Part 1 in the Series:
The Bezalel Blueprint
By Don Enevoldsen
You are a creative genius. An artist.
That is the underlying premise of this series. I base this statement on a simple observation:
You were created in the image of God. Since the universe attests to the magnitude of his creativity, there must be at least a little of the same artistic quality in every human being.
Those who aspire to be artists develop specific abilities in their preferred area of expression—painting, sculpture, music, dance, writing, etc.—but the ability to create and to imagine is inherent in every person. Creativity and imagination are not limited to those we designate as artists. They are an innate part of human existence.
I approach this series with artists in mind, but I am very much aware that the qualities of a good artist are the same characteristics that make one successful in every endeavor of life. Creativity and imagination are perhaps the most important, but there are many more. Thriving as a human being means developing the artist within.
There is a specific artist in the Bible whose life and work provide a unique outline of what makes a person artistic, specifically what makes an artist a godly artist. His name is Bezalel.
Bezalel was not the first artist mentioned in the Bible. At least not if you include musicians in the list of artists. That honor would go to Jubal, “the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.” (Genesis 4:21)
Neither was Bezalel the most famous artist in the Bible. That would more likely be King David, who became pretty well known in his time for playing the harp and writing songs. It would seem that even in biblical times, musicians got all the attention.
Bezalel wasn’t the first or the most illustrious, but he is certainly worthy of our attention.
For those who have never heard of him, Bezalel was the man in charge of constructing the Tabernacle. Josephus claimed he was Miriam’s grandson (Antiquities of the Jews 3.6.1), but that is a tradition from centuries later and has no historical basis. Most of what we know about him is contained in two short passages in Exodus. The first is in chapter 31:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent—the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand—and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.’” (Exodus 31:1-11)
He is mentioned again at the end of chapter 35 and the beginning of chapter 36. These verses are mostly a repetition of the earlier passage, with a few extra details. For example:
“And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.” (Exodus 35:34)
Exodus 36:2-7 describes the beginning of Bezalel’s project. It is a passage more often quoted in sermons about giving. Moses set the tabernacle project in motion when he “summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work.” (verse 2) The people brought so many offerings to help them with the work that Moses finally had to tell them to stop.
“Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: ‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.’ And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.” (Exodus 36:6-7)
From this description, we can glean some basic biblical characteristics of an artist. I have identified ten specific things that I believe identify a godly artist:
1. Bezalel was chosen. His career as an artist was neither random nor accidental. He was created to be an artist.
2. Bezalel was filled with the Spirit.
3. Bezalel was filled with wisdom. “Shrewdness” and “prudence” are the primary identifying characteristics of the Hebrew word.
4. Bezalel was filled with understanding. He was intelligent and possessed insight.
5. Bezalel was filled with knowledge in all kinds of craftsmanship.
6. Bezalel exercised creativity. He made artistic designs, not an expensive paint by number project.
7. Bezalel had discipline. He did not create art haphazardly, but within a framework of this culture and his time.
8. Bezalel had the ability to teach others.
9. Bezalel was willing to do the work. This implies passion brought under control.
10. Bezalel was part of a community.
In these characteristics, Bezalel reflected the image of God. His creativity, his skills, his place in the community and his willingness to serve all derived from his relationship to the Creator and from the Creator’s design. Philo, the first century Jewish philosopher, made this interesting observation about the meaning of Bezalel’s name:
“Now Bezalel, being interpreted, means God in his shadow. But the shadow of God is his word, which he used like an instrument when he was making the world. And this shadow, and, as it were, model, is the archetype of other things. For, as God is himself the model of that image which he has now called a shadow, so also that image is the model of other things, as he showed when he commenced giving the law to the Israelites, and said, ‘And God made man according to the image of God.’ As the image was modeled according to God, and as man was modeled according to the image, which thus received the power and character of the model.” (Philo, Allegorical Interpretations III, 96)
Ultimately, being an artist means standing in the shadow of God as a fulfillment of his artistic expression. As artists, we are the word of God come to life. You are a work of art as much as you are an artist. You are the result of God’s creative genius, a replication of his likeness. You are, therefore, a creative genius. By divine intention, you are an artist.
Next, Part 2: The Chosen Artist
Do you have an additional thought on this subject? Please join the discussion and share your insights.