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.
15 thoughts on “The Artist Bezalel”
Excellent instruction material. Thank you for giving us this remarkable insight.
Thank you, Jerry. I’ve always had a particular love for the arts and artists, so this series is very important to me personally. I do hope you will feel free to add your thoughts as the series continues. With your experience in ministry in the Hollywood community, I know you are immersed in the world of art, too.
Well written Don. I am a musician and realize our talents are on loan from God, for what do we have that hasn’t been given to us!. I wish more people would discover their personal talents and use them for good. There is much joy in such discovery.Keep up the good work:)
I have seen the talent of so many artists stifled by religious considerations, which ultimately is to the detriment of the church. I agree with you, Earl, that we want more people to discover what God has given them and stir it up and put it to good use. There are some very talented people out there. And some very frustrated artists who actually feel guilty for even wanting to express their artistic side.
This is excellent… Thanks, Don! 🙂
You’re welcome, Ryan. This is a message I have felt for a long time. In fact, it manifested itself many years ago on a Sunday I was speaking at your church, so you have already had a part in it. Not just by being there, but the many conversations you and I have had helped to develop these thoughts. That day, I had not been preaching about the arts in any way directly. We were talking about finding your purpose, and after the service, three people came up for prayer. One was a writer who had not been writing. One was a painter who had not been painting. The third was a singer who had not been singing. It’s amazing how often I meet people with an artistic drive that they have gotten away from.
Which reminds me… Time to do some work on my book for the day! Getting oh so close… Seriously… 🙂
I am so anxious to see the finished product. So keep at it. Now. Get busy. No, I mean it. Get to work.
In my past life , affiliated with a cult group, all manner of gifts were frowned on. Of course cult groups are all about dedication to the group, humbly submitting to the organisation and any free time that one has available was supposed to be used for cult activities. The particular group I was raised with was against all higher education as well.. I have not seen that in Christian churches yet. I have often thought, what a great example someone like Michael Jackson could have been.About anything he would have said people would have listened.He was also raised in a cult religion! There is no reason one has to seek such admiration as many celebrity artists do. I know it often changes people who make it in the big leagues, but it doesn’t have to be that way with a spiritually trained person. No where is it written that an artist must make his work his only life ambition, at that point I think it becomes and idol. I try to encourage others, especially the young, to find out what they like doing and pursue it, trying various activities until they find something that works for them.
Good advice, Earl. When I talk about being called an artist, I think it’s that thing inside someone that just won’t go away, a love of music for example, or a passion for painting or writing or whatever the art form is. It is wired into us and we are never really content until we give it expression. Of course, just because you love music doesn’t mean you should start a band and seek a recording contract. That isn’t the point. But it is something that should be given expression or that person will always feel a certain frustration.
Another aspect which I will touch on in later parts of the series is that many people engage in the arts from a very flawed place, meaning that the desire to express themselves is driven by their pain rather than being influenced by the Spirit. The motivation behind a message is actually more important than the message itself. It dramatically influences how the message will be perceived and it will influence what effect the message will have. Becoming a great artist starts with becoming a healthy person. You are right in your observation about celebrities. Their success brings out their flaws as much as it does their talent, and that often undermines their success. I saw that frequently in Hollywood. But you are also right that it doesn’t have to be that way, and I saw plenty of examples of celebrities who did it right, keeping a healthy balance in their lives. Those are the ones I most admire.
I am curious, Earl, if you are involved in any area of the arts yourself, and if so, how did the cult environment affect your development?
Well said Don. I am a musician and a writer , two things I wanted to do as long as I can recall. Both I have used as a way to express my emotions as I grew up in an environment that was quite sterile in those areas. As far as the cult experience affecting my development, that is a very good question , one I don’t think I have pondered. My experience was rather passive as I never did join the group . I would say I was a type of an apologist but never a true follower. As you know children often follow their parents beliefs somewhat blindly until such time as they discover something that appeals to them more. It seems my dad introduced us siblings to the cult with home studies and church attendance but he too never believed in some of their more outlandish beliefs. So I was a bit confused growing up but still felt some allegience to the group. So off the top of my jead I think my attitude was affected concerning the world in general and my future. MAny cults believe everything out of the cult is evil and the world is ending soon so why bother getting involved in anytthing. Quite a world view to start out with!. So I guess with that attitude one can see that it would affect their entire existence. I also think that, combined with some major traumas very early on shaped my future. I got married very young and basically raised a family with the tools I had. Interesting that it was not until I had some later setbacks and an eventual disability that I totally took stock of my life and had what I would call a spiritual experience preceeded by much pain and what I call coming to the end of my self that I realised I had always wanted to be a musician or writer but I never believed it could be a reality in my youth. I believe, better late than never, and I write songs, some poetry, and play locally. As I look back at my old personality, some alcohol abuse etc. I am grateful that I never took it seriously and tried to make it my life ambition because I too was too immature and any success I would have had would have been a detriment to me and my loved ones and very possibly would not be here today to share my story. We don’t need to look too far to see the terrible tragedies of those without a solid spiritual life. A blessing or a curse, as you say it all depends where we are coming from and our motives.Whatever I do today, I do with my Creator in mind. It does my heart good to see the popular musicians praising God, giving thanks for the many gifts we have received. My heart breaks for those who allow people to make them think they are some type of god. It seems at that point they are bent on self destruction.. Even im my small group of local musicians I see the rivalry and play for attention and admiration. A very human issue:)
Sounds like quite a journey, and it sounds like you’ve come through it very balanced and mature. I’m glad to hear that in what you say. And thank you for sharing some of your story. I have a feeling it will resonate with quite a few people.
Hi, I think that you conveyed good wisdom and knowledge in your article. My thesis for God based Art found in the Bible, is that “All God based Art in the Bible builds community and relationship.”. Community is horizontal, and relationship is vertical.
Paul, that’s an interesting perspective. I’ve not really thought about art in community terms but it makes complete sense. I like your thesis.