Sunday, May 23, 2010

Exodus 31:1-11 - Chief Engineers of the Mishkan - Bezaleel and Aholiab: a brief introduction.

The Exodus 31:1-11 speaks of the Chief Engineers who were to supervise the entire construction of the Tabernacle. If all previous verses of the description (Exodus 25:1-30:38) were addressed directly to Moses and his task, the following verses are addressed to Bezaleel and his foreman - Aholiab.
It seems that not only the description repeats all of the details of the Tabernacle, but in some cases the wording appears to be different so as to provide some extra details. Let's take a look:

Exodus 31:1-11

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:

3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,

4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,

5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.

6 And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee;

7 The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle,

8 And the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick with all his furniture, and the altar of incense,

9 And the altar of burnt offering with all his furniture, and the laver and his foot,

10 And the cloths of service, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest's office,

11 And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.


‎1 ‏וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃
‎2 ‏רְאֵ֖ה קָרָ֣אתִֽי3 בְשֵׁ֑ם בְּצַלְאֵ֛ל בֶּן־אוּרִ֥י בֶן־ח֖וּר לְמַטֵּ֥ה יְהוּדָֽה׃

‎3 ‏וָאֲמַלֵּ֥א אֹת֖וֹ ר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֑ים בְּחָכְמָ֛ה וּבִתְבוּנָ֥ה וּבְדַ֖עַת וּבְכָל־מְלָאכָֽה׃

‎4 ‏לַחְשֹׁ֖ב מַחֲשָׁבֹ֑ת לַעֲשׂ֛וֹת בַּזָּהָ֥ב וּבַכֶּ֖סֶף וּבַנְּחֹֽשֶׁת׃

‎5 ‏וּבַחֲרֹ֥שֶׁת אֶ֛בֶן לְמַלֹּ֖את וּבַחֲרֹ֣שֶׁת עֵ֑ץ לַעֲשׂ֖וֹת בְּכָל־מְלָאכָֽה׃

‎6 ‏וַאֲנִ֞י הִנֵּ֧ה נָתַ֣תִּי אִתּ֗וֹ אֵ֣ת אָהֳלִיאָ֞ב בֶּן־אֲחִֽיסָמָךְ֙ לְמַטֵּה־דָ֔ן וּבְלֵ֥ב כָּל־חֲכַם־לֵ֖ב נָתַ֣תִּי חָכְמָ֑ה וְעָשׂ֕וּ אֵ֖ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוִּיתִֽךָ׃

‎7 ‏אֵ֣ת׀ אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֗ד וְאֶת־הָֽאָרֹן֙ לָֽעֵדֻ֔ת וְאֶת־הַכַּפֹּ֖רֶת אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָלָ֑יו וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־כְּלֵ֥י הָאֹֽהֶל׃

‎8 ‏וְאֶת־הַשֻּׁלְחָן֙ וְאֶת־כֵּלָ֔יו וְאֶת־הַמְּנֹרָ֥ה הַטְּהֹרָ֖ה וְאֶת־כָּל־כֵּלֶ֑יהָ וְאֵ֖ת מִזְבַּ֥ח הַקְּטֹֽרֶת׃

‎9 ‏וְאֶת־מִזְבַּ֥ח הָעֹלָ֖ה וְאֶת־כָּל־כֵּלָ֑יו וְאֶת־הַכִּיּ֖וֹר וְאֶת־כַּנּֽוֹ׃
‎10 ‏וְאֵ֖ת בִּגְדֵ֣י הַשְּׂרָ֑ד וְאֶת־בִּגְדֵ֤י הַקֹּ֙דֶשׁ֙ לְאַהֲרֹ֣ן הַכֹּהֵ֔ן וְאֶת־בִּגְדֵ֥י בָנָ֖יו לְכַהֵֽן׃

‎11 ‏וְאֵ֨ת שֶׁ֧מֶן הַמִּשְׁחָ֛ה וְאֶת־קְטֹ֥רֶת הַסַּמִּ֖ים לַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ כְּכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־צִוִּיתִ֖ךָ יַעֲשֽׂוּ׃ פ
As you can see from the above verses, the Chief Engineers of the Mishkan were:


  1. Bezaleel ("בצלאל"), son of Uri ("אורי") and grandson of Hur("חור"), from the tribe of Judah("יהודה"). If one was to translate the meaning of each name, one would get: The Shadow of the Most High, who is the son of  The Glorious One, and the grandson of the White One, from the tribe of the Praised.

  2. Aholiab ("אהליאב"), son of ("אחיסמך") from the tribe of Dan("דן"). Translated meaning of each name would yield: The Father of the Tents, who is the son of Supporting Brother, from the tribe of the Judging.

And here is what Pentateuch speaks of each of those great men:


  1. Bezaleel (Exodus  31:3-5) - "...And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship."

  2. Aholiab (Exodus 38:23) - "...And with him was Aholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver, and a cunning workman, and an embroiderer in blue, and in purple, and in scarlet, and fine linen."
So as you can see, whereas Bezaleel was the Chief Engineer, Aholiab was more of a foreman, even though some of the articles of the Mishkan were completed solely under his leadership.

As Exodus 31:6 also states that ... "in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee". This means that there were also other people, who contributed and helped to execute the work. These people did not merely participated, but actually helped to properly "decipher" (or design) and build all of the parts of the Mishkan, according to the brief description that Moses received from God.

Everything that these two Chief Engineers and other "wise hearted" people helped to build is briefly summarized in Exodus 31: 7-11.

Therefore, the complete hierarchy of those involved in the construction of the Tabernacle would look like this:


  1. Chief Architect - The God of Gods, The One God

  2. Chief Supervisor - Moses

  3. Chief Engineer - Bezalel

  4. Vice Chief Engineer - Aholiab

  5. General Engineers -  Scientists and Craftsmen, who helped to execute the work.

  6. General Contributors - Other people, who graciously donated the required materials(metals, stones, fabric, general help e.t.c.)
As you can see, the construction of the Mishkan required cooperation and participation of the entire nation, and was only possible when the Children of Israel worked together as one.

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