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EXODUS - CHAPTER THIRTY
The altar of incense was made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. It was two cubits (36 inches) high, and one cubit (18 inches) square. About the top was a crown of molding of gold. Under this, two rings of gold were affixed (one on each side), for staves of acacia wood overlaid with gold so the altar could be carried.
Instructions for the "altar of incense" appear to be out of place in this text. However, this is not the case: it appears in this sequence following the instructions for the consecration of the priests, to teach an important lesson.
Offering of incense was an important element in the religious rites of ancient nations. The Egyptians were lavish in their use of frankincense to the god Ammon. The Greeks and Romans offered incense with almost every sacrifice. The meaning of this in pagan religions is not clearly defined. But in the Mosaic Law, it symbolized prayer, Ps 141:2; Lu 1:10.
The altar of incense pictures prayer, Re 5:8; 8:3, 4. Instructions for this altar follow the consecration of the priests to show that for prayer to be acceptable, it must come from a heart willing to pray, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Mt 6:11).
The text does not clearly define where the altar of incense was to be placed, whether in the "holy place" or in the "most holy place." This is clarified in Ex 40:21-29. This altar was placed in the sanctuary, the holy place, along with the table of shewbread and the golden lampstand. It was directly in front of the veil separating the holy place from the holy of holies, likely in the center of the room.
Aaron was to offer incense upon this altar each morning when he entered the sanctuary to trim the lamps He was to offer again each evening when he lit the lamps for the night.
"Perpetual incense" does not mean that the incense was to be kept burning continuously. It was perpetual in the sense that it was to be offered twice daily in perpetuity.
"Strange incense" denotes any incense not compounded according to the instructions in verses 34-38.
This altar was to be used exclusively for the purpose of offering incense. Once a year on the tenth day of the seventh month, "Yom Kippur," the "Day of Covering (Atonement), the high priest was to put the blood of the ram of consecration upon the horns of the altar of incense. The purpose: renewing of consecration of the altar.
Considerable expense was involved in the building of the tabernacle and its furnishings. In Ex 25:2-7, God instructed that the people give freewill offerings for this purpose. Now He adds another source of revenue: a "ransom" (expiation, atonement) payment, to be collected from every male twenty years old and above.
Israeli males were eligible for military service at age twenty (2Ch 25:5).
God instructed Moses to take a census of Israel. At that time, every male was to give a "ransom" payment of one half shekel, to show he was conscious of his own sin.
The monetary value of this payment was small. The shekel was likely riot a coin but a weight of about .35 oz.; a half-shekel was about .175 oz. The term "gerah" is literally "bean," and was likely a weight of about eleven grains troy weight.
Though this was a small amount of silver for each man to give, the total offering from all those counted in the census was about 80Crpounds (Ex 38:25). At today’s price of silver, this amounted to over $80,000.
Economic status was no factor in the "ransom" payment. The rich was not to give more, the poor was not to give less. This teaches the importance of each individual in the sight of God.
The requirements of the various sacrifices demanded that an ample supply of water be available at all times. God made provision to meet this demand.
"Laver," kiyyor, a pan or basin. This was to be made of copper (brass), and fashioned from the "looking glasses" or mirrors of the women attendants at the tabernacle (Ex 38:8). Neither the size nor the shape of this vessel is given in the text. A "foot," ken, "base, station," was provided upon which the basin rested.
The water in the laver was for the purpose of washing the hands and feet of the priests as they ministered in the tabernacle service and at the brazen altar.
The laver stood between the brazen altar and the tabernacle. This is a type of the position of the baptism as it relates to Divine service: one is first saved; then follows baptism before entering the "temple," the church.
The laver also shows the need of daily purification before entering the service of the Lord, Ps 24:3; Joh 13:2-20; 1Jo 1:7.
The laver was to be a permanent part of the tabernacle service, and the priests were strictly to observe the regulations regarding it, in perpetuity.
The formula for the holy anointing oil is given in detail. It was composed of five spices. "Principal," rosh, "head, chief," denotes the most important of a species.
"Pure myrrh," lit., "myrrh of freedom." Myrrh comes from the scrub Balsamodendron myrrha, which produces two kinds: one exudes spontaneously and is considered the best; the other flows from an incision made in the bark and is considered inferior. Myrrh wad popular in the ancient world as a spice. The Egyptians used it in embalming, the Persians as a perfume, the Greeks as incense and in ointment. The main source of supply for Myrrh was Arabia and Ethiopia.
"Sweet cinnamon" was a rare spice. It is mentioned only here, and in Pr 7:16; and Song 4:14. It is the inner bark of a tree of the laurel genus, either the Laurus cinnamomum, or Cinnamomum zeylanicum. This tree currently grows in the Orient.
"Sweet calamus," kaneh, aromatic reeds. The exact nature of this spice is unknown. It is mentioned in Isa 28:24; Jer 6:20; Eze 27:17; Song 4:14.
"Cassia," -kiddah, the Cinnamomum cassia, resembling cinnamon in aroma and taste.
The "shekel" here noted was about .35 oz., or ten grams. The quantity of myrrh and cassia used in the anointing oil was thus 175 oz. troy, about 14.5 pounds troy. The quantity of cinnamon and sweet calamus was half that amount. These spices were mixed in a base of one "hin" of pure olive oil, or about one gallon. The result was an ointment, more like a paste than a flowing oil.
"Apothecary," raquach, "to mix, compound." This term does not refer to the making and dispensing of drugs, but to one skilled in the art of making perfume.
The holy ointment was reserved exclusively for the tabernacle,
its furnishings, and the priests. Its use for ordinary purposes was strictly forbidden, under penalty of excommunication.
The formula for the incense to be burned on the golden altar, is here given. It consisted of four ingredients, each of equal weight. It was to be finely beaten, likely to the consistency of powder, and compounded after the perfumer’s art.
"Stacte," nataph, "a drop." The exact nature of this ingredient is not known, but it is thought to be gum storax, from the Styrax officinalis.
"Onycha," sheheleth, "shell." The term implies a substance from the shell of a sea-creature, likely the covering of the mussel Unquis odoratus, which when burned emits a musk odor.
"Galbanum," khelbnah, a gum from a tuberous plant, Opoidia galbanifera. This substance when burned by itself gives off a strong, disagreeable odor. But when mixed with other spices increases and retains their fragrance.
"Frankincense," levonah, "whiteness," a resinous substance from the Boswellia genus of certain balsam trees. The juice of this plant exudes from an incision in the bark. When it hardens it is white, tear-shaped, and very pungent.
Like the anointing ointment, the sacred incense was exclusively used for worship purposes. It must not be compounded for any other purpose, under penalty of excommunication.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 30". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany