1450 BC -Sinai, Egypt
The dust settled on the man's sandaled foot as he stood gazing at the large wooden figure before him.
“Some more over here,” he mumbled to himself as he leaned in and chipped slightly at the wood, “and a little more over here.”
Wood chips fell to the floor as his sharp blade ran over the rough places. The skilled woodcraftsman worked hard at every piece; his soul went into the work and it showed. On the table before him was a commissioned piece for a noble in the next city over. It never really mattered to Bezaleel who ordered what, as long as he got to carve, he was happy.
He put down the large blade and picked up a smaller blade to add the marks the man had ordered; his family's symbol. Looking over the quick sketch, he set to work on the etching; a small hawk holding an olive branch was easy enough to carve. Bezaleel could finish the piece and take a few moments to eat the leftovers his wife had packed him that morning. His stomach rumbled in response to the thought of the flat bread, cold lamb meat, and veggies from the garden. He pushed the thought of food out of his mind and allowed his hands move with intensity and passion.
Soon enough, the carving was finished and it could sit until the nobleman's footmen would come the following morning to pick it up. Bezaleel grabbed up his shoulder pack and headed outside. He had made a comfortable stool and sat it out under a tall tree that grew a stone's throw away from his tent. Making himself comfortable on the stool, he began to pull the goodies from his pouch and enjoy his meal.
After the food was eaten and the small water cup emptied, Bezaleel sat soaking in the sun and thanking Yehovah for the beautiful day. Suddenly, a man came near; Bezaleel could tell he was older by his slow pace.
The old man made his way over as Bezaleel rose from his stool. “Can I help you, sir?”
“That depends on if you are who I'm looking for, Bezaleel?”
“I am he,” he said bowing in half. Upon straightening, Bezaleel recognized who was standing before him.
“Then you can help me. I have been sent by Yehovah for a special task. We have been commissioned to build a tent for a meeting place for Yehovah and we need your skill to build a few pieces.”
“What sort of pieces?”
“Specifically, an ark; a large box which will hold some special items. I have all the plans if you wish to hear about them.”
“You say Yehovah sent you?”
“Yes, He called your name to me and told me where I could find you and so here I am.”
“How long before you need this?”
“As long as you need to complete the piece. It is rather large and intricate, so I am guessing much of your time for several weeks. I have also been instructed to assign you a worker. He is helpful and ready to work. He is young but not lacking in skill; much like yourself.”
“No thanks needed, Yehovah has made it quite clear that His presence is upon you and you have been set apart to do this work. I do not have time to wait for your answer because if you are truly filled, as He has said, the only answer would be yes.” The old man carefully made his way into Bezaleel's tent and sat down on one of the stools next to the large table.
Bezaleel had no choice but to follow him. He made his way into the tent and watched the old man run his finger over the newly carved wood. “This is very detailed work.”
“Umm, yes, the man who ordered it wants to use it in a large banquet he is throwing next week. He very much likes to show off and this piece will only add to his collection.”
“I see. Now then, let us begin.”
Bezaleel grabbed a sharpened reed and dipped it into ink to make markings on a piece parchment as the older man spoke. This new creation would be unlike anything he had made before. It was going to be simple but detailed; it was going to be covered but sturdy underneath. A wooden box covered with gold and decorated with precious stones. Rings to hold it up, as it is not to be touched by human hands, and poles to hold it on the shoulders of the chosen. The dimensions were large, but not the largest thing he had ever made.
When the older man had finished giving the dimensions, he stood to leave.
Bezaleel picked up the small blade he had laid aside to add some final touches to the table. He held the blade in his hand a moment wondering; then he turned toward the old man. “Moses?”
“Yes?” He slowly turned to face Bezaleel.
“It is you, Moses?” Bezaleel had never seen Moses up close. He had heard stories of how the man’s face shone with Yehovah’s light, but he had only seen his body from a distance.
Moses smiled and nodded slightly.
“I have someone picking up the table tomorrow, so I can get started on this,” he touched the parchment, “as soon as the men leave.”
“Good, I will send the young man to you in the morning. His name is Aholiab; he will be instructed to follow your every command. You can also use him to send me updates.”
“I will watch for him.”
Moses left Bezaleel to finish his work and headed back to his tent close to the mountain.
Putting the blade against the wood, Bezaleel tried to clear his mind of the large box that was quickly drawn out on the parchment sitting on the table. A box to hold the treasure of the people of Yehovah.
After putting the finishing touches on the table, Bezaleel cleaned and stored his tools. Picking up the parchment that was covered in wood dust, he carefully hit it a few times on his leg to clear it of the debris and unfolded the drawing. He looked over it several times and reviewed the words of Moses in his mind.
The dimensions would have to be precise; he could see why he would need the extra help. This was going to be a massive undertaking for just one person, even someone as skilled as he. The help would be more than welcomed and the extra materials would be nice. Moses had told him he would send everything with the young man; minus the tools Bezaleel already possessed.
Shittim wood would be used. It was a familiar wood to Bezaleel, but not one he used often. It was light and easily formed, but most of the larger pieces Bezaleel made required something heaver and denser. Moses said he needed this box to be light enough to be carried on the shoulders of priests. Not an easy task for all the details he required. Shittim wood would do nicely indeed.
Overlaid with gold, that would be the thing that would take the most time. Though in the hands of the skilled, it was easily formed. The problem came in overlaying. That was not an easy task and many refused to use such a process, choosing instead to make the pieces entirely from gold or of other metal. But to overlay the wood with gold and still make it portable, that would be the trick and why Moses sought out a skilled man.
Bezaleel was unique in his knowledge. He had lived long enough to understand how wood, metal, and precious stones could be formed and used in almost anything someone requested. Orders would come in from far away looking for his skills. Bezaleel sat wondering why he had so much free time coming up. Usually, he had to turn down offers. Looking at the large table in front of him, he remembered that this had been his last order for a while. No one had come looking for him in days. Bezaleel stepped outside to gaze up at the clear blue sky.
“You already saw this coming, didn't you?” He raised the parchment to the sky to show Yehovah. “That's why I don't have any orders in. You want me to work on this...” he said and pointed to the drawing, “...ark?”
He laughed at himself as he felt the familiar peace wash over him and that was all the confirmation he needed. The box was ordered by his Yehovah and he would need all his strength to fulfill such a large order. He finished packing his tools and placed the parchment in his shoulder sack. His wife would not believe him without proof. Closing up his tent, he headed toward home.
Bezaleel walked into the tent with a familiar feeling of love and appreciation. His young children tackled him to the ground with hugs, kisses, and stories about the day he had missed while at work. His wife smiled from across the room as she placed the last bowls of food out to devour.
Making his way out from under the pile of children, Bezaleel went over to his wife. He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her in to himself.
“You are not going to believe the man who came to see me today,” he whispered in her ear.
She turned to look him in the eyes and mouthed, “Who?” while she furrowed her brow.
“Later,” he mouthed back and nodded toward the group of prying eyes.
“Father, is it time to eat?” the youngest child interrupted the quiet moment.
“Yes it is, go get your older sisters and we will enjoy this wonderful meal your mother has prepared for us.” Bezaleel sniffed the air and let out a large puff of breath.
“Yes, Father,” the little boy squealed as he ran out the back of the tent.
Soon, every member was gathered around the room ready to enjoy the meal. All were quietly waiting on Bezaleel, who smiled around the room and into each of his children's faces before he finally nodded to his wife.
They all bowed their heads and listened as Bezaleel spoke, “Yehovah, we thank you for the hands that have made this meal and we thank You for the provision of Your hands. We are honored by Your work in our lives and give this evening to You. Allow us to focus on family and receive the rest that awaits us. Awake us tomorrow ready to do all to bring You glory and honor.” Bezaleel finished his prayer and reached for his bowl of food.
The others followed by reaching for their bowls and enjoying the light conversations that the evening meals always brought.
After the evening meal was eaten, the dishes rinsed and put away; the children cleaned themselves up and found their places all over the large room to sleep. Bezaleel and Inbar found a quiet place alone where they could talk without too many of the children overhearing them.
“So, this older man comes walking into my shop and tells me that Yehovah told him to come and have me build a box that would hold treasures.”
“To tell you the truth, it sounds crazier now trying to explain it than it did hearing it. He had these dimensions so precise and he is no woodworker. He wants it overlaid with gold and all these other figures added to it. He said there would be more pieces, but this was the main piece he wanted me to focus on first. It can't be touched by human hands, so he has gold rings added to the side and gold rods running through them so the priests can carry it on their shoulders. This is the craziest thing I have ever heard of.” Bezaleel handed the parchment to his wife.
Inbar looked at the drawing and then up at her husband. “It does not seem that strange. Everyone wants different things. Maybe this is for Yehovah or maybe not. What do you think?”
“I think it is. There is no doubt in my mind that this is from Him.” Bezaleel picked up the parchment from his wife’s hands and looked over it again. “Moses is sending me a young man to help with it.”
“Moses?” Inbar gasped.
Bezaleel smiled slightly. “Yes, Moses. He was the man who placed the order.”
Inbar shook her head in disbelief. “Moses. If Moses asked you to do this, it had to come from Yehovah.”
“This is going to be massive. We are talking a huge box.” He tried to gesture with his hands, but could not get them large enough and gave up.
“This does seem like a large project, but you do have the time.”
“That is one of the reasons I know I am supposed to be doing this. My orders have always come pouring in and now they stop suddenly right before Moses walks into my shop with this idea. Too many things are working out for this to be coincidence.” He stopped pacing his small circle and sat down beside his wife.
“This is so exciting for you.” She reached over and hugged him.
“Enough about this, you said that you had news?”
“Yes, the family has finally made a real offer for Eliraz. She has been matched with their oldest son, Amir.” Inbar squealed.
“The offer? Is it finally reasonable?”
“Yes, Amir's father came to me today. As we ate the mid-day meal, he explained his offer and made it a point to assure me our daughter would be well taken care of. How exciting is that?”
Bezaleel smiled through the sadness that began to fill his heart. He was truly happy an offer had been laid at his feet, but was saddened by the thought of having to saying goodbye to his precious daughter.
Though Bezaleel didn’t want to play favorites on purpose, Eliraz had found a special place in her father’s heart. She was beautiful and kind; an obedient girl who would make a beggar or a king equally happy. She would make a great wife, which was not the issue. Bezaleel would have to say goodbye to his little girl. She would move into her husband's house and not have much contact with her family.
“Have you told her yet?” Bezaleel lifted his eyes to look at his sleeping daughter’s body.
“No, I wanted to bring the offer to you and have you accept it before we told her. I didn't want to get her hopes up if it was not going to work out.”
Bezaleel turned to his wife. “I will go at first light tomorrow.”
“Well, that's settled. I will let Eliraz know at the mid-day meal. That should give you plenty of time to go to the family and officially accept the offer.”
“Yes, that will be fine.” Bezaleel kissed his wife and then made himself comfortable on his straw mat.
The following morning, after he had made his way to the family and officially accepted the offer for his daughter, Bezaleel went to his shop tent and readied himself for the day. The footmen came early to take the table into the city. Aholiab arrived sometime after that with a camel carrying large sacks of material. Bezaleel noticed he did seem young to be so skilled, but if Moses said he would be of good use then he would be welcomed.
Bezaleel showed the drawing to Aholiab and explained the dimensions exactly as Moses had told him. The young man nodded and went to work on the pieces beside him. The older man watched the young hands handle the wood and nodded to himself in approval. Moses was right; this man did know what he was doing. They worked quietly for much of the day; any chatter was done to confirm the work being done. It was not hard to keep the younger man on track. He just needed a few gentle corrections here and there.
By day’s end, part of the box was starting to take shape. Bezaleel wanted to go slow and make sure this project would be done to perfection. He was a perfectionist in his own right, but the thought that Yehovah, Himself, had ordered this piece seemed to call for more care and precision. This was not going to be the easiest box Bezaleel would ever make, but he had a feeling it was going to be the most important.
After the two men cleaned up their tools and said their goodbyes, Bezaleel walked home alone thinking about the project. He was running over the dimensions again in his mind as he entered his home. The young ones were there to tackle him with love and it was welcomed. When the old man got up from the floor, he met the teary eyes of his daughter, Eliraz.
Bezaleel smiled and reached for her.
She fell into his arms and embraced him.
“This is good.” She pulled away to look up into his eyes.
“Yes, it is good.” He kissed her forehead. “Run along now and help your mother finish with the food.”
“Yes, Father.” Eliraz picked up the hem of her tan dress and sprinted to her mother’s side.
Bezaleel wiped away a single tear from his cheek, not knowing if it was his own or his daughter’s. He made his way over to kiss the foreheads of his other daughters; knowing one day, all too soon, he would share this feeling with each of them. For tonight, he had all his children under one roof and they would enjoy the meal prepared for them by their mother.
After the prayer and meal, the children ran off to clean themselves. Bezaleel found his wife and pulled her aside.
She accepted the unexpected embrace and looked up into his sad eyes. “When is the day set?”
“A few months from now.”
Inbar nodded and rested her head on Bezaleel’s chest.