bezalel) who constructed a tent in the desert; more glory than Solomon who constructed a superlative temple in Jerusalem.  These typological dwellings were splendid in their own time and place, but compared to what Christ is doing in his church, they are dull and decrepit.

The Gospel of Temple Building Son of Judah

What a vision!  In Bezalel and later in Solomon, the Spirit of God is preparing the way for Christ to come.  The typology is not just a retrospective analogy between Jesus and Bezalel.  Rather, set in history, God has set aside Bezalel as a son of Judah, to become a temple-builder, so that when Christ comes into the world, we would see an entire history of Spirit-filled men from Judah building a dwelling place for God with his people.

Once again, we see in Exodus the way Christ is foreshadowed.  He is the substance from which Bezalel is the historical shadow.  It is a glorious reminder that all Scripture points us to Jesus, and that on every page of God’s inspired text, we see glimpses of our savior reflected in the saints who are shaped by the Spirit of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

One thought on “Introducing Bezalel: A Temple-Building Son of Judah

  1. Pingback: Being and Building a Better Church: Temple Language in Paul | Via Emmaus

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