God’s Extensive, Expensive Interior Décor Requirements for Homeless Refugees
The next time someone who considers Exodus to be holy writ snarks at me about gay guys being into interior decorating, I shall have to request they turn to chapters 25 thru 27 in their Holy Bible. God has really put some serious thought into how he wants his living space set up and decorated. I mean, it’s verging on the pathological. It’s not the sort of thing you’d expect the creator of the universe to get hung up on. You’d expect him to DIY if he’s that bloody picky. And even if he chooses to delegate, you’d hope he’d hire an established firm, rather than a ragtag band of freed slaves lost in the desert. But no. He’s got some really detailed requirements, and he expects the Israelites to fulfill them.
He starts by demanding people bring him stuff. See, the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe doesn’t know if you really really truly love him enough unless you give him lots of expensive gifts. But, y’know, only if you really want to. Not like he’d withhold his favor from you if you didn’t, or anything like that.
Oh, wait. Yes he would.
Anyway, God wants stuff for the tabernacle he’s been dreaming of. Sure, he could create it himself. Don’t be ridiculous! Of course he could! He’s absolutely not imaginary at all, and he totally did make the earth, heavens, and everything else in existence in six days. This tabernacle project would take him maybe a few minutes in the morning, tops. But then it wouldn’t be special. (Ex. 25:1-2)
So he tells Moses to ask the people for their (completely voluntary!) offerings of:
- Gold, silver, and brass.*
- Blue, purple, and scarlet yarns, and fine linen.
- Goats’ hair.
- Tanned rams’ skins (dyed red) and badgers’ skins†
- Shittim‡ wood.
- Lamp oil, spices for said lamp oil, and sweet incense.
- Onyx and gemstones for the priest’s fancy breastplate and the ephod. (Ex. 25:3-7)
Next, God says what they should do with all these (completely voluntary!) expensive offerings: the all-powerful creator of the universe needs a bunch of nomads to make him a very heavy large box to live in, plus a bunch of ornate furniture, all of which they’re going to have to pack up and carry all over the desert. (Ex. 25:8)
God’s obviously put a lot of thought into his dream mobile home. He wants it to be built from fancy wood, and plastered with gold inside and out. Also, he wants a gold cover on it. He wants the hardware, like the rings for the carrying poles, to be made of gold, too, which is shiny but hardly practical. The carrying poles must also be gilded, because why be practical when you can be ostentatious? And, just to give you an idea of how micro-managey God is, he makes it clear that the poles are never to be removed from the rings. Why? Because God says so, that’s why. (Ex. 25:9-17)
After giving minute instructions about the beaten-gold cherubim he wants places on the Ark, as if it wasn’t going to be hard enough to carry around already, God then tells Moses he wants a table. Not like a Shaker table or a modern, simple Swedish design or anything nice like that. No, he wants a baroque dining table made of some of the most expensive wood available, acquired from a tree covered in thorns. Then he wants it slathered in gold. And he wants solid gold plates, cups, and bowls for it. Apparently, it’s supposed to always be set, because God wants the shewbread (bread of the Presence) to always be on the table. This will make carrying it around with its gilded poles tricky. (Ex. 25:18-30)
In addition to all that other opulent stuff, God wants a pure gold lamp stand. He’s really put a lot of thought into this thing. He insists it be made of one piece of hammered gold, and it’s got to have six branches with eighteen almond-blossom shaped cups, plus four more cups for the center stem, and he wants an almond bud underneath each pair of branches where they meet the stand. There has to be seven lamps made for this thing, plus solid gold lamp trays and snuffers. The whole shebang is supposed to weigh around 75-110 pounds. Imagine having to carry a 110lb lamp stand around the desert for 40 years. (Ex. 25:30-40)
All the Israelites must have “borrowed” a heck of a lot of jewelry from their Egyptian neighbors before running off, is all I’m saying.
To be continued…
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*Bronze according to the New Revised Standard Version. But I’m pretty sure God wouldn’t go with anything quite so elegant.
†Fine leather. Hopefully, God didn’t mean actual badgers, as there weren’t any in Egypt or the Sinai.
‡Acacia. But feel free to shout “Shittim!” in church. It’s biblical!