Israel’s Reparations

Some have questioned how the Israelites were able to build the Tabernacle with all of the precious metals and unique fabrics while wandering in the desert.

The answer is simple, Israel got reparations from the Egyptians. This would have included precious metals, clothing, fabrics, already squeezed olive oil, and probably some food we know they left with unleavened bread (Ex 12:14-39). It would have included supplies like wagons and such, we know wagons were used to carry the equipment for the Tabernacle when they moved around (Num 7:1-9), so they would have wagons and anything else needed a way to take all that bling out of Egypt.

According to Exodus 38:21-31, the community gave 994 kg of gold, 2,407 kg of bronze, and 3,420 kg of silver (which came from the census tax). The tax was collected from 603,550 men who had reached their twentieth birthday. The silver bases totaled 3400 kg (34 kg for each base). The remaining 20.2 kg of silver was used to make the hooks and rings and to overlay the tops of the posts.

Here are the scriptures where God promised to provide reparations and fulfilled his promise:

Exodus 3:20 (NLT) So I will raise my hand and strike the Egyptians, performing all kinds of miracles among them. Then at last he will let you go. 21 And I will cause the Egyptians to look favorably on you. They will give you gifts when you go so you will not leave empty-handed. 22 Every Israelite woman will ask for articles of silver and gold and fine clothing from her Egyptian neighbors and from the foreign women in their houses. You will dress your sons and daughters with these, stripping the Egyptians of their wealth.”

Exodus 11:1Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will strike Pharaoh and the land of Egypt with one more blow. After that, Pharaoh will let you leave this country. In fact, he will be so eager to get rid of you that he will force you all to leave. 2 Tell all the Israelite men and women to ask their Egyptian neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”

Exodus 12:35 And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. 36 The Lord caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth!

The Golden Calf:
They did make the unfortunate mistake of melting down some of the gold and turning it into a golden calf idol in Exodus 32:3-8. After that, God punished them and they felt guilt and stopped wearing all of the bling he blessed them with.

Ex 33:4 When the people heard these stern words, they went into mourning and stopped wearing their jewelry and fine clothes. 5 For the Lord had told Moses to tell them, “You are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I were to travel with you for even a moment, I would destroy you. Remove your jewelry and fine clothes while I decide what to do with you.” 6 So from the time they left Mount Sinai, the Israelites wore no more jewelry or fine clothes.

Another note: In Exodus 9:1-7 the fifth plague that hits Egypt kills all of the Egyptian’s livestock, but none of the Israelite’s livestock is harmed. Then in verses 8-12, the sixth plague hits the Egyptians and their animals with boils. One may ask, what animals, didn’t all of Egypt’s livestock die in the fifth plague? Either not “all” of them died (just most of them) in the fifth plague, or they bought new livestock from the Israelites in Goshen since they were protected from the plague. The latter is most likely, and that is like an early reparation before all of the wealth they got on the way out. The next plagues (hail and locust) targeted only the Egyptian crops and again the Israelites were spared. This means they were in a position to sell crops to Egypt and get more wealth.

The blessing in Deuteronomy 28:12 says that when they get to the land God will bless them with such abundance that they will lend to many nations but never borrow. The curse (Deut 28:44) is that they will borrow and be debt slaves to other nations. This is like what happens with Isaac in Genesis 26:12-18. God made him wealthy during a famine, and he was asked to leave Gerar because the Philistines said he was too powerful for them (they were all indebted to him).

Lastly, in Deut ch. 2 God told his people not to fight with Edom, Moab, or Ammon because they are related to Abraham so God blessed them with their land own allotment in the region. God said if they go through these nations they must not damage anything and pay for any food or water they use (Deut 2:6). This implies that God would provide for them all of the money needed in order to pay for their trek through one of these nations. In fact, they did have enough money to do business with the Edomites according to Deut 2:26-29. Eventually, the king of Edom found out they were passing through and chased them away (Num 20:14-21, Deut 23:4).

God always has a way of providing everything his people need to do what he has assigned them to do.