Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a seminal Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. Exodus 37 continues to discuss the Tabernacle. We add a parenthetical note on Biblical
measurements: one cubit roughly equals eighteen inches

“And Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits in
length, one and a half cubits in width, and one and a half cubits in

Constructing the Tabernacle had been, to state the obvious, a colossal undertaking. Beside the
structure’s parameter walls consisting of curtains, there were sacred vessels that became fixtures of the
Tabernacle’s courtyard, foyer, sanctuary, and holy of holies. Indeed, much painstaking detail went into
assembling the Creator’s sanctuary in all its glory.

But who were the builders, Abravanel asks? Moreover, when referring to the construction of the
Tabernacle, why does the Bible on occasion use a plural conjugation of the verb “to do” or “to make?”
To the point, Abravanel noted that the earlier chapter employed the plural conjugation (“And every
wise-hearted man among them that wrought work made the Tabernacle…”). Yet, the verbs in our
chapter utilize the singular conjugation. Finally, Abravanel asks: Why does our chapter’s lead verse link
Bezalel with the ark (And Bezalel made the ark…”)? Contrast that with all other Tabernacle artifacts that
do not associate any specific artisan with the holy vessels. Thus, when speaking about the table,
lampstand, altars etc., we find generic language oft repeated (“…and he made…”).

Abravanel answers as follows. In the previous chapter, “And every wise-hearted man among them that
wrought the work made the Tabernacle” speaks in broad strokes, supplying Bible students with an
introduction of the Tabernacle construction. That is, “wise-hearted” men and their staff applied their
talents and efforts into each and every holy vessel.

Regarding the sequence of production, we read first about “ten curtains: of fine twined linen, and blue
and purple, and scarlet, with cherubs…” Abravanel proposes that since the curtains may have been the
first Tabernacle items assembled, they required a joint or group effort. That would explain the verb
conjugation in plural. The artisans, with approval of the Tabernacle superintendent (Bezalel) sought to
quickly erect parameter walls. Once the Tabernacle had been demarcated, specialists could work
independently and construct smaller vessels. Thus, the Bible conjugates in singular (“…and he made…”),
repeating the same verbal phrasing for table, lampstand, altars etc.

This modus operandi of small cells of workmen clarifies how the Tabernacle and its vessels became
assembled. Abravanel notes an exception to the rule. “And Bezalel made the ark…” Owing to the ark’s
unique role and holiness, Bezalel’s own hands crafted every inch of it.